ernie and Esther were not the most religious couple. In fact, they only went to church once a year. As they were leaving the church, the minister said, "Bernie, it sure would be nice to see you and Esther here more than once a year!" "I know," replied Bernie, "but at least we keep the Ten Commandments." "That's great," the minister said. "I'm glad to hear that you keep the Commandments." "Yep," says Bernie proudly, "Esther keeps six of them and I keep four."
Welcome to the life of a pastor. I know because I was a pastor of a local church here in the Phoenix area for many, many years. I’m still a pastor but now I pastor pastors all over the world. Being a shepherd or a pastor is…interesting. You never know what is going to happen to sheep. They get lost. They are unaware. They are all kinds of things that, dare I say, make life… doubly interesting. Let me explain what I mean.
Psalm 23 is probably the most famous Psalm in the Bible. You have probably heard it at some point in your life. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want..." This Psalm was written by David. He was reflecting on how God leads his people (himself included) like a shepherd leads his sheep through many toils, trials, and snares. One of God's names is Jehovah Rohi; The Lord my Shepherd. David had an epiphany that as both a pastor and the leader of a nation, he is a leader, led by the Leader, who leads like a shepherd.
The Apostle Peter uses the shepherd metaphor in his writings to pastors and shepherds in the church. "Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you need to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it but acting eagerly. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way. When God, who is the best Shepherd of all, comes out into the open with His rule, He'll see that you've done it right and commend you lavishly." [I Peter 5:1-4 - paraphrased]
Did you notice the shepherd's dilemma in this verse? The pastor is both a sheep and a shepherd at the same time. The shepherd is a sheep too! The pastor has a dual role, dual citizenship. Being a pastor since 1980, I've learned something. As a shepherd, I tend to look at everyone as a sheep and forget that I'm a sheep too! I struggle with my 'sheepness.'
I'm supposed to lead others into still waters, protect, prepare, rest or move, know the answers, lead people through the good times and bad times in their lives, find the table in the wilderness, and all that other shepherd 'stuff.' But, there's a difference between sheep and cattle. You drive cattle but you can't drive sheep. You lead sheep.
The fact is that I'm one of those sheep too! I need The Shepherd too! I need all the stuff that sheep need and more because I'm both a sheep and a shepherd. Sometimes I forget my 'sheepness.' That has effects that affect the rest of the flock. So, I need the keep the sheep in shape and myself in shape too. I want everything ‘sheepshape.’
Here's an example of a shepherd that forgot his 'sheepness' and was reminded of it by a sheep. The minister stormed into the vestry and flung his sermon notes on the table. "Today," he shouted to the church deacon, "I have preached to a congregation of jackasses." The church officer nodded, "So that was why you kept calling them 'beloved brethren.'"
Why do so many pastors have a hard time in ministry and even fall, much to the delight of others both inside and outside of the church? They forget their 'sheepness.' They start driving sheep rather than leading sheep. Sheep start biting each other when that happens. Then sheep quit following the leader and believe me, they need a leader. They are sheep!
So, if sheep need rest, to lie down beside still waters, have their souls restored, led on paths of righteousness, guidance through valleys of shadows of death, then pastors need that too. Why? They are sheep.
To the sheep I say, pray for, honor, and follow your shepherds for they keep watch over your souls. And, let them be sheep too! To the shepherds, I say: “Embrace your 'sheepness.’”