I feel like pastoral ministry oriented jobs are easily and often subject to criticism. While criticism may range from well-founded to unreasonable, it’s easy to critique someone who is expected in their vocation to respond to a call and to care, and to care specifically for hurting people. Critiquing someone’s level of care though, can be subjective in the same way comedy is subjective. Because of this, pastors might be tempted to create clearer objective goals and tasks that usually are not preeminent to the job description.
Job descriptions are not fun to write, thankfully God wrote both the goal and mission statement for ministers. A pastor or shepherd exists to equip God’s people for works of service to build up the body, for unity and maturity’s sake (Eph. 4:11-12). How one goes about doing that is more expansive but it requires disciple-making (getting people to follow an example of living), baptism, and teaching or preaching. Oh yeah and a pastor cares about people, caring for and about people is important.
In Ezekiel 34, God gives a message to the shepherds, the leaders of the flock, a warning, a critique:
“What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flock starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal…..”
In other words, you live off the sheep not for the sheep. You neglected your commission for your comfort. But God doesn’t tolerate that because God is The Good Shepherd.
The heartbeat of Jesus in being a pastor/shepherd does not view people or “sheep” as the means or even the end. Rather, they are more than a livelihood; they are a major part of life, expression and even a reflection of our love. The easy solution when pastors are prone to fail is to take away the responsibility and the sheep, which is what God threatens in Ezekiel 34:10.
However, Jesus, in reconciling Peter, rather than taking away Peter’s responsibility after a denial is to reconcile him to the task of feeding and tending to the sheep. God’s solution always involves reconciliation and it’s up to us to determine what side of the coin of reconciliation we end up on.
When Jesus asks Peter in essence, “Peter, where have you, a shepherd of my choosing gone? Where is your love?” Peter responds in essence and perhaps in tears, “It is here, my Lord, my love is here with you.” Then Jesus affirms, “Feed them, Care for them, See them.”