Many evangelicals, after serious and honest and perhaps painful examination of motives and intentions, could confess: The actual leader and shepherd and teacher of me is me. Or: The actual leader and shepherd and teacher of me is Pastor Whoever.
Evangelicals either shepherd themselves by their own understanding or surrender themselves to the shepherding of another – while assuming or pretending “The Lord is my Shepherd”.
Only the one sensitive and submissive to the Holy Spirit can truthfully say, “The Lord is my Shepherd” simply because Lord Jesus shepherds us via the Holy Spirit. If Jesus is not the One who shepherds us He soon can be. Sincere repentance will bring the drifter back to “first love”, back to where she once was, back to “that great Shepherd of the sheep”.
The pastor, not Jesus, shepherds (or attempts to shepherd) the congregation. The way it is implies the Lord desires to shepherd His sheep through this endorsed man. This inference is no different than that of catholicism and many etceteras. However, it is not the Lord’s way to shepherd through one, but through many and through each other.
Man’s endorsement shouldn’t impress us; God’s endorsement should.
Lord Jesus ministers through the humble and the available, those who have not disqualified themselves. The pastor is a man who is shepherded by lords loftier than himself, a man who de-emphasizes the shepherding of Christ. He can teach about Jesus, but cannot teach Jesus. He is unable to lead the congregation into an intimacy he hasn’t fostered.
Our Lord only shepherds through those who He shepherds. The pastor’s submission to evangelical lords and the sparse fruit of his congregation are sufficient evidence the man is not in submission to “that great Shepherd”. And this should not surprise us….
Does the businessman invite the Lord Jesus to take charge of his business? Does the student commit his schooling to the lordship of Christ? Did the young lady ask the Lord Jesus to choose her marriage partner? Has Dad and Mom surrendered parenting to Jesus? Is the plumber a plumber because that is the profession chosen for him by “the head of the church”?
Quite rare is the evangelical who spends his days under the governance of the most Holy Spirit. And the pastor is, more than most, an evangelical. He serves evangelicalism, he preaches evangelicalism, he is financially supported by evangelicalism, he is thoroughly loyal to the ways and means of evangelicalism.
There is a better way for you. The Lord Jesus wants to shepherd you. Personally. A branch abiding in the vine. A sheep following his Shepherd. A Mary sitting at the feet of The Teacher. A disciple sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. A son/daughter cognizant of a doting Father.
To get from where we are to where we want to be requires honesty and humility and courage. Said another way, we will never attain ‘better’ without honesty and humility and courage. Said another way, without honesty and humility and courage we are stuck where we’re at. However….
However honesty and humility and courage can thoroughly upset our ‘the way it is’. Not only will we be warring against the familiar and accepted but against protectors of the familiar and accepted. (“I have not come to bring peace but a sword.”) If peace and getting along are your primary concern it would be a mistake to venture into better.
Martin Luther dared to challenge the accepted, and Martin Luther faced the wrath of the protectors. Evangelicalism would never have become the entrenched power it now is if there were some who had his courage of conviction, some willing to “suffer for righteousness sake”, a few standing against encroaching “wind[s] of doctrine”, “trickery of men”, “cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. Because of their dearth of honesty and humility and courage certain evangelical traditions are above par with the Bible. And because of our dearth of honesty and humility and courage those harmful traditions continue to steer His people astray.
James 5:16 (NIV): Confess your sins to each other.
A well known preacher who accomplished more than hundreds of us combined once said publicly, “I have a tendency to be a phony.” Most of us do but few realize it, fewer admit it, and fewer yet would say so publicly. This was an honest man, a humble man, a man of courage.
Honesty will cause us to identify our “actual leader and shepherd and teacher”. Humility will bring us to repent and take ownership of our betrayal. And courage is needed to turn away from inferior shepherds and return to “that great Shepherd of the sheep”.
To attain a higher plain we must be shepherded by Jesus Christ. None other is qualified to bring us from here to there. That’s why He alone is worthy of the title “Pastor”.