For many years I have struggled with this reality. I pray some of you find redeemable principles in the prickly prose that follows. I’ve been assembling this post for weeks. As men and women of God and some as bridesmaids, we must get this right to attend properly to the bride. TM
Jesus the Good Shepherd - Part 2
This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed (Bosko) my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care (poimaino) of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed (Bosko) my sheep. John 21:14-18 (NIV)
I was exposed to a teaching on this passage several years ago. After re-reading and re-digesting it, I have reached a slightly different interpretation of the one given at that time. In this passage, Jesus uses two different words in three places to describe Peter’s commission – “Bosko,” “Poimaino,” and “Bosko” again, all translate from the original Greek script to the English “feed.” Deeper examination of this passage reveals something significant to me about that exchange. As I understand it, after reviewing concordances and commentaries, to “Bosko” is to “pasture” or allow the sheep room to graze. Said another way, to offer them a place of rest, comfort, and life, and provide a climate that allows them to prosper and be in health. The Lord is my Shepherd…
It appears that “poimaino” speaks of a more personal relationship like fathering. The shepherd will periodically exercise the discipline of husbandry and examine each sheep head-to-toe to see if there were any blemishes or wounds that needed His attention. He would muster them and pass them through the gate and poimaino them before release back to the pasture. He would hold them in place with his staff as he combed through their coat with his “rod” to analyze their health.
This was a “comfort” to them, knowing the master would carefully (care fully) look after their needs. If wounded he would apply salve with his healing touch. If lice or other external parasites were found, he would administer what is known as backliner, or the “plunge” also known as the dip (think baptism). The shepherd will always have your back. …I have everything I need.
The pastoral heart is to father intimately (up close) and with precision. As this revelation has become clearer my heart mourns for the church at large as Jesus did for Jerusalem in Matt 23:37 …how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. In my own journey I have been exposed to preachers who are not pastors at all. Some are teachers, some are evangelists, some are apostles, and some are prophets. All are convinced they are called, but try to stuff their role into one mold.
They cannot operate effectively as a pastor to shepherd if their gifting is something else. This flies in the face of the traditional view of the traditional church. I believe this is the reason the traditional church continues to have traditional recurring problems. We have traditionally held the one-size-fits-all mentality and expect one man to be all things to all people, and do the job of what scripture teaches the five-fold ministry should be doing. Yet we are perplexed when ministers burn out, or fall from grace, or are ineffective, or even worse, spiritually abuse others. Only Jesus himself could operate effectively in all of those anointings at once. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
This is not to say these roles can’t be filled by a manifestation of grace in a time of need, or on a temporary basis, but God has gifted men to fill each of these roles. We have five fingers on a hand for a reason so if one is missing, our grasp is diminished. I love teachers, but their point of emphasis is instruction not fathering. I love prophets, but they are about revelation not relationship. I love apostles, but their focus is raising shepherds not raising sheep. I love evangelists, but they are more about bringing new sheep into the fold than caring for the ones already there. It is the pastor-shepherd’s call to care for and love on the sheep because that is what he does…He restores my soul.
Jesus warns us about the hired hand, yet the sheep herding business (see church) has gotten quite popular in the last couple of decades, even as true shepherds have become more scarce. As the population of sheep sees rapid growth, mega churches and mega marketers have replaced menial and mundane ministry. Building churches has replaced building the Kingdom of God and THE WAY-Mart super-churches have become the flavor of the day. In such a place you can find just about any Christian commodity you are looking for except a spiritual dad. “Attention Way-Mart shoppers, we have a little lamb at the service center that has been separated from its parents.” In reality, the lost-not-found room would be packed by wayward sheep looking for their fathers. Obviously Jesus has the heart for the “one” and that is why he teaches us to leave the 99 to find the wanderer. It takes intimacy to know one is missing. It takes investment to go after them. It takes involvement to intervene. He leads me in paths of Righteousness…
Let me be clear, many large churches can and do function well to meet the needs of their sheep, while many small churches still miss the mark, so this is simply an observation of trends, not a broad indictment. Jesus The GOOD Shepherd was obviously able to meet the needs of large crowds and revealed that by feeding the five thousand and the four thousand respectively. He also showed us explicitly just how that is done. (See Matthew 14:21; 15:38)
That stated, the trends still point to the church modeling today’s broken families with absent fathers. Without the pastoral presence, the body will be damaged and dysfunctional just like today’s splintered homes. It will simply act as a thermometer of society rather than a thermostat of the community. In those flocks you find disease and discord. The watchmen will readily identify cull ewes as expendable mutton. Make no mistake, in the House of God, no cull exists. We are all made in his image...for His name’s sake.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Pet 5:8) Evangelist R.W. Shambauch used to tell the story of the sheep and the lion. He said the sheep would graze and graze without a care in the world, but when the lion roared their heads would pop up. They wouldn’t look to the direction of the sound of the roar, but they would look to the Shepherd.
If the shepherd was there, they would go back to grazing with the comforting knowledge that he would protect them at all costs. However, if the shepherd was not there they would scatter and run. Today when the lion roars, the sheep have to call the church secretary and schedule a meeting. The pastor and parishioner relationship should never resemble the master and slave, or even the consultant and client, but always the familial. Yeah though I walk through The Valley of the Shadow of Death…
Instead of pastoral shepherds, many churches are full of hired hands passing through in search of their next bigger and better assignment. Worse still are the stray sheepdogs often brought in to help. They may be cute and lovable with some “herding instincts” but not necessarily plugged into the heart of the Good Shepherd or the needs of the sheep. They may have a knack for keeping the flock in formation, or even alerting to danger, but not about fathering and providing a place of life with room to graze and grow.
They didn’t enter through The Gate, but somehow crawled through the railing. They scatter flocks with their manipulation and self-centered agendas and turn local bodies into spiritual brothels by concentrating their power through a controlling spirit. Conflict and injury are often the result, and as the sheep leave, the “good riddance mentality” often ensues which has the overwhelming stench of the crap of border-collies. …I will fear no evil for You are with me.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors (shepherds), and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:12) Being a pastor is not about position but disposition. If one does not have the disposition to father, they are not a “pastor” plain and simple. Jesus has the heart to know and be known - that is the model for the pastor. Fathering from afar creates scars; as a dad, I know this to be true.
During times when I’ve been disconnected or disengaged, without exception my kids will manifest an issue of some sort. I will be of no help if I don’t visit with them and seek to know and be known. Often the solution lies within me and my own personal experiences, so offering myself up to be known by my kids gives them a sense that our struggles are common transcending the generations. Confessing my faults heals me and thee. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.
Jesus paid the price of accessibility and drank the cup of inconvenience. He did this because he loved his sheep. He even paid the price for sheep he didn’t have yet so they could come into his pasture and feed on redemption and drink in life everlasting. He touched lepers. He had bosko with thieves and prostitutes. He hugged children with runny noses and messy drawers. He had poimaino with dirty disciples and he washed their grimy stinky sweaty feet. He combed through the coat of sheep and helped remove bugs and cockle-burrs.
This stands in stark contrast to some preachers who are too busy with exegesis to serve as a human Jesus to a hurting and hungry flock. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8) The flock should not be a burden but a blessing, and most certainly “dear” to its shepherd. You prepare a table before me…
Leaving the ninety-nine to find the one again requires proactive deliberate steps that take us beyond our comfort zone and into the battle zone. There we may find conflict and coyotes, but we will also always find Christ – The Good Shepherd - unafraid, unashamed, and unreserved in His passion and compassion for people. He loves us without condition or prerequisite. He showed us His grace and mercy when he loved us with nails and thorns and leather straps and a heavy cross.
He deemed us worthy when He redeemed us with His blood. Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Steve Camp had a great line in a song years ago titled Shake Me to Wake Me. In it he says, “Jesus rose from the grave; we can’t get out of bed.” Ouch! Those are my toes he’s standing on! …You anoint my head with oil and my cup runs over.
If you are a minister of the gospel, I challenge you to take inventory of yourself and your sheep. How much salve have you applied to wounds lately? When your sermons become secondary to you actively serving others, then (and in my opinion only then) you have become a true pastor. If you delegate the task, you relegate your role, and until you lead from your knees, you lead no one. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10). If the revelation is you are not a pastor, stop trying to be one, and get one for the flock and operate as the other finger you are. If you don’t you may become the finger of offense. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.