The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.”
I love Sundays. I love walking into church with a song on my lips for the living God. I love losing myself in His presence while we worship. I look forward to hearing the message that hits home. During the week I attend a spiritual development class at another location, and I love the dedication that these pastors bring to teaching us how to hear from God, and how to access all that God has for us. This level of dedication is not easy. I walk away filled, but what about them?
Recently in my prayer time, the Lord has had me covering pastors; my pastors and other pastors who I know and love. God has given me such an affection for pastors. Growing up, in fact, it was not uncommon for my parents to be mentoring newly saved people. Many became saved because my parents listened to the voice of God. Of those many, several became pastors. Such a bond was formed between these men and our family. I remember learning that the pastors we saw on the pulpit were men, not gods. They were human and had needs, so we had pastors over our house a lot as well as others who worked in ministry. My parents fed them spiritually and physically and poured into them as God desired. Our house was that house, a safe place to be ministered to, prayed over, and of course fed. The passion of God’s Holy Spirit burned in their eyes, but fatigue created dark circles under those same eyes. Now decades later, I find myself focusing much of my intercession on the pastors I know and love in our local area. My heart’s desire is that they too are fed, filled, equipped and counseled during all seasons but especially the tumultuous times.
The Bible refers to the pastoral as a Shepherd. Perhaps when you think of a Shepherd, you imagine large grassy hills, fluffy white sheep and a man with his staff staring at the clouds in the sky. In a romanticized version I suppose this could be true, but the reality of the Shepherd’s job was harrowing especially in an unenclosed area such as Palestine. Shepherds had to wake very early placing themselves at the head of the flock marching to the spot where the sheep would be pastured. They watched their flocks all day making sure none strayed. If one sheep wandered astray, the shepherd would go after it ensuring it’s safety. This tenderness was especially needed for the young and the feeble members of the flock. Sheep required water and food, and so the shepherds had to find a spot that provided both. At night the shepherds would return with his flock back to the fold counting them to make sure none were missing. Shepherds knew their flock intimately, and in turn, the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd. After counting the sheep, he stood watch all night to protect the flock from the attacks of wild beasts looking for a midnight meal. Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of the pastoral role.
The role of a Pastor is to tend to his congregation. He (or she) treats the congregation as his own, for as he preaches, he is birthing spiritual children. Each member of his congregation is, in a way, his spiritual sons and daughters. A Pastor anointed and appointed by God will always go after the stray person lost in his sin. He has the Father’s heart, and so he can’t bear to lose one, and if he does, it feels like failure. Gently and tenderly the Pastor ministers to the sick and the broken in spirit. He makes hospital visits, speaks at funerals and officiates weddings. He is there for the beginning of life in dedications and the end of life in eulogies. His heart is found in both. He stands watch at the gate of his church to make sure the Enemy does not slip in unnoticed to wreak havoc, and if he does, it breaks his heart. Pastors sit at the feet of Jesus, drinking in the Spirit of the Living God to pour forth the message of the Lord. He is found at the pulpit but is also called to the pastures. He struggles with his desire to connect more, knowing he must know his flock intimately, but still is only one man. Does this seem so glamorous now? Because I assure you it isn’t. It is a call and a passion, but it is not easy.
The prophet Ezekiel received a Word from the Lord condemning the Shepherds, those who ruled, for not doing their jobs. Let’s look at this from the perspective of what God expects from a pastor.
Strengthen the Weak( diseased)- Spiritual oppression or physical oppression. Many pastors are trained in inner healing and deliverance to help those who are under oppression. Similarly, pastors also are called to help those who are oppressed and in abusive relationships. They will also refer those who need deliverance to an inner healing team that they oversee.
Heal the Sick- Direct people to the Great Physician to be healed and receive eternity with God as their medicine. Pastors are called to preach the good news and to offer altar calls and address those who don’t know Christ in their messages. Pastors preach this news themselves but also oversee outreach programs intended to fulfill this mission.
Bind up the injured- Those who are spiritually broken from falling away, broken hearts, and broken spirits. Many pastors do this by personal visits to family members who suffered loss, or who are suffering through a tragedy. They come and nurture with tenderness the wounds inflicted. Pastors also oversee prayer teams who specifically visit hospitals and families in crisis.
Bring back the strays- Those who spiritually broke from the congregation or were lured away by false teaching/doctrine. Pastors in their preaching correct false teachings and false doctrines with the Truth of God’s Word. They share how to guard the heart God has given us. They also do this through counseling.
Search for the Lost- Those who lacked knowledge and guidance and wandered away from Truth such as new believers. Many Pastors create ministries and classes that explore the foundations of Christianity to make sure the new members and new Christians are being fed.
Additionally, God expects that a Pastor knows his flock intimately, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.” John 10:11-12. Jesus is the ultimate shepherd and is saying that the intimacy between the pastor and his congregation is integral to the health and well-being of the church. If the Pastor does not know his sheep intimately and hands over his duties to a “hired hand” the flock remains uncovered. This is because the hired hand has no investment in the sheep, He is paid to do a job but is not willing to sacrifice his life meaning that “a hireling” will never defend the sheep the way the Shepherd would. Similarly, hired help will never defend the congregation the way a Pastor would.
So much more is done than can even be mentioned here, but it’s important to note that Jesus is the Great Shepherd and it is He that is infallible. The trouble lies when we expect our Pastors to be infallible, and when they make a mistake, we judge them harshly. Jesus is the Shepherd that will never let us down, forsake us, or wound us. Pastors must lead us to the pastures where the Holy Spirit is found, preach His message and show us where the Spring of Living water is. It is our job to eat the bread and drink the water. Our relationship with Christ is dependent on our actions not the actions of our pastor. In a world where everything is instantly accessible, we can become demanding sheep, expecting an immediate response to our email or text or phone call. When we don’t get what we think we deserve we walk in offense harboring bitter thoughts. I encourage you today to stop looking at what your pastor should be giving you and start focusing on how you can pray for him. God has expectations of His Shepherds, and while we must discern carefully where our soul is fed, we are not to expect perfection, but we are to extend grace.
Close your eyes and ask Holy Spirit to guide you in how to pray for your pastor. A good place to start is encouragement.
Prayer Starter: Father God, I thank you that You are the Good Shepherd. You love Your sheep and laid down Your life so we could spend eternity with You. You have also anointed and appointed my pastor. Guide his/her heart and direct him/her to the destiny. You have for him/her. Let nothing distract from the purpose You have for my pastor. Grow him, guide him, direct him, renew him, refresh him, and bless him abundantly. I speak fresh fire and fresh life over my pastor and his ministry. Light ablaze the Holy Spirit in his heart, and when he is weary, carry him to the feet of Jesus. In Your name, I pray, Amen.