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5 Ways Shepherding Helps a Pastor Grow
Faithful shepherding has tangible benefits, not just for the church, but also for the pastor.
1. Shepherding Prepares the Pastor for Living
- deal with the sin of others, you become more aware of your own sin.
- shepherd the stubborn, you see your own stubbornness.
- shepherd the selfish, you see your own selfishness.
- shepherd the broken, you inevitably see your own brokenness.
- see others obey, you want to obey.
- see others use their gifts effectively, you want to use your gifts effectively.
The Holy Spirit reveals sin, empowers obedience, and imparts gifts. Both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” mean “air” or “breath.” The English word “spirit” comes from the Latin spiritus, which also means “air” or “breath”. This is where we get words like respiratory (breathing) and expire (no more breathing). It is also where we get the word inspire. It’s as if when the Spirit is at work in those whom we counsel, we pastors are, by the same Spirit, inspired to repent, believe, and obey with the best gifts we have.
2. Shepherding Prepares the Pastor for Preaching
The more time you spend deep in pastoral care with people throughout the week, the more you will know how to contextualize your message, address specific sins, confront resistance to truth, expose cultural idols, and make concrete applications on Sunday.
3. Shepherding Helps Your Influence in Preaching
Shepherding humbles you and kills the self-righteousness and pride that prevents people from receiving your delivery of the gospel. When you have spent real time with real people, you gain an emotional connection with your hearers that engages both their minds and their hearts.
Many pastors are like the tin man: a hard outer shell with no heart. Though they preach the truth, they do not connect with their listeners. When your people know that you are involved not just in the “sweet by and by,” but in the “nasty now and now” of their lives, they tend to believe what you are saying. They might even, miracle of miracles, apply what you are preaching.
4. Shepherding Helps You Stay Close to Jesus
There is something about dealing with the enormity of people’s sin that necessitates staying very, very close to God. In preaching, it is easier to hide a lack of spiritual connection with God through good preparation and raw ability. But the unpredictability and sheer emotional content of pastoral work confronts you with your own necessity for a savior.
In preaching, you can prepare what you will say ahead of time. In pastoral work, there is a lot of room for insecurity and anxiety as you wrestle with the questions, objections, and arguments of your people in real time—it drives you to dependence on God.
5. Shepherding Tests the Genuineness of Your Faith
The fiery furnace of pastoral work can burn off the many rough edges of your personality and cause healthy refining and growth. Pastoral work, the real brass tacks of dealing with the day-to-day struggles of your people, does more to humble and test a minister’s spirituality than study itself could ever do.
I’ve heard Tim Keller say preaching is like firing artillery; it is a relatively safe and clean job because sharp shooters are removed from the actual battle line. But pastoral work is like being in the infantry. It is hand-to-hand, eyeball-to-eyeball combat. Being a good preacher may or may not make you a better shepherd, but being a good shepherd will definitely make you a better preacher.
This post is adapted from Darrin Patrick's book Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission, available now.