Jeremiah 3:15 Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
The Bible mentions bad shepherds and false prophets in quite a few places, so it is actually very comforting to run across this verse – particularly when I’ve been assigned duty as a shepherd! There are indeed faithless shepherds, in it for twisted motives, but they are a small minority, just as there are bad law enforcement officers, such as have been grabbing the headlines recently, when they too are a small minority. In most countries pastors (which is how we usually say shepherds in this context) are very respected members of society, but in places like China and India, being a pastor makes you a target for all sorts of abuse. Because of their severe trials, such people often have faith that puts pastors in other countries to shame! The point is, it is God who makes a good pastor, and not the right school or organization. There are denominations that require academic tests before someone is acknowledged as a pastor, when that has nothing to do with it. Yes, “wisdom and understanding” are important, but those aren’t the same as intellectual knowledge. I’ve talked with one pastor of such a denomination who confessed that he was more familiar with the works of Carl Barth that he was with the Bible! (Fortunately, in the years that I’ve known him, he has dived into the Bible and now shows much more wisdom and understanding.) Knowledge of the Bible is indeed a high priority, but if that knowledge doesn’t make it from the head to the heart, it doesn’t produce wisdom and understanding. Many large churches in the US practically require a doctoral degree to consider someone as a pastor, but I am reminded of A. T. Robertson, who is still considered one of the greatest Greek scholars ever to have lived, who never got a doctorate. Ignorance is never desirable, but the primary qualification and requirement is a heart after the Lord.
I resisted being a pastor a good bit, not because I didn’t enjoy digging into the Word and sharing it with others, but because I wasn’t enthused about the day-to-day business of caring for the sheep. I still don’t think I’m very good at that, but by the grace of God I’ve come this far. Frankly, it can get really messy, and I quickly run out of my own resources. However, God is able to do everything whether I can or not, so I’ve got to rely on Him. I have had people walk out of this church for a variety of reasons, many of them connected with me, and I’m certainly not proud of that. However, God is my Judge, and my first accountability is to Him. I am to receive the wisdom and understanding He offers for each situation, not relying on what I feel I already have in that area, so that the people may indeed be nurtured as He intends, for their blessing and His glory.
Father, You’ve had to call me down for my complaining about my lack of “pastoral gifting.” Help me not complain, but rather rejoice that my weaknesses allow You opportunities to display Your strength, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!