There Is A Word For That: It’s Not Shepherding

crime scene

I understand that anecdotal evidence is just that, an example, a single account that may not represent the whole.  “An independent statistical study” needs to be conducted to arrive at “certainty.”   Some would rather quote “Barna” — as if the “Barana Group’s” polling is any more reliable than anecdotal evidence [1].

Nevertheless, here are two disturbing accounts . . . . 2021 accounts.
(If you want to see it on a corporate level, a third example found below. [2] )

Case #1

Me:  Hi Pastor ______, how is it going at the church.

Pastor:  Doing good . . . . strange and challenging days to be pastor of a church.

Me:  That it is!

Pastor:  I am on zoom calls with about 10 other pastors, and it is surprising what pastors say . . .

We still got the money coming in . . . . we’re good — we’re okay . . . .

When I question it, they say . . . .

“Come on ______, you telling me that you don’t like this –You know you do.

We don’t have to preach as much, or deal with people and issues and we still get paid.”

Me: Wow . . . That’s shameful

Pastor: I have been visiting the members and offering “communion” with them at their homes.
At least we can take the time to pray with them!

(“I’ll leave it there, but it gets worse!)

♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦

Case #2

Me:  Hi, “Bill, I wanted to touch base with how things are going in your life.  Are you still meeting with Pastor _________?

“Bill”:  Things have kind of trailed off.  He rarely calls me or contacts me anymore.

Me: How can I help?

“Bill”: It’s just good to hear from you.  Nobody has ever checked on me before. 

Me: Listen, I can help, if you need someone to talk to.  I know that over the phone is not the best way to do counseling, but I am here if you need to talk to someone.  In fact, I will even fly there for a day or two if that would help — or you can fly down to Florida — whatever works best. . . . . Did you get the book I sent you?

“Bill”: I pulled out the book again today — Gentle and Lowly — the one that you sent me.  When I read it, it moves in a way that I don’t understand.  I have come to enjoy reading it!

Me: That’s good! . . . . . It talks about a Saviour which is far different from the one found in many a church ministry — one that deeply cares about us …  and deeply loves us . . . . Not a Saviour who is looking to find fault, but to cover our faults and failing with His blood . . . . One who wants to bring us home forever.

“Bill”: I appreciate the book . . . . . . . It seems like the times I get together with him — when and if we do get together —  there is only one subject . . . . ‘Am I saved?’  And I am.  I am trusting Christ as my personal Saviour . . . but I don’t know if he believes me.  But I am making it — reading my Bible — but struggling. . . . .

(Again, I’ll leave it there, but there are many more heart-wrenching comments!)

I know, these are just two stories!  They do not represent the ministry.  No, of course they do not.  But they do represent some ministries — and far more than these two.  We will have to wait for someone to do a “double-blind test.”  Or we can hope that Barna will do a poll where pastors anonymously and honestly confess to such attitudes and responses.

With some pastors, fewer preaching demands, less church activity, and steady or increased income has not lead to more time and concern for the sheep.  It has lead to more time off, less preaching (temporarily and maybe permanently), and a greater failure to exhibit the grace and love required, and indeed expected from those who claim the title of “shepherd.”

I can say with certainty, there is far too much self-serving and shameful pastoral decisions and responses than some might like to admit, and which have been brought to the surface by the Covid and political crisis across America. With some, as long as the books balance, the bills are being paid, and no one on staff is missing a paycheck, all is well.

“Expositing the Scriptures” doesn’t mean that you have provided green pastures for the sheep.  Pastors who congratulate themselves on “exposition” may think they have thereby fulfilled their highest duty and in fact, hide their mediocre-to-weak-to-poor-to-terrible shepherding behind fulfilling that duty.  “Expositing the Scriptures” includes exhibiting the love, care, concern, patience, and compassion which”men of the  Book” preach the Scriptures require of His people — no less its leadership.

Lee Eclov states . . . .

Pastors, like all believers, are agents of grace.  But we dispense the grace of Christ as no other believers do.  We are shepherds.  Search as we might for a word more suited to our contemporary culture, shepherd is the only word that will do.  If we hope to understand what we’ve been called by God to do, we have to step into a foreign world of sheep and pastures, folds, and staffs, night watches and wilderness searches . . . . Patient, long-suffering, committed to the often lonely routines of care.  That’s. how God wants us to see ourselves.  In fact, that is one way God see Himself. [3]

Don’t take my word for it, just ask church members — particularly those who have not felt the freedom to return to the in-house church services, those who have been and are marginalized for being fearful — “How often has your pastor personally talked to, called, and/or prayed with you.”

When you hear their answer, you will be able to add a few more anecdotal stories to my point.

With some pastors, and more than imagined or is right, the ministry really is about them.

The word for such is not “shepherds.”

1. The Barna Group polling of “Christians,” “pastors,” “churches,” and “disciples” is as subject to gross inaccuracy to most all polling is.  “Polling” is DEPENEDENT ON who you poll (Christendom is not Christianity) , where you poll (the Northeast is not the South), when you poll (comparing the 50s-60s to 2021), and how you poll (the questions you ask give you the answers you want).

“Barna” results are used to argue for all kinds of trends, positions, and warnings.  There is one certain truth which all the Barna polls repeat in a variety of different ways.  It may be the only trend that Barna polls are picking up — the world is moving from Christ to a day of His return.

By the way, Barna now reports that most church members really don’t care about their pastors and that pastors lack credibility in the eyes of most members (whoever the  “they are” who have been polled).  That was in 2017 — Imagine today!

2. Dave Ramsey email To Bob Smietana
also — “And if you don’t like that, this is your cue . . . Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”

3. Lee Eclov:  “Pastoral Graces” — pg. 12

Another beautiful quotation from his book . . . .

“. . . we must also remind them often, in full biblical detail, that Jesus will come back in glory. Pastors grace God’s people with the stories of what is yet to come. We keep their chins up, looking for Christ’s return. In this clinging and cloying world we urge them not to put down their roots.

I imagine a pastor being like an elderly uncle of refugee children. He often gathers them to himself and tells them stories of the homeland they have never seen. He tells them that on the day they go home they will be a beautiful bride coming down the aisle of the skies to meet her Bridegroom. The homeless children listen wide-eyed as he tells them that their homeland is a kingdom bright and righteous, where Life runs in the rivers and grows on trees. “Our King is the king of all kings,” says the uncle. “He rides a mighty charger and the armies of heaven follow Him. He knows your name and he himself is waiting to be with you.” The uncle tells these stories again and again because if he doesn’t the children will forget who they are and put down their stakes in Babylon. The challenge isn’t how to get them home. The King will take care of that. The uncle’s challenge is that he cannot let the King’s children forget their home.”

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