It’s always an awkward moment: the pastor begins talking about sheep and shepherds—hinting at the fact that he’s the shepherd and you’re the stupid sheep that couldn’t find it’s way without him. (I still wish the singular of sheep is shep.) And it only gets stranger as he begins to describe characteristics of sheep, “perhaps the dumbest of all animals,” he says. You’re feeling happier about this guy by the minute. I’ve often wished that pastors would stop using the shepherd analogy, but hey, it’s biblical, and for a reason.
Shepherds are charged with doing what it takes to protect their sheep—I know, obvious fact, but think about it for a minute. Who would Sam the dog in Loony Tunes be without his zeal to protect his flock from Wile E. Coyote? Sam the dog would be boring and useless, and there would be a whole lot less comedy. The same is true for our churches. Shepherds are charged with the protection of our communities—it too involves a little chaos with bits of comedy.
Now here’s where the mistake comes in. We expect all pastors to be all things to all people. They’re not and they won’t be. Most pastors aren’t the shepherd types. They’re hopefully (God willing) more like apostles—the church planting type who wants to see lots of churches and are sent to do that task. They should be surrounding themselves with the other types. And there should be Sam’s in our churches that we go to when Wile shows up.
The scary thing: most churches don’t have someone like this. There isn’t someone looking out for the congregation. There isn’t protection. There is something sacred about the idea of our gatherings being places of sanctuary—about the thought that you can go to a group from the church and find protection.
So the shepherd must return as a church office. And in case you’re wondering who that person is, look no further than the guy who is drawn to looking out for the kids in your congregation—looking out for who is with them and when—or the guy who seems to always watch the door. That’s your Sam. (For those of you who picked up on the second allusion there to Lord of the Rings, you’re awesome.)
How can your church incorporate the office of shepherd? Any tips?