Because of the way God has wired me personally and as a result of my understanding of what I believe He has revealed as the responsibilities for one of His under-shepherds, my interaction with all things internet related, including this blog, leaves me self-conflicted on a regular basis. When I couple those two realities with the fact that I’m also a techno-lamer, I give myself enough ammunition to beat back the frustration I feel with myself about not being more active on this incredibly interesting and relevant blog.
Clearly, this blog serves an important purpose for those called to pastor and/or plant churches and is highly relevant to pastors and church leaders. I absolutely love the way these things are discussed with honesty and vulnerability and I’m convinced that this blog is “scratching an itch”. Since I believe this is true, my prayer is that what I’m about to share will be of some help to others who may be experiencing a dilemma similar to mine. What dilemma?
Keeping the proper balance between the time it takes to love, serve, and lead the people in the church God has called me to pastor, and the time it takes to read, comment on, and contribute to this blog. I find enjoyment and encouragement in both endeavors and therein lies the rub.
As is fairly obvious to those of you who know me personally and anyone else who reads this blog regularly, if given an opportunity to either spend a portion of time with a member of my church or spend that same time in front of my computer, I almost always choose the time with another person. Here’s why:
FIRST: My personal hard-wiring
I LOVE face to face interaction and relationship with people. I genuinely love hearing a person’s “story” and their description of their current life, struggles and all. But I always prefer hearing these things in the context of a face to face encounter. Especially if they are convinced God has called them to be a part of the local body that He has called me to pastor. If I can’t see the tilt of their head, the lifting of their eyebrows at key moments when they tell me about how surprised they were about something, what they’re doing with their hands as they describe crucial events that have happened to them–in a nutshell, if I don’t see firsthand those mannerisms that are a part of making them uniquely who they are, then I’m not sure how effective I can really be in helping them progress into Christ-likeness.
I’ve been described as a “people-person” by the majority of the people who know me at almost any level. That probably is an accurate description of me. But if I truly am that kind of person, it’s obviously because God hard-wired me to be that way. And I’ve discovered that when I operate in the realm I’m hard-wired for, I find joy and fulfillment. And, those I know and serve relationally feel love and find encouragement as they progress in their walk with Jesus and God is glorified.
Of course, being hard-wired by God as a “people-person” doesn’t qualify someone to serve as a pastor. But I do believe that it is one of the key components of the inventory God gives a man He calls to shepherd His people. It’s similar to the idea that every pastor must be gifted with the ability to teach but not everyone with the ability to teach is gifted or called to pastor. Pastors must have people skills but not every believer with people skills is called to be a pastor.
My conviction about the role of a pastor based on my understanding of God’s Word:
The Word has much to say about those who shepherd God’s people. Much can be learned from Jesus and His interaction with the apostles, the larger group of disciples, and of course, the multitudes. In His brief discussion with Peter in John 21:15-17, He made clear that regardless of the level of love Peter had for Him, Peter is commanded to feed, (2x) and to TEND His sheep. The remainder of the New Testament gives many examples of what shepherding God’s flock looks like and there are even 3 specific books in the New Testament devoted to helping young pastors to do that.
But personally, the text that really encapsulates what God expects of those He calls to shepherd His people is found in Ezekial 34:1-6. When I look at the things He accuses the shepherd’s of NOT doing, I don’t believe I’m going astray by inferring those are the exact things He expects the shepherds of His people to be doing. I admit that in the context in which this was written the word “shepherd” was probably referring to more than just the priests, (perhaps prophets and civil leaders too). But clearly, the primary targets of this rebuke through Ezekial are those responsible for the spiritual care of His people. There are 6 key areas that God holds the shepherds of His people responsible for:
Vs. 2,3 (1) Feeding the flock, not using the flock to feed themselves and their egos and lifestyles. This is mentioned first and I believe is the number one responsibility of the shepherd, just like Jesus told Peter.
The remainder of what God expects His shepherds to be doing for His flock is the fleshing out of what Jesus meant when He told Peter to TEND His sheep. In other words, this is what “tending” the sheep looks like:
Vs. 4 (2) Strengthening the weak
(3) Healing those who are sick
(4) Binding up those who are broken
(5) Bringing back those who have been driven away
(6) Seeking those that get lost
What the above descriptions look like in the context of a local church, even a local church today, isn’t difficult to unpack. I trust that God is able to show a pastor of a local church how these principles are put into practice in the context in which he and the people God has called him to shepherd reside.
But what I can’t escape….what provokes me personally to pastor the way that I do, is that the only way I can truly know which of the sheep are weak, sick, broken, have been driven away, or wandered away and are now lost, is if I spend some significant time face to face with them on a regular basis. As they live life day to day in the crazy but real world of our community, I’ve been given the privilege and the time to build deep, meaningful, and real relationship with them so that I can know them and be known by them. This is what makes it possible for me to tend to them at the level that God clearly expects me to.
I learned an interesting lesson connected with what I’ve just written when I planted a church the first time. I’ve passed it on to other young men feeling called to church plant and/or pastor over the years. Here’s what I tell them:
“Your first and primary responsibility as a pastor is to feed, (teach), the flock, no question about that. But it won’t be your great teaching ability that will keep the people in your church, (since very few people are actually good teachers when they first begin pastoring). No, what will keep them with you is your genuine love for them that you express by spending time with them as individuals and as families, getting to know them and letting yourself be known in their homes and your home, not the church building. And when your teaching gift really does develop and the church grows, don’t fall into the trap of being so busy using your teaching gift for the crowds that you no longer have time to tend to the flock in the same way you did at the beginning. If the church grows to the point where you can no longer tend to them, then train and tend to the leaders who will tend to the flock. But tend to the leaders the same way you used to tend to the flock–individually and with families in their homes and you own”.
When I pile the reality of being a techno-lamer on top of this conviction I have about God’s expectation for those who shepherd His people which is already piled on the way He’s hard-wired me as a person, I come face to face with the dilemma that I pray I’ve made understandable.
As stoked as I am about the interaction, fellowship, and encouragement I find on this blog with all of you, I must keep my face to computer time limited so that my face to face time with my flock is not diminished. I know that my interaction with all of you through this blog is minimal, and I sincerely regret that. But please know that it isn’t the result of a lack of desire, it’s primarily because of my hard-wiring and my conviction about being a shepherd of God’s people.