He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught… (Titus 1:9).
You all know the joke about how pastors only work one hour a week. What a deal! Of course, all of us know that this is not the case. But, if you ask most people what a pastor does, the answers might be all over the place. Some would only mention preaching good sermons, while others might mention leading Bible studies or making hospital visits. It was not too long ago that I read an interesting sentence related to how people understand the office of the pastor. “There is a belief among some that the pastor is only there to hatch (baptize), match (marry), and dispatch (bury) members of the church.” In other words, not a small number of people, Christians included, see the pastor as someone who effectively does only Sunday morning and 'special' services. They do not see the pastor as involved in the everyday lives of God's people. He only comes into the picture on Sunday or when people need him or want him.
Nothing could be farther from the truth! To be sure, the pastor of a congregation is much more than simply a preacher or a religious social worker. He fills the office established by Jesus Christ himself as a shepherd ('pastor' comes from the Latin word for 'shepherd') who, for the sake of God's flock, serves under the Good Shepherd himself as a servant of God and of his Son.
Today, we have a sort of idealized image of what a shepherd is and does, in part because of all the pictures we see of a clean Jesus holding a sheep on his shoulders as he walks in a bucolic setting, flanked by crystal clear water and impeccable grass. But, the job of a literal shepherd is not quite so picture-perfect. Sheep stray and need to be brought back to the flock. Sheep get into trouble and sometimes need to be wacked over the head to get their attention. Sometimes enemies and thieves threaten a flock, and a shepherd puts his own safety on the line to protect his sheep. Somewhat similarly, the job of a pastor is not the cushy, one-hour-a-week job some people imagine it to be. What is a pastor called to do?
The pastor of a congregation is called by God to…
As one might imagine, this does not always look 'pretty.' Sure, being a pastor is fulfilling, engaging, and oftentimes wonderful. But, as with a literal shepherd, it can mean sometimes getting 'dirty.' It can mean confronting disbelief and sin (which is never comfortable for anyone). It can mean that one week is laid back and the next exhausting. In some places of the world, the job of the pastor can even be dangerous.
Please do not hear me wrong. This article is not about me. What is true above is true of every pastor who strives to minister faithfully according to the call of God in Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit. And it is true of every pastor, because it was true of Jesus Christ, the one true Shepherd, who taught only the true Word of God, preached repentance, confronted sin and evil, loved God's children, and gave himself up for all. As his sheep, then, we listen to Jesus' voice, because only through him do we find eternal life and salvation, even if the road is bumpy, even if we face the discomfort of discipline, even if God leads us into dangerous places. He, and he alone, will bring us home to God's green pastures.