After the pastor of my church resigned, my Sunday school class discussed what the role of a pastor is. I highlighted that the term comes from “shepherd” and that it is (apart from Ephesians 4:11) not used as a title for a Christian leadership position in the New Testament.
We then turned to the comparison between believers and sheep. Often the focus is on the tendency to lead and to follow. But being a city boy myself, I wondered how much of what we think this imagery means comes from actual familiarity with sheep, and how much is instead a result of starting with what is thought to be the spiritual point of the analogy in the Bible.
One participant in the class who had actual familiarity with sheep-herding mentioned the tendency of sheep, when scared, to huddle together, leading to the suffocation of some of the sheep.
If that isn’t a perfect description of what Christian churches sometimes do, I don’t know what is.
And that leads back to a great suggestion for what the role of a pastor should be: someone who gets the church to avoid the deadly “holy huddle” and instead move beyond or in spite of our fears.
I’m probably going to be preaching at my church sometime in the near future. Perhaps this theme of sheep and shepherds might be a good topic. But I’m also curious (since I expect the sermon can be recorded and I might share it here) what those who read this blog would be interested in hearing me preach on. Your suggestions would be welcome!