40 Days in Mark’s Gospel – Day 15

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.

ShepherdLeadership 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!

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16 Responses to 40 Days in Mark’s Gospel – Day 15

  1. Scot Longyear says:


    Thanks for being a Pastor. You encourage me to do the same.

    • David Timms says:

      Scot, it’s so easy for me to get caught up in the non-pastoral and eternally peripheral. Thanks for your friendship that periodically challenges my priorities. 🙂

  2. Scott says:

    Wow. Thanks David. You always hit me where it hurts. “[A pastor} is someone who looks for Christ in me more than me in their program.” Bless you brother.

  3. Daniel Gluck says:

    Wow David! This ministered to me greatly this morning. Fun fact: in Swahili (E. Africa), they only have one word for both pastor and shepherd: “mchungaji”. I’ve always found that profound – they cannot be separated!

    • David Timms says:

      Daniel, that was a fascinating “fun fact.” I wonder if their word will become as prone to distortion as our own? THANKS for all of the genuine pastoring you do in this campus community!

      • Daniel Gluck says:

        Thank you David. Indeed, the term “pastor” has become distorted for my African friends as well… It’s interesting (and troubling) to see African pastors emulating the performance-driven examples they see in “the West”… In my observation, this model is not characteristic of African humility and cultural heritage. It seems our insatiable desire for acclaim is the same, here or there!

  4. Jan Neff says:

    Hmmm, do you think the same person can effectively pastor and lead? I see the need for skill set differences, but I see Jesus doing both totally effectively, being able to change hats, as it were, as necessary. But He was able to do both without getting caught up in our enculturated (did I just make up a new word?) society. I just wonder if we can do the same if we are intentional in our work. I think of the phrase “what we win them with is what we win them to” and feel we’ve lost the mark too many times.

    • Daniel Gluck says:

      Jan – great question and I couldn’t help but chime in… Although different skill sets may be required for leadership and shepherding, I would argue that both can be done effectively by the same person. I have especially seen this idea in leadership models like Servant Leadership (Robert Greenleaf) and Transformational Leadership (James M. Burns and others). These present the idea that leadership is not just vision, goals, etc, but caring for the souls of followers.

      • Jan Neff says:

        Oh, there’s that word: servant! People who are pursuing God and are gaining in the understanding of serving from or through brokenness (thank you, Tozer and Née), who understand their path is vertical while their work is horizontal. As in, not singing ‘it’s all about me, it’s all about me, Jesus.’ Where I too often fight my sin nature, if I am to be honest.

      • David Timms says:

        I agree, Daniel, though the pull to leadership rather than the “cure of souls” is very strong and seems to become the default position for many of us. Most leaders look for other leaders as their mentors, not pastors. 🙂

  5. Thanks, brother. You have refreshed my heart! Blessings!

  6. Amy C. Smith says:

    Thank you, David ❤

  7. Barry Thygesen says:

    Good morning David, I have been in ministry rising fifty years and seen a lot of transition and change in the pastoral role in the church. From pastoral care being essential part of our role as pastors to not even visiting due to fears of you or staff doing the wrong moral behaviour. Also when Home groups are seen as the first place pastoral care is to be given, which I feel is great, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and remove the role of pastor in the congregation. Maybe our colleges don’t wrestle enough with cultural and ethical implications on this issue. I have seen the attitudes, ethos and security of churches change over night when a pastor is a “Pastor” . Thank you heaps for your stimulating and provocative ministry. Be blessed.

    • David Timms says:

      Barry, lovely to hear from you. Thanks for those insights. I agree with you that true pastoral care covers a multitude of leadership deficiencies. 🙂 Perhaps people wanted to be cared for as much as led forward.

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