Monday, June 30, 2008

Shepherding the Flock

It strikes me that there are two things that I need when it comes to pastoral care.

The first one is that I need comforting in the trouble of life. I need to be reassured of the gospel. I need to have my broken heart bound up. I guess this is what we normally think of when we think of pastoring.

But I also need to be led. I need to pushed on and led on to greener pastures. I need to be made to go deeper in my understanding of Scripture and my love of Christ. I need to be challenged to grow.

Let's call the former reactive pastoring and the latter directive pastoring.

Would it be fair to say that some churches are very good at reactive pastoring but not so good at directive? They look after the weak, but never encourage them to become stronger. They take care of people, but never prod them into doing things they don't want to do. The result is self-indulgent Christians.

On the other hand, might it be legitimate to point out that some churches are good at being directive but very bad at reactive care? They know where people should be, and will do anything to get them there. They helpfully push the strong, but sometimes don't notice when the weak fall by the wayside. The result is often dishonesty, as people don't feel free to admit their failings and weaknesses.

Not so Jesus. He knows when we need leading on to greener pastures, and he knows when we need carrying through the valley of the shadow of death. Isn't it great that Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, knows just how to look after us?


  1. Daniel, I am really enjoying what you write. I think you are correct about churches, or ministers, being good at one or the other, sometimes not both. We all have areas of strength, but we look to God to enable us to improve the weak areas.

    My assessment of the UK independent evangelical scene today is fairly strong on the comfort, weak on the drive and leadership.

  2. Glad you're enjoying it - and indeed I do remember you from the mists of the dim and distant past...

    I think you're probably right when it comes to independency. One of the problems, I suspect, has been a focus on one man as 'the minister' rather than leadership by a group of elders, with the result that we are only good at what the one man is good at - and as you say, we each have our individual strengths and weaknesses.

  3. Anonymous9:01 am

    Hi Daniel,

    I think that is fair and a great insight. Could I push it a bit further and say that sometimes I think these two types of shepherding sometimes are present in the same church where the flock are inadvertently treated as if there were two types of sheep (to the injury of both)?

    One type of sheep are the 'weaker or worldly Christians, or those with issues or troubles' who are in need of pastoral care. Those who show some 'leadership potential' are given the directive pastoring.

    I am caricaturing here but a danger, in addition to those you mentioned of "spiritual obesity" and "triumphalist slave-drivers" are that those receiving directive care may get better at doing whatever things are seen and valued (Bible studies, preaching etc) whilst their character is not challenged and changed by the Spirit acting through the Word. On the other hand those receiving pastoral care become introspective and further feel more inadequate as they are only infrequently encouraged to act, grow and go.

    Would that be fair?