I hope you have heard the message, ‘Return of the Shepherd,’ by the articulate Leanne Matthesius. The title has a Tolkien resonance to it, does it not?
Leanne has superb insight into, amongst other things, the value and glory of the task of caring for God’s flock, which, if we want to get Pauline about it, is largely what we are asked to do. “Pay careful attention … to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. The precious possession of the Lord’s church demands the care of attentive shepherds.
This got me thinking about the role of a shepherd and how vastly different it is from the other ascension gifts enumerated in Ephesians 4. We aren’t completely sure if Paul was referring to four or five roles/gifts. It would seem to be four as the pastor is also, necessarily, the feeder – the teacher. It is difficult to be or do one without the other.
But it wasn’t this that piqued my attention.
I spoke at an Evangelists gathering – yes, you heard right – and addressed the topic of the pastor and the evangelist, how they relate and how they can co-operate. As an aside to the conversation it struck me that, apart from the pastor, the ascension gifts by and large (and remember when reading this, you have to exaggerate differences sometimes to see the difference) are reasonably straight forward, almost black and white.
The apostle is a ground breaker, requiring resilience and focus. They normally don’t deal with the tangle of lives.
The prophet is a proclaimer, a revealer, and they are often black and white – in the sense that a picture, a word, is relatively clear and always a simplification.
The evangelist is a bringer of good news. The cross, forgiveness, faith are straightforward enough. Of all these the evangelist is probably the most black and white – they need to be.
The teacher speaks of truth, application to lifestyle, and is often systematic in presentation.
But the pastor, ohh yes the pastor, deals with the inconvenience of nuance, the complication of lives, the tangle of relationships, of humanity – messy, complex and sheep like. To pastor you have to reconcile yourself to nuance. Things are always less straight forward in the sheep pen.
I suggest pastoring may be the most difficult, the most awkward of the ministries, because nothing is so complex as people.
The other equally important gifts can avoid the tangle a little more easily, especially if they travel.
For the pastor the nuance of situations, that never seem to quite conform to biblical verities, has to be constantly navigated. Almost every situation requires a different approach. The sermon on Sunday has to be massaged into mess, bad decisions and self-orientation.
If you are a pastor, you necessarily will have to trade in nuance. If you can’t you are in the wrong job.
Go the pastors – you are the real heroes.