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Are you seeking your own personal victory?
This post is adapted from Darrin Patrick's book Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission, available now.
As we saw in the last post, the dangers facing Christ's under-shepherds are numerous, and many of these come from within the shepherds themselves. In that post we looked at the temptation to hide from your own sins and the temptation to cover your own weaknesses. In this post we'll look at two more temptations that, if given in to, will cripple the shepherd and harm the flock.
Shepherding To Conquer Problems
Sometimes, as shepherds, we are tempted to turn the call to care for the flock into an opportunity to gain a sense of personal achievement. We take the counselee as a challenge to overcome, rather than as a person to help.
Many pastors stubbornly continue to minister to people who long ago should have been referred to a professional counselor. Why? Because they want to win. William Willimon says it well: “Without knowing when to refer [to professional counseling], we pastors are in danger of hurting in our misguided attempts at helping. We attempt to do more than we are equipped to do, wasting valuable time, and robbing other pastoral activity of needed focus and energy.”
Shepherding To Win Acceptance
Some pastors I know spend an inordinate amount of time around people because their personal identity is wrapped up in their shepherding role. Rather than shepherding out of humble confidence that comes from an identity rooted in Christ's saving work, these pastors shepherd from deep insecurity and seek personal acceptance from the people they counsel.
Any ministerial gifting can become an idol, but it is deceptively easy to idolize shepherding because it can feel so holy and loving. Again, Willimon informs us: “Manipulation of others can come in many forms. Sometimes the humble servant leader, going about simply serving others, can be a cover for manipulating the laity to serve the servant’s needs for adoration, appreciation, and affection.”
Let's be honest with ourselves as shepherds. If we see people as problems to conquer, we are ultimately seeking our own personal victory. When we see people as precious sheep in need of the Good Shepherd, we will seek to show our people the victory that has already been secured for them by Christ.
If we see people as problems to conquer, we are ultimately seeking our own personal victory.
We also have to be willing to ask ourselves these questions: Why do I spend so much time around people? Am I shepherding them for God’s glory and their good, or for my own affirmation?
Shepherds, fight temptation with devotion to Christ, secure in your salvation and confident in his perfect care for you and the flock under your tending.