Mark 6:34 “When Jesus disembarked the boat, He saw a great multitude of people, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
Pastoral care lies in disarray.
In our churches, we have no shortage of men and women willing to take the title “pastor” but it has become a synonym for “leader.” The two are not the same. Indeed, they function entirely differently.
Leadership involves influence; moving people from point A to point B. It’s vital and it’s valid. We need leaders. Our greatest achievements and most important developments (socially, politically, economically, technologically, and in every way imaginable) have required leadership. But leading people and pastoring people involve different skills and different foci.
The word “pastor” derives from a Latin term meaning “shepherd.” Pastors, historically, have shepherded their people. Put simply, this has meant spiritual sensitivity to what God is doing in another person’s life; one person at a time. Pastors, historically, have protected and practiced “Word, prayer, and sacrament.” They have prayed frequently, opened God’s Word constantly, and extended God’s grace faithfully, as under-shepherds of the Great Shepherd, Christ.
I understand the rise of contemporary Western Church leaders. They develop systems, create church models, organize staff, manage budgets, finance buildings, woo donors, recruit volunteers, design training programs, and perhaps speak at conferences. I understand it, because I have been it.
But every now and then I meet a pastor; and it does my soul good. I bump into someone whose life is neither harried nor hurried; someone who looks for Christ in me more than me in their program; someone who sees me with the compassion of Christ; a shepherd of the soul.
And as everything within me wells up with joy, peace, and gratitude, I face again the question: “Am I this to others?”
When Jesus saw the great multitude waiting for Him on the shore, He did not see “potential”. He did not see “dollar signs.” He did not envisage a large church, or start to bask in His celebrity status. He saw them not as a crowd but as individuals; sheep without a shepherd. May we be moved in the same way, and may the call of the pastor rest upon us all!