On the "flock"

I recently read a controversial interview with a well known pastor that believes the church should be run as a corporation. The idea in itself stirs up controversy, but many churches are on the same path as this pastor, believing that a pastor should act as a CEO and that the staff should function like a well-oiled machine. For those that run their church this way, the goals are the same as those who choose to go with the old model: reach others for Christ and build up the body. Their intentions are not wrong and I won’t even go on to say that they have everything wrong in their approach to ministry. But one thing bothered me in this recent interview, something that we should discuss a little bit further. I won’t be linking to the interview because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m calling out this individual. Rather, I just want to talk about the one point that I took issue with.

The pastor being interviewed stated that he thinks terms like “shepherd” should go away from the vocabulary of ministry because it’s an old word that meant something to the original audience of the Bible but means little to Christians of the 21st century. Instead, he believes that we should use terms that people relate to in our day and age. First let me say that I see where he’s going with this, but that I also disagree greatly. Every word of Scripture is equally inspired and it was written for the original audience and for generations to come. This includes us and those who come after us. The Bible is still relevant and we don’t need to change anything about it to make it so. Don’t get the impression that I’m saying I only believe on particular translation of the Word is correct or that we should never put things into language that’s understandable in the day’s vernacular. But there IS a reason that the shepherd and the flock were used as an illustration and it’s not just because the people of that day knew some shepherds.

Let’s take a look at the difference between a flock and a corporation, a shepherd and a CEO.

We, as Christians, should be striving toward unity.  We should be living in community with each other, building each other up, loving one another, living our lives with purpose towards the same goals.  A flock is a picture of unity.  A flock is a great way to look at the helplessness of God’s people.  We depend on Him for all things because we can’t do any of this on our own.  Just like sheep.  Just like a flock of sheep.

I knew I didn’t like the idea of rewriting things to remove the words used by Jesus to describe His people, but the moment it really hit me was when I read this verse:  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)  I just let that verse soak in for a minute, really picturing Jesus speaking to His followers.  I have to admit, imagining the Savior tenderly saying “fear not, little flock” to them makes my eyes a little bit misty.  Can you see it?  Can you see the Good Shepherd telling his “little flock” not to be scared?  It’s beautiful.  They He tells them that the Father has good plans for them because He takes pleasure in them.  They belong to Him and He belongs to them.

Now imagine that same scenario, but with a CEO and his underlings instead of a shepherd and his flock.  Doesn’t have the same impact does it?  Doesn’t bring up the same emotion or the same beautiful imagery.  It feels cold.  It doesn’t convince me that the Father loves me if I imagine a CEO.

Pastors are called to be the shepherds (under the Shepherd) of their respective little flocks. (See 1 Peter 5:2) They’re supposed to love them, care for them, look out for their well-being. (See John 21:16)  They guide their flock, directing them toward the goal the Lord has for them. They protect their flock. (See Acts 20:28)  They help their flock grow.  If one is missing, they leave behind the 99 to go after them.  But a CEO?  A pastor as a CEO…does he care for his people or does he care about the company and use the people to accomplish business?   Maybe I’m just taking this too far, but I think we should love the idea of being sheep under the care of our shepherd who has been appointed by the Good Shepherd.

I’ll be totally honest here, I’ve been thinking about this for days and it’s changed the way I see my local church and the Church as a whole.  I want to do things differently the more I think about our family of believers as a flock.  I love our people more when I think about how I’m in a position to shepherd some of them (in my small group).

 I get it.  I understand why pastors want their church to run like a corporation and I know why they want to keep things fresh by not using outdated terms and metaphors.  But Jesus knew what He was doing.  We need to trust that.  The Bible was inspired not only with the people of old in mind, but also us.  The people of God as a flock, the pastor as a shepherd, these are just as relevant as describing God as our Father, Jesus Christ as the Messiah (even though we’re not Old Testament Jews), and the Holy Spirit as a Comforter.

I’m going to disregard the advice to get rid of the shepherd and sheep metaphor and I’m going to embrace it all the more.  To God be the glory.