Pastoral Ministry

Charles Jefferson decries the lack of appreciation for “pastoral ministry.” He says the following:

One result of this disparagement of pastoral service is visible in the sentiments entertained by many young men entering the ministry. They say quite openly that they despise pastoral work. Study they enjoy, books they love, preaching they revel in. But as for shepherding the sheep, they hate it. They like to feel that they have special gifts for the pulpit. When their friends prophesy for them a glorious pulpit career, their heart sings. The work of the shepherd was an abomination, we are told, to the ancient Egyptians, and so it is to all the pulpit-Pharaohs who are interested in building pyramids out of eloquent words. The fear of ailing in pastoral duty is never once before their eyes. A slip in the pulpit brings gnawing remorse; a blunder in pastoral work gives the conscience not a twinge. Public worship is to them the be-all and end-all to ministerial life. They have not read the New Testament sufficiently to observe that public worship is not made the one thing needful, either by Jesus or the apostles; and that while it is not to be neglected, there are many weightier matters of the law.
Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd, pg. 24

I’m am certain, as unpleasant as it may be, at times it is healthy to read things that I strongly (and negatively) react to by nature. When I first read this paragraph I was angry at the characterization of young men. In my pride, I miss the point. This is a good reminder I think.

6 thoughts on “Pastoral Ministry

  1. Preaching is severely over-rated in my opinion in our circles at making disciples. It may be good at winning the lost but not in truly helping people change. If you want to be a pastor, you must remember that pastoring is based on Christ’s model for leadership which is servanthood not oratory.

  2. I agree with Jefferson’s critique. However the opposite is as equally prevalent and dangerous. For example, I often hear this about pastors: “His preaching/teaching stinks, but he’s a strong shepherd.” How sad. In fact, how can one be a strong shepherd without being a good (at least accurate) teacher? Shepherds not only guide, but protect the flock from wolves, aka false teachers. I’ve also heard pastors (present and future) say, “I hate to study. I just want to help people… I could never go to seminary.” The pastor’s shepherding ability and authority come from his teaching ministry. I would say (though not as a pastor yet) that preaching as a method is not the problem. Our content is the problem. We spend hours a week studying God’s Word, only to give the flock three applications to please God this next week.Jefferson’s warning is fantastic. Thanks, Matt. I think I’d like to understand more his def. of “Shepherding.”

  3. Preaching is overrated at times for the purpose of discipleship. Which is what shepherding the sheep is all about. It’s extremely valuable, don’t get me wrong, but it’s only one weapon in your arsenal and has specific strengths and weaknesses.

  4. That’s what I thought you meant, but I wanted you to clarify only because many would like to see preaching (an authoritative, public proclamation of truth) totally eliminated as it is “irrelevant” or “out of touch” with the postmodern world. I know you don’t think that.

  5. I have just finished Jefferson’s book and I’ve found it very thought provoking and challenging as it concerns the responsibilities of a true shepherd. This quote that Matt noted is too often true. It’s certainly a pit that many of us young preachers can fall into. Zach, what you mentioned he also says in the book. A good Pastor must also feed his sheep and be a good preacher.

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