“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” ~Ezekiel 34:16
In the contemporary church, as we increasingly borrow our leadership styles and ideas and methods from the business world, the Scriptural image of preacher and elders as shepherds is becoming endangered. A preacher is generally seen as a CEO and the elders as a board of directors charged with keeping the plant running smoothly and efficiently.
But the theological cost of viewing ministry as management and elders as decision-makers is great. The shepherd image, not the CEO image, is the overarching and pivotal analogy for leadership of God’s people in the Scriptures. Thomas Oden in Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry wonders if “we have traded in the vocation of handcrafting saints for the business of mass-producing sheep.”
To be a preacher or an elder —I believe pastor is a proper word to describe the biblical activities of both—is to truly comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Ezekiel 34 speaks to both sides of that common idea. The bad shepherds were criticized because they ignored the fat sheep who were oppressing the other sheep, while they lived comfortably off the products of the flock. In contrast, the good shepherd both confronts the fat sheep and tenderly cares for the weak sheep.
In his commentary on Ezekiel, Dr. Ian Duguid brings it home:
“Most of us who are shepherds fall far short of this standard. Sometimes, we don’t challenge those who are comfortable for fear of stirring up conflict—after all, the fat sheep are often big givers who underwrite the church’s budget (and pay our salaries). Nor do we always comfort the weak sheep as we should. Taking care of the weak sheep is hard, painful, time-consuming work, and we have been told that there are more important things to do with our time. As a result, we gradually turn into managers of the flock, and as long as the flock is growing in numbers, no one around us complains. God is against such shepherds, however. He is the one to whom we are ultimately accountable, and what will it profit us if we grow a sizeable megachurch, yet neglect our calling to shepherd the sheep? We will stand under his condemnation.”
I love the NCAA basketball tournament. Wall-to-wall games, all elimination games, upsets, buzzer-beaters, meltdowns, courageous comebacks, crazy coaches, cinderellas, heroes & goats—March Madness indeed. And the TV coverage is part of what makes the next four days, starting today, the greatest four days of the year in sports. They stagger the tip times for the games, making sure we get to see the last four or five minutes of every contest. Every dramatic finish is seen live. Coast to coast. Wherever and whenever the game is being played. If that game is better than the one you’re watching, they switch to it. It’s beautiful. Love the tournament.
It’s especially entertaining to me to hear the made-up words the studio analysts use. Billy Packer does it some. But usually it’s the guys in the studio who keep inventing these gems on the spot. Inevitably some team will “outphysicalize” another. Some big center will be praised for his “strengthability” and “post-upness.” A point guard will be lauded for his “court visionacious.” A coach will be recognized for his halftime “manueverization.” Love the tournament.
And the brackets. I have Carolina (sorry, Steve, I have your Vols going down to the Heels in Charlotte), Georgetown, Memphis, and UCLA in the Final Four with the Hoyas “outstrengthening” the Bruins for the Championship. A young, inexperienced Texas team will lose to Stanford in the Sweet 16. The Aggies get by BYU but get outrun by UCLA in Anaheim. Kansas makes it to the Elite Eight before getting punched in the nose by Georgetown. And UT-Arlington’s Movin’ Mavs can’t even get the license plate after getting demolished by Memphis. You can take those picks to the bank. Or fill out your bracket in pencil and make the necessary changes when you need to. My bracket’s never won the office pool. But I’m undefeated at home against my girls. Love the tournament.
The “dummy-wall” is up on the west side of our building (insert your own line here, just not at my expense, please). Once the roof’s up on the new worship center and the thing is dried in, they’ll start tearing out the existing wall to tie in the new building with the old, hopefully by early next week.
Don’t call me today after 11a.