Though it is often said of the sheep, a pastor also can think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence–not that he may desire a new flock of sheep, but perhaps time away to be more than just a shepherd. After all, does he not have talents? Are there not opportunities for him to debate with the men of the village, to fight some battles down on the front, or to lead the local Shepherds Union at the next convention? Surely the sheep will be fine for a time without constant shepherding.
Countering this allure of the extra-curricular, one Scottish minister of the last century plainly wrote:
Too many ministers find other things to do, either because they do not like the pastoral ministry, and find it too hard, or because it creates too many problems working with people, or because they have gone cold and dead on it and it doesn’t cut much ice, and they are discouraged.
As a result, instead of working hard to feed the sheep well with the word, these delinquent pastors get immersed in politics, or social causes, or denominational leadership, or speaking and writing endeavors–all of which leaves the sheep themselves unable to do those very tasks. Now that fifty years has passed since William Still made these observations, we hear that Scotland lacks ministers and sound churches and even church attendance–the possible damage of delinquent shepherding in a previous generation. Woe to the shepherd who leaves America in such a position! Sheep need attention. Unless the sheep are fattened, William Still noted, they are not ready “for the kill” as living sacrifices to Christ (see William Still, The Work of the Pastor, pp. 100-03).
In pondering these thoughts, and feeling at times the pull to outside ministry of a wider sphere, my mind is reminded of the stay-at-home mom. Here she is, perhaps college educated and poised for a secular career, caring for babies and wrapping the orb of her business activities around the good of the family, as Proverbs 31 so elegantly portrays. Though the world sneers at her monotonous life, she holds the hope that molding these little ones in the power of Christ will reap benefits to the world at large greater than her single endeavors could achieve. Were these little ones already grown, she would be applauded as a shaper of men; but they are not grown, and she is not applauded, at least on earth. She must seek to please God alone, and trust that He will make the love invested shine both in time and in eternity.
Paul also knew the similarities between a mother and a minister. To the Thessalonians, who were new babes in Christ, Paul wrote, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children; so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8). “Little children,” Christ called us–even “little ones.” The ministry has always cared for “children.”
And what do you think Jesus did in coming to us? The eternal Word of the Father, the Creator of the ends of the Universe, became man and dwelt on one speck with “little ones” who did not receive Him, except for a few. He could have been anywhere, but He was here, with us, so that we might someday grow up and reign with Him. Like a stay-at-home mom; like a stay-at-church pastor; like a true shepherd in the open country, Jesus “shall feed his flock . . . He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11; aptly quoted by William Still). All praise to Him, the truly loving One! May we all grow up to be like Him!