I have a young pastor friend that I am extremely proud of. (Not that I’m not proud of my other pastor friends, but this guy takes the cake right now). This is his first pastorate and it has not been a grand experience as of yet. The details do not matter. What pertains to this post is his attitude. The only thing that you need to know is that he is having to endure a dangerous disposition from an influential man in the church. From what it sounds like this is the type of guy that could split the church.
My young pastor friend has decided that rather than leave town he is going to take the bullets for the sheep God has entrusted to him. Rather than being a hireling he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. This guy is modeling the heart of Jesus: “12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:12-15)
I’ve known, and heard stories of, my fair share of pastors that leave when things get tough within ministry. “These people are not ready to follow my leadership”, I have heard. “I no longer am able to serve with joy”, some have said. “There is no future here”, has been offered. “I do not want to stir up anymore strife, for the sake of the church I will leave”, an admirable sounding excuse. I am sure you have heard some of these as well (or maybe even offered them). They all sound pretty good and may even be legit. Problem is they sound more like the hired hand than the Jesus-type shepherd.
If you are in the ministry for any reason other than seeing the glory of God displayed through the spread of the gospel to the nations then you will flee when the wolf comes. The hired hand looks for comfort. You can’t comfortably kill a wolf, you might even die from it. Jesus did but he took the wolf down with him. He destroyed the wolf through his death not through his comfort.
Whether it is money, ease, fame, pleasure, respect, power, notoriety, selfish ambition, pride, a jewel in heaven, a street of gold, or a really cool Pope hat, if this is your reason for being a shepherd you will run as soon as you see a wolf. Worse yet, you might befriend the wolf. Maybe you’ll cut a deal with the wolf. That way you can keep your title, most of your comfort, and only have to deal with a few sheep getting devoured. But that’s the hired hand. The Jesus-type shepherd isn’t satisfied with only 99. He goes after the lost sheep. He doesn’t sit by and let any of his sheep get devoured even if it means losing money, fame, pleasure, comfort, or the really cool Pope hat.
Pastor, you may have seasons where the wolf isn’t bothering with your sheep. You will have days when you can joyously tend to your sheep. And sometimes you might be called to a different sheep pen. But if you leave your sheep because things get tough then you aren’t a Jesus-type shepherd. One example then I’ll stop meddling.
Take the “I’m leaving because I do not want to stir up more strife, for the sake of the church I will leave”. If you are the one causing the strife then you aren’t being a shepherd anyway. That’d be like a shepherd having mutton for lunch and wearing wool underpants. So, yeah, maybe you should leave. But if there is deep conflict and it is because ungodly people are treating you in an ungodly fashion, or even if there are wolves in your midst…you DON’T leave the sheep at this time. This is when they need the shepherd the most. Take the bullet or rather the wolf bites, that’s your job. That’s why I am proud of my young pastor friend.
The hired hand leaves. The Jesus-type shepherd lays down his life. Which are you?
Also, I know this is not as black and white as I’ve presented it. Feel free to disagree and bring out the other side to this. This is called a “musing” for a reason…