SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 2012.
THE MINISTER AS PASTOR
THE Latin derivative of the word, ‘pastor’, suggests a shepherd. But when the word, ‘pastor’, is used interchangeably with ‘minister’, it portrays a ‘servant’ (diakonos). The pastor therefore is appointed to serve both God and man. Added to his assignment is preaching, teaching, nurturing and encouraging the flock. He is a shepherd who must strengthen members of his congregation.
In the Old Testament, we see the shepherd boy, David, adoring God as Great Shepherd who takes care of His flock. He says, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters’ (Ps. 23v1-2)
In the New Testament, Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.’ (John 10v11, 14) This indicates intimacy between the sheep and the shepherd and the value the shepherd places on the sheep. Also, it reveals the great bond of love between the two because a good shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep”. A pastor should exhibit such care for a congregation.
Jesus is always concerned with the welfare of the sheep, as Matt. 9v36 reveals: ‘But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.’ It is expected that pastors, today, would possess such compassionate heart– a heart that can love people and show pity rather than scorn.
There are pastors who love projects and programmes but have no love for people. Others love to study but show less affection. Such individuals may have other callings in life. They shouldn’t be pastors. They could fit in as builders or librarians.
Pastors must be willing to understand their people. It is the business of pastors to love the flock. He must be willing to forgive them when they err. When we think of how God, through Christ, forgave us, we can’t help but forgive others. The sheep might not always get it right. But we need to correct them with love and humility.
On the other hand, pastors must also be willing to ask for forgiveness. They are as human as anyone else. Some believe that frank admission of a mistake is sign of weakness. This ought not to be. Ability to ask for and accept forgiveness is a sign of true strength. It shows that a person understands what religion is about.
Unfortunately, all sorts of people have besieged the ministry. Some see others as steppingstones to prestige. These are willing to use another as long as it helps them fulfil their ambitions. For such ministers, people are pawns in a game– to be manipulated but not understood or loved. They forget that Jesus said: ‘I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me; I lay my life down for the sake of the sheep’. There is no gainsaying the fact that God is not happy with the work of some pastors on the way they handle His sheep. He has determined therefore to redeem His flock. He is going to prevent them from further drinking water long polluted by ecclesiastical debris.
Therefore God thunders: ‘for thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. ’ (Ezek. 34v11-16)
It behoves pastors to run from the wrath to come by sincerely nurturing the flock committed to his care, bandaging their wounds and giving words of consolation to the downcast.
It is only in this way that the pastor can save his soul and that of his flock.Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.