Monday, November 07, 2011

On Climbing the Shepherding Career Ladder

A friend told me about a pastor he's known for years who wrote a personal resolution in the margin of David Wells' No Place for Truth, where Wells addresses "The Pastor as Impermanent" (249-250). First, a bit of what Wells had to say:
The combination of professionalization and [the impermanence of modern society] has encouraged pastors to suppose that it is proper for them to seek careers. When they cannot form lasting relationships in a particular community, they are tempted to look inward for the measure of fruitfulness rather than outward. They will be tempted to seek first a career rather than to make an enduring contribution to the people in a particular place. But how can the biblical teaching on service be reconciled with the psychological appetites for greater visibility and power that careers generate? Perhaps, instead of seeking a career, the modern minister would find it easier to model the virtues of humility and self-sacrifice by seeking to be a fool.
Here's what the pastor wrote in the margin:
Resolved, by God's grace and not against his clear leading: I am unwilling to subject the precious sheep under my charge to the indignity and pain of saying to them that a different flock—with which I am not intimate—is more worthy of my efforts and merits the uprooting of all my perseverant labors with my flock merely because the new flock is larger (or smaller) or grazes in a more verdant, visible field.

My present charge may, in some ways, take me for granted. And by jumping ship, I might initially be greeted with a burst of noteworthy success. But at the end of the day, would I not stand guilty of sacrificing a content and vulnerable flock for the advancement of self as a shepherd? What do shepherds know of self-advancement? And in the end, is not the Chief Shepherd whose commendation matters? And will he not commend faithful, life-long fidelity to a flock that is ever confident in the persevering, selfless love of his loyal under-shepherd?
He's had his chances to jump ship. His sheep are fortunate.

1 comment:

JIm Peet said...

Hypotheses: (from my limited perspective)

* Youth pastors move because they grow up. Not that they are immature! But it is hard to be a y/p when you are 40! They graduate from y/p to pastoring
* Assistant or associate pastors move because they graduate. They have an appetite (or desire) to be "the pastor" and they move on
* Pastors move from churches who underpay them to churches who will pay them.

These career ladder steps are healthy.