Now, following on the heels (hooves?) of a post about the Shepherd of Psalm 23. . . .
So-and-so says, “I used to pastor a church in down in Farm City.”
Being a literalist and a bibliophile, I wonder (but don’t actually query aloud), “Oh, really? And can you say how you cared for those sheep?
When we hear and use the word “pastor,” we ought to relate it to a pastoral scene or to pasture — and then to the living beings that pastor and are pastored. Biblically, speaking, it’s a mistake to think of pastor as “senior minister” or “church administrator,” which are wholly different — not to mention non-biblical — ideas.
Pastors are supposed to care for sheep, you know.
Like other in-house-Christianese terms, the origins of the word “pastor” are not confined to “church.” Pastoring ideals might well be considered in settings other than church.
1. In the workplace
I’ve worked in varied places, with a lot of different bosses. If we assume, for sake of discussion, that most bosses do care about their employees, the pastoral analogy in the workplace isn’t that much of a stretch.
I have been an employee of four Christian establishments and a dozen secular ones. In my experience, most bosses have been better than average. Some were surely better than I remember, even, but I was probably too impertinent to perceive how good they were to their “flocks.” Very few supervisors have in reality been very pastoral, although many of them might have had some very sincere thoughts about this kind of caring.
I had a boss once who alternately, petted, poked, and pierced a sheep. (Thinking back, I’m not sure how I lasted as long as I did.)
Could a boss ignore the sheep when they needed her . . . even or taunt the sheep?
Could you imagine one that ran a sheep through with a pitchfork while he dozed, then walked away calmly, without apparent pang of conscience?
Ever had a boss that pushed his sheep out of the pen so they’d be subject to the wolves?
Or one that talked about how much she cared more than actually showing that care?
Or one who never came out of the supply shed long enough to see what the sheep were up to in the pen?
At least one of my bosses spent so much time in the sheep-muck that he was all mucky when he tried to get off his hands and knees to look up into the lambs’ eyes. This is not a boss that one can depend on as a shepherd.
The best bosses I ever had were arguably the most unlikely. In one case, the care was evident and consistent. In another case, you had to look a little deeper, but you were always treated well.
2. OK, yeah, in churches
In churches, it’s also been a mixed bag. Some pastors actually pastor on a regular basis, but more of them may be caught building or tearing down pens, negotiating deals on animal feed, considering grass type & pen landscaping & and overall farm size, etc. Way too many “pastors” hire others to do the pastoring . . . and then no one actually ends up doing it, anyway.
Ever heard of a “worship pastor”? I find that to be a sort of double-misnomer—first misappropriating the term “pastor” as everyone else does, and piling on the mistaken notion of pastoring the worship, as though the worship itself is a sheep. Of course, what the term really purports to label is the man (or woman) who pastors people in the course of worship leadership — a conceivable scenario. The worship teams are seen as the primary flocks to be shepherded.
I’d have to guess that my “shepherds” back in Delaware most closely approached being pastoral with me. I can’t recall any would-be shepherds (nominally speaking) since that time that were any better. Still, the structure in which those Cedars men operated, not to mention their human ineptitudes, kept them from much essential pastoring.
Recently, a man with no pastor’s title tried to care for me in a very shepherd-y way. I appreciated it. And I wished there were more relationship “chemistry” on which such care could have rested.
Alas, our American lifestyles do not often allow for such relationships to be built.
And so we languish.
We sheep stumble and slosh down muddy paths, hoping to be able to climb out of ruts and clean our hooves later, all the while feeling that those hooves have some prickers in them that are going to keep hurting for a long time.
We need good shepherds.
~ ~ ~
A now-deceased man was called on to be a shepherd-elder in a church. He didn’t want the job but was persuaded by a passionate appeal from a sister. And he made a difference, although probably more in terms of administration than in actual shepherding.
Where are the shepherds to care for the sheep? Who has a shepherd’s determined heart these days, and in what types of activities might that person be found shepherding?
Why did I title this “Loosie”? Because my cousins Scott and Rachel had a little lamb that got loose, and they called her “Loosie.” Not incidentally, Scott’s “pastoral” care for this little lamb resulted in the lamb’s following Scott around.