The Good Shepherd

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I was discussing what pastors should do with someone who dislikes "heavy sheperding", meaning involvement by the pastor in the personal life of members of his congregation. I disagreed, because I think that's the most important part of being a pastor, or, if you like, the most important reason to have a church, since it doesn't have to be the head pastor who does the shepherding for each individual. Churches serve various functions, including worship, teaching, and shepherding. Being a worship leader is not being a shepherd, a pastor. Nor is being a teacher, at least being a teacher on doctrine. The shepherd is supposed to keep sheep from straying. That means the shepherd must intervene in their personal lives. Consider a shepherd of real sheep. His job is to keep individual sheep from straying off and getting lost or killed, as well as guiding them to pastures that will make them fat.

Of course, a pastor who intervenes in a member's personal life can abuse that function. He can get them to loan him money, for example, or seduce a woman, or get them to tell him secrets that he uses to blackmail them when they dispute his policy decisions. But that is no argument for him to ignore their personal lives. The first step is to think what an ideal pastor would do. To think what Jesus would do if He were pastor. Only then should we think of the next step, which is how to put in checks and balances to keep real pastors, sinful men, from abusing their position.

I would like to write more on this. But what is easy to see is that simply saying that a pastor should never comment on member's personal life is wrong. A good pastor should do that, just as Jesus did and just as we would know a good pastor should do even if we didn't have the examples in the Bible. Any pastor who abstains because he is afraid of abusing his position or, more likely, he is afraid of people *saying* he is abusing his position, is betraying his office. He might just as well stop preaching, too, because it's even easier to abuse your position as preacher by teaching false doctrine or pretending to preach while avoiding saying anything with which any of your members would disagree.