by Christian Penn
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. I Peter 5:2, 3
They wander, they gripe, they disappoint, they fail to show up at times, they bicker, they gossip, they do dumb things and they commit ridiculous sins. “What in the world is wrong with my church?” you ask. “If I could go somewhere else maybe I could find some people who would behave in the way I teach them to,” you think. “It seems I just keep fighting the very same battles with the very same sheep,” you complain. Is this the way you feel at times? Oh yes, it probably is. A pastor has a very trying job at times unless he does not have unreasonable expectations of what a church should be.
Many pastors take stock of the condition of their church on a regular basis but fail to take stock of their own responsibility and performance often enough. Peter reminded us in this passage that we have a responsibility to serve our church in the right way and with the right attitude. First he tells us that we are to feed them. Now, that does not mean only when they please us or do what we want them to do. No. We are to feed the sick sheep, the angry sheep, the wandering sheep, the sinful sheep, the rebellious sheep, the critical sheep, the gossiping sheep, the disobedient sheep and even the unfaithful sheep. It is our job to feed the flock.
Notice he does not say to beat them, kick them, hit them, berate them, humiliate them or take our frustrations out on them. No, he says feed them. That can be hard to do when you are angry at them, but it is still your responsibility to feed your flock. Pastor, no excuses are given. Feed the flock. No exceptions are allowed. Feed the sheep. Throwing the food at them is not allowed. No, you are just to feed the flock. Maybe you are starving your flock to punish them.
Peter goes on to tell us to take oversight of the flock as well. Notice he says feed them first. Then we are to care for them. That is where the work gets tough. We are to round up the strays and keep rounding them up when they stray again. We must mend their wounds, pick the ticks and burrs off them, chase away predators, shelter them from the weather, nurse them to health when they are sick, step in when they fight each other and anything else that goes on in a flock. It is hard to do that on the golf course 5 days a week or by hanging out with other shepherds. No, we must be attentive to the flock at all times. It is our job. It is what we are called to do.
It can be dirty. It can be tiring. It can be discouraging. It can be painful. It can be tough. However it is what we are commanded to do. How are you doing pastor? Are you feeding the flock? Are you overseeing the flock without regard to your own comfort and best interests? Are you feeding them the best food and giving them the best care? If not, why not? Maybe it is because of your attitude. Peter addresses this with three thoughts.
1. …not by constraint, but willingly;
It is attitude check time. Peter tells us not to do it with an I HAVE TO attitude but with I WANT TO attitude. If you do not want to be a good parent, don’t have kids, and if you don’t want to be a good shepherd, DO NOT pastor a church. If you have a negative attitude towards your church you are not doing your job properly. Attitude matters to God, as we see in this passage. If this is just a job, change jobs. If you are not happily feeding your flock, you are not properly feeding your flock. If you are not joyfully tending to your flock, you are not effectively tending to your flock.
2. …not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
What’s in this for me? Are you underpaid, underappreciated, underloved, under-noticed, under-rewarded, undervalued or under-respected? TOUGH! Guess what? Get over it. Until you do, you will not be a good shepherd and you will not feed the flock properly or care for it effectively. Peter was letting us know that what we do as a pastor is affected greatly by how we feel about what we do. Your mind must be in ready mode all the time. In the middle of the night when the hospital calls, you must go with a ready mind. When a member fails, you must restore them with a ready mind.
3. Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.
This is where the rubber hits the road. The job of a pastor is not to be the godfather or “godpastor” but to be the example of what we want the flock to be. Show them what you want them to do. Lead them by example. What causes abusive behavior in the church is when we think we have a right to “lord over God’s heritage.” That phrase makes it very clear that we are the shepherd of the flock not the owners of the flock. Those members are a gift from God just as your children are. We are not bosses, we are servants.
Being a pastor is not an easy job nor is it supposed to be. However, it is a sacred opportunity for those who are called to do so. Do not approach it with the wrong attitude or you will have the wrong results. If you are gauging your church members instead of ministering to them maybe you should spend more time taking inventory of yourself. Stop critiquing them and start caring for them. Stop seeking out their flaws and start noticing their positive attributes. Be the kind of leader Peter tells you to be. Take time on a regular basis to do an attitude check on you.
by Christian Penn
Article submitted to Independentbaptist.com