Holy Spirit

Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog

Photo by  Biegun Wschodni  on  Unsplash

If Jesus—the Good Shepherd—is our prime example as a pastor or leader and the Bible is our primary guide, why is it so difficult to pastor God's people well? Be wary of those who say it's easy—it's not!

When pastors or leaders of God's people speak highly of their own pastoral prowess it makes me wonder…Are they following the example of Jesus or some ideal of their own? Do they reflect the nature and commitment of the Good Shepherd or some image they are convinced is best?

When the expectations of pastors are driven by business leadership guidelines and principles and a result-oriented culture, it won't line up with what we see in Jesus as the Good Shepherd nor what the Bible says.

Are you a shepherd or a sheepdog?

Let's start with why I’m making a distinction between a shepherd and a sheepdog. Both are invested in tending sheep but in different ways because they have different roles. I’ve seen myself function in both roles while pastoring and seen it in other pastors too.

Whether you’ve had formal education and training to be a pastor or more experienced-based training—a learning as you go approach—you’ve probably fulfilled the role of a sheepdog at times. I think we all tend to do so, especially when planting a church and trying to raise up new leaders. Read more...


 

This post was originally published on the Poimen Ministries site blog under the same title– Be a Shepherd Not a Sheepdog
Although it's primarily written for pastors and church leaders, it can apply to believers who are leaders in other settings. It's focused on how we lead others. If it's helpful to you, please share it with others. Thanks for reading!

A Mess or a Mosaic?

Photo by  Alfred Leung  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alfred Leung on Unsplash

As I reflect on my faith journey, I see a beautiful mosaic. The beauty of the Artist's design is evident. Yet, if I zoom in and investigate piece by piece, I tend to notice my mess, my screwups, and my ugly failures.

"I never imagined my life would turn out like this." Depending on your perspective this could be a statement of excitement and joy or pain and loss. Life is unpredictable. Life is full of choices. Life is dynamic.

Life is a dance between two lovers. We don't live according to a static plan but an ever-evolving and creative partnership.

My faith journey is like a beautiful mosaic where the Artist's design is evident

Why life is scary

What guarantee do we actually have? Basically, none. We hope. We trust. We live in the tension of possiblities—the in-between. We face the present and glance at the future. We tend to freak out, stress out, and sometimes even give up.

Truth is, God is creating mosaics. We don't always see this big picture. We just need to trust the Artist. We relinquish control and simply BE His craftsmanship, His poiema.

For we are his workmanship [Grk– poiema], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
We hope. We trust. We live in the tension of possiblities—the in-between

The freedom of a mosaic

I'm encouraged when I study the apostle Paul's life. He didn't speak about freedom, he demonstrated it.

As Paul wraps up his first letter to the Corinthian church, he shares his plan to visit them during his travels through Macedonia (1 Cor 16:5-9). I love how the ESV translates Paul's words. He uses terms such as—I will... I intend... perhaps....

This is freedom. Paul follows the leadership of the Holy Spirit not by physical or logical sight but by faith with spiritual discernment. He feels no pressure to perform for God or for people.

Paul's life is a mosaic of personal freedom under the lordship of Christ!

Embracing the journey

Following God's Spirit is only possible when we embrace the journey of God's creative plan. The beginning of 2nd Corinthians reveals this (2 Cor 1:15-24). Paul's plan wasn't static but dynamic.

Sometimes the leading of the Holy Spirit changes direction—our direction. That is okay. It's normal when walking by faith.

Afraid of wandering

We are afraid of wandering. Why? Because it seems pointless. A sense of wandering makes us feel unsuccessful or not good enough. This kind of thinking stems from our lack of trust in Jesus.

His way isn't pointless even when it appears like we're walking in circles.

For those of us with a western worldview, we expect to see the Holy Spirit lead in a linear way. We desire an outline of our life as if it's all planned out.

If we aren't on the paved, tidy, no-mistake, straight and narrow, we tend to think we are wanderers with no destination.

God's way isn't pointless even when it appears like we're walking in circles

Seek life rather than direction

Many times we seek direction for our life when we should seek Life itself—Jesus (John 14:6). The Artist is busy crafting His mosaic—our life. He knows the final outcome. 

He takes our offering and arranges it. Even when we bring the ugly pieces of our fear, our brokenness, our disobedience. We can trust God to work all things according to our true good in every area of our life.

The Artist is busy crafting His mosaic—our life—He knows the final outcome

The divine dance

If the Spirit wants to pause and sit with us then so be it. Let's enjoy His presence over any destination.

If you can't imagine what your life will be next year that's okay. The present is where you are at and the future is what you get to create in relationship with God.

Life is a divine dance, so dance with the Lover of the universe. Let Him lead.

Step back and admire God's mosaic and submit to the Craftsman's creative work in your life. What is your role? Simply trust and submit to His leading.

Admire God's mosaic and submit to the Craftsman's creative work in your life

This is a guest post by my friend Sergei Kutrovski. You can find more about him here—My Trending Stories/Sergei Kutrovski

One Throne—One Gospel

Christ before Pilate-Mihaly_Munkacsy-public domain

Christ before Pilate-Mihaly_Munkacsy-public domain

It's easy to oversimplify and generalize truth. Doing so can make it seem shallow or trivial. But my observation is that teachers who teach well take difficult to understand truth and make it simple. This enables people to gain a good understanding of what's taught and internalize it.

My basic philosophy of learning is that unless a person (myself included!) struggles to think something through, they won't fully understand it or internalize it. Simple questions and challenges to see truth from different perspectives are useful in stirring up productive thought.

I've been writing on a certain track of thought with previous posts (see links below) and want to bring it to a conclusion—there is only one throne and one King of Kings believers need to submit their life to and this is based on the simplicity and depth of the gospel of Jesus.

Believers need to submit their life to only one throne and one King of Kings

A short review

The presentation of gospel truth—the good news of God's redemption for all humanity—is most often given in bits and pieces within a western cultural context. I wrote about this earlier.

A cursory reading of the New Testament (NT) reveals the gospel is presented in five narratives—4 Gospels and a history of the early church (Acts).

The remainder of the NT books explain this gospel narrative and give an understanding of how the truth of the gospel and its theology impact daily life within the church and among people outside the church. 

The larger narrative of God's Story, as it unfolds throughout the Bible, is important for those unfamiliar with the theology of redemption. Even Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is a heavenly narrative of how God's Story will conclude at the end of the Age.

The larger narrative of God's Story is important for those unfamiliar with the theology of redemption

Worldviews and the gospel

Consider again how truth is processed by different people with different world-views. Generally speaking, western thought presents bits and pieces of information strung together until the whole picture is seen.

In MOTROW, information and truth are understood as a whole, while bits and pieces are only seen as part of the whole. When the truth is presented in bits and pieces a disconnect between what is believed and how one lives often happens.

The post-modern mindset is similar to MOTROW when it comes to understanding truth. This mindset may still approach things in a linear fashion, but there's a freedom to associate other truth or information to a belief. This leads to a belief system like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism mentioned in a previous post.

Are you performing well?

A common emphasis in American Christianity is on what is termed a performance-based Christian faith. This is the idea that I need to do something as proof of believing in God or being a Christian. I need to give something to show my commitment to God.

This is often spurred on by well-intentioned calls to the altar—to accept Christ, to recommit your life to Christ, to serve Christ, and so on.

As mentioned in an earlier post, altars are for offering sacrifices and gifts. I see this as an expression of self-focused performance, especially when repeated many times in different services.

Are these responses or calls to some altar of self-sacrifice genuine? Yes, often they are. But the question ought to be, are they necessary?

A common emphasis in American Christianity is termed performance-based Christian faith

Only 2 vows necessary

I realized long ago that there were only two vows a person ever needs to make—one to follow Jesus and the other being joined in marriage. Both are all-inclusive and exclusive. Neither requires any additional commitments because they are all-inclusive commitments.

The call to follow Jesus is simple and requires no further clarification—Matt 16:24; Luke 14:26-27, 33. God's view of marriage, repeated four separate times in the Bible, is just as simple—Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5; Mark 10:7, Eph 5:31.

Some may argue, "But there's more to it than that!" But I ask, does God see it that way?

Reading through the book of Hebrews, I'm reminded of the great access provided for believers in the New Covenant established by God's grace—direct access to God's presence.

This access requires nothing of ourselves as believers—no giving, no doing, just coming into His presence—

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:16)

There are no minimum requirements for entering and remaining in the Kingdom of God. The only thing God asks is that we come to Him—Matt 11:28-30.

Access to God requires nothing of ourselves as believers—no giving, no doing, just coming into His presence—His throne of grace

What compels you to seek God?

So, back to the question—altar or throne? How are you compelled to come to God? Are you offering Him something rather than yourself? Or, are you coming to Him in all circumstances, good or bad?

When my children were young and I was a young pastor, I had an open door policy for my children and wife when I studied for messages. I can become so absorbed in studying that I block everything and everyone out.

My wife would remind me of my need to make myself accessible to my children and her., so I didn't elevate my work or my interests over them.

This is how I see a believer's access to God's presence. I can come at any time, in any condition, in any situation and His door is open. I don't need to offer anything or ask special permission.

The Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our promised intercessors (Rom 8:26-27, 34) ready at all times to hear us and be our advocates. Nothing and no one stands between believers and God.

How are you compelled to come to God? Are you offering Him something rather than yourself?

Guilt or grace?

Even as a young believer, I felt manipulated to respond to altar calls. I don't like being manipulated with emotion, nor do I want to just do something because it's expected or because I feel guilty about something. 

I'm not against altar calls per se, just the manipulative way they can be used and the assumptions made based on responses to these calls. I'm especially concerned about the self-effort I see people exerting to get into God's good graces. It's just not necessary.

God didn't ask Abraham to offer his son Isaac more than once. God accepted it and declared Abraham as righteous by faith (Gen 15:6; 22:1-18). Jesus only died once to justify those who trust in Him (Heb 9:12-14), this is made clear in several places in Hebrews.

Is there any need for doing something additional? If you think so, you don't understand God's grace. God doesn't manipulate us nor does He use guilt or shame to bring us to Him.

God doesn't manipulate us nor does He use guilt or shame to bring us to Him

Confidence in God and His grace

I laid my life at God's altar and I made a vow to my wife over 45 years ago. I don't need to make any more vows or make any sacrifices to gain the Lord's acceptance.

I approach God's throne with confidence when I am in need, though I still fall far short of perfection. My perfection—my sense of completeness—is only found in my Lord and Savior Jesus. I had nothing to offer long ago and still don't, but He has all I am.

What about you?

Are you going to God's altar and waiting for Him to accept you? Or, are you going boldly before His throne of grace at any time whatever your need? (Heb 4:14-16)

Jesus calls each of us to deny our self and take up the Cross, and then follow Him in faith. He doesn't ask us to make more vows at an altar of self-sacrifice. He invites us to come to Him because of His grace, and as the traditional hymn declares—Just as I am.

God doesn't ask us to come to an altar of self-sacrifice but invites us to come to Him because of His grace

Links of previous related posts—

Many Altars but One Gospel

Altar or Throne?

New Clothing

Where do you shop for clothes? Do you go to thrift stores, big-box discount chain stores, trendy boutiques, or high-end stores? Or is most of your shopping online?

When do you shop? Do you wait for clearance sales or Black Fridays? Are you a last minute shopper or do you plan your shopping trips?

We Americans, known for our consumeristic culture, are overly focused on clothing. It's more than just covering our nakedness, it's often part of our identity.

But really, how important should it be? It depends on the clothing.

The Art of Dying to Self

Most of us have heard of having either left or right brain dominance. Those who have a left-brain dominance are supposed to be more analytical, while those with right-brain dominance are more creative.

Art is defined as a creative skill or ability, and science is knowledge about something or study of a subject. Typically, art and science are seen as opposites, just as with left or right brain dominance.

And by the way, the idea of left or right brain dominance? It turns out to be a popular myth. So, maybe art and science aren't so opposite.