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Pastor? Person? Shepherd? Sheep? Which are you?

My Little Buddy Jake


At first glance, he looks a little confused, but I think he’s not. Yes, he’s a shepherd, but first and foremost, he’s a sheep. My friend Jake sits prominently next to my desk. He’s a shepherd. Maybe someone calls him “Pastor.” But he seems well grounded in his identity. He’s a sheep. And he never forgets it.

A 25 Year Reminder

Jake was a gift from a beloved staff member with whom I served for 17 years. On my 25th anniversary in ministry, she gave me Jake along with a speech I’ve committed to memory. It’s guided me through many episodes of role confusion. She slid Jake across the table to me and said, “Don’t forget.” That was the whole speech. I haven’t forgotten what she said, but I have to admit that from time to time I’ve forgotten the lesson. Shepherds need to remember that before we were appointed to such a high and lofty calling, we were just sheep.

Who Are You?

I made a new friend on Facebook last week and I love his personal info page. “Baptized. Husband. Pastor.” That’s good. Another friend’s business card reads, “Child of God, Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Pastor.” When I told him how much I appreciated that, he told me, “That’s to remind me.” Don’t forget.

Danger Zone

Peter instructed elders, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care… not lording it over those entrusted to your care” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Leadership in the church can get pretty heady sometimes. It’s a wonderful privilege to serve as a prophetic voice to eager listeners, but it’s also an awesome responsibility. We shepherd best from a firm grounding in our sheep-ness. I think that David was commended for a good heart as a shepherd of Israel because he always remembered who was the Shepherd and who was the little lamb. King Saul forgot and got into big trouble. David didn’t forget.

Daily Renewal

Martin Luther encouraged all Christians to remember their baptism every day. It’s a perfect way to stay grounded in who we are, both our desperate need for a Savior, and the grace that has made us all priests of the holy things of God. Some days the Shepherd business goes rather well. Those are good days to remember that we are just sheep and that all the glory goes to the One we serve. Some days don’t go well at all. It’s just as important to remember on those days that we are little lost sheep, sought and found by the Good Shepherd.

Role Clarity

There’s a certain “holy hubris” essential to prophetic ministry. The Word of God should be proclaimed with the confidence that comes from being called by God and ordained by the Church to represent the throne of glory. It’s tempered by the humility that comes from a daily remembrance of our weakness and inadequacy for the task. How do you keep the fine balance of your identity as person/pastor, shepherd/sheep? Thanks for reading.