When I was a kid growing up in Western Colorado, the economy was basically still an agriculturally based economy. There were a lot of orchards with many different kinds of fruit, cattle ranching, corn, alfalfa, and a variety of other things. Pretty much just about any kind of thing that could be farmed probably was being grown somewhere in the Grand Valley.
As you moved further west toward the Utah border, there was a lot of rolling sagebrush hills where the sheep ranching was done. The shepherds that watched over those sheep lived lonely lives in little metal trailers that were occasionally moved as the herd needed new areas to graze. The shepherds literally lived their entire lives with the sheep they were tending. Feeding them by guiding them to the good grass, protecting them from predators, and keeping them from wandering off. For all of this, the shepherd was paid an extremely low wage, his food and the little trailer to live in. But the ones who did it, loved it, and couldn’t think of doing anything else. There certainly was no glamour in the lifestyle and none of them ever attained fame or glory.
One thing about the shepherds, though, is they didn’t own the sheep they cared for. They didn’t have a say in how many sheep they tended, the rancher did. The rancher determined how many sheep he owned, how large each individual herd was, when he added and when he took away from the herds. That was the exclusive domain of the ranch owners, not the shepherds. The shepherds were to feed, care, and watch the flocks. The owner determined the size.
In Ephesians 4 where Paul is speaking about the various ministries of the church, he lists apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The Greek word he used for pastor was “poimen” which means “shepherd”. Websters dictionary defines “shepherd” as “one who tends sheep”.
In the church of today, specifically the Western church and America in particular, there is a lot of emphasis on church growth. Pastors attend seminars, read books, attend training sessions, and discuss it among themselves. There are literally millions of books sold on the subject of church growth in America every year.
Pastors fret if they see someone walk in on Sunday morning and never come back. “Was the sound too loud?” “Was it the mistake the worship leader made?” “Was it old sister so and so’s prophecy?” “What could it be!?”” Why wont they stay?”……..These things are literally fretted over by thousands of pastors in America every day.
It shows their total lack of faith in God…..and their inability to recognize their place in God’s kingdom.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told Peter to tend his sheep. HIS sheep, not Peter’s. Jesus Himself said He was the Good Shepherd, and His only job was to care for the ones the Father gave Him. It’s simply not anywhere in the bible that the responsibility of church growth lies on the pastor.
Far too many pastors today have lost sight of this. They’ve had their eyes on their neighbor’s church. They want to ascend to the heights of their denominations. They want recognition for their church’s explosive growth. They look to numbers as proof that they must be following God’s will. They want to be on TV (to reach the lost , of course :). They want to stand on the stage and gaze out over the throng and say to themselves: “All of those church growth principals finally worked. Thank you God for blessing me?”
But they’ve failed to recognize one huge thing. They don’t own the sheep.
They also fail to realize that if they have too many sheep it becomes too easy for predators to pick off one of the sick or injured ones. Because of the “vision” that pastors feel like was given to them by God, too many sick/wounded/injured Christians are left by the wayside.
Just like a real shepherd, it’s not the pastor’s job to determine the size of the flock. It’s the flock’s owner who determines that. A pastor’s only job is to tend the flock they’ve been assigned to. To make sure they’re being properly fed, protected, and cared for.
Leaving the worries of how to grow the flock to the owner should be something every pastor is grateful for. It removes so much responsibility and stress from the pastor. Far too many pastors are burnt out and much of it’s because of fretting over the growth of the flock.
It’s essentially pride and lust at the root of it. They think they can grow the church faster by manipulating God and running ahead of Him. All for His glory, of course.
God never asked pastors to worry about the size of the flock they tend. They need to lay those worries down and concentrate on feeding the flock . Get back to tending to each sheep individually and inspecting each one for “disease” and treating their “wounds” and “diseases” as needed. Quit thinking that the sheep’s only existence is for the “vision”.
Lest the owner of the flock return unannounced and finds out what far too many pastors REALLY think of those stupid sheep.