The Minister as Shepherd

The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership 

Jefferson, Charles. The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership. Fort Washington: CLC Publications, 2006. 141 pp. $8.99.

Christian views on pastoral ministry are often informed, not by the Scriptures, but by the corporate elitism of the secular business world. Though many evangelical pastors do not themselves pursue this kind of leadership deliberately, they cannot help but breathe the man-centered, big-business air of the American culture. In order to cultivate a healthy attitude and a winsome fervor for pastoral leadership, men should consider the instruction and the life of the great shepherd, Jesus Christ. Charles Jefferson attempts to provide a helpful discussion concerning the nature of the minister’s role in relation to the NT’s testimony of the shepherd model in his book titled, The Minister as Shepherd: The Privileges and Responsibilities of Pastoral Leadership.

Summary

Jefferson begins his book with a chapter entitled, “The Shepherd Idea in Scripture and History” (7). In this section, he explains that the term “shepherd” is the most sufficient word used to describe the one who holds the position of the pastorate (9). This is so because the pastor’s aim is to be like Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd (11). When people lose vision of the Good Shepherd, they also lose “the New Testament ideal of ministerial service” (17). According to Jefferson, professionalism is not the answer in pastoral leadership, but servant hearts willing to persevere in dealing with people (22-24).

In his second chapter, titled “The Shepherds Work,” Jefferson uses biblical and historical observations to portray seven kinds of work for which the shepherd is responsible (33). First, he is a watchman that pays close attention to the various conditions of the flock (35). Second, he is a guard against any potential threats to the sheep (38). Third, he is to be a guide by leading the flock, an action that reflects the care of the Lord in Psalm 23 (40). Fourth, he is a physician who remains concerned for the physical and spiritual well-being of his people (43). Fifth, he is a savior in the sense that he seeks out those straying and finds those lost (46). Sixth, the shepherd is to feed his flock by nourishing them with the word of truth (46). Lastly, he is responsible to love the people, even upon the laying down of his own life (55).

Jefferson then moves to his third chapter, “The Shepherd’s Opportunity” (57). Though many are of the opinion that the day of the pastor is over, Jefferson argues, “the age of the shepherd has just arrived” (59). For him, the culture that threatens the pastorate, is also the very culture that most needs shepherding. Society is not looking for another orator, or lecturer; they are looking for someone that values human life and cares for individual people, both in word and deed.

The fourth chapter bears the title, “The Shepherd’s Temptations” (85). It stands more as a word of warning-a command to take heed-to those in positions of leadership. Two primary temptations to be aware of are covetousness, “the inordinate desire to possess for personal gratification,” and ambition, “the unlawful love of advancement, prominence, and authority” (85). Unless the shepherd guards himself from these two enticements, he will be no different than the “hireling” of which Jesus spoke.

Jefferson closes the book with an encouraging fifth chapter titled, “The Shepherd’s Reward” (111). The faithful shepherd is bound to receive love from people (113), gratification from helping others (116), increased pulpit power (122), increased spiritual stature (135), and, most rewarding of all, everlasting fellowship with Jesus  (140). Together, these earthly and heavenly rewards should give the minister who is loyal to the shepherd model, great incentive to press on in the faith.

Critical Evaluation

Pastors should commend Jefferson’s effort to highlight the shepherd model found in Scripture. In this book, he has sought to unpack precisely how the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, would have men lead his people. This is especially evident in his emphasis of what the Scripture reveals as a self-less, other-oriented approach to pastoral leadership. He tears down the prideful, professional mindset characteristic of this evil age and erects a humble, wholesome mindset characteristic of the new age functioning under the great Shepherd King. There are, however, several places which are worthy of critique.

First, Jefferson exhausts the meaning behind the term, shepherd. For example, he writes, “Of all the titles which have been chosen for the envoys of the Son of God, that of ‘shepherd’ is the most popular, the most beautiful, and the most ample” (7, emphasis mine). Furthermore, after defining other terms for pastoral leadership used in Scripture and church history, he remarks, “But when we come to ‘shepherd’…we reach a title without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (10, emphasis mine). Doubtless, these statements are sheer exaggeration. Though the term “shepherd” might be more revealing for Jefferson’s purposes, it is by no means more important than what the bible portrays in other terms for ministerial leadership (e.g. 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

Second, and more significant, Jefferson seems to separate the pastor (i.e. shepherd) from the theologian. This is clear in at least two places. On page 72 he writes, “It is safe to say the orator will not win [the wage earner], nor will the theologian, nor the doctor of philosophy, nor the connoisseur in literature. He will surrender only to the shepherd.” Moreover, on page 114 he writes, “Who cares to read a book of sermons or of theology published fifty years ago? Authors and orators live in book fame, whereas shepherds live in the hearts of those who were shepherded by them.” Granted, any shepherd who lives in his study will fail his people. However, any shepherd who neglects his study will also fail his people. Any good pastor must be a good theologian. Indeed, Christ has gifted the church with “pastor-teachers” (Eph 4:11). Pastors like John Owen, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, all four of which are avid students and prolific writers, have done a great service for the church.

Third, the entirety of Jefferson’s book assumes single-elder-congregationalism is the correct form of church government. Thus, he presupposes one pastor who carries the weight of the responsibility of shepherding the flock of God. Never does he mention how leadership responsibilities might be distributed amongst a plurality of elders in the local body-as the Scriptures assume (e.g. Acts 14:23; 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim 4:14; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1-2; cf. Heb 13:17)-nor is it encouraged. The minister’s role as shepherd would be more possible, effective, and fruitful under plural-elder-congregationalism.

Conclusion

Although the critical observations above affect the majority of thought behind Jefferson’s book, there are still many points that are profitable for those in ministerial leadership. He underscores the crucial responsibilities that many pastors seem to ignore, highlights areas of danger that others marginalize in the “good fight,” and emphasizes the rewards that leaders often forget amidst the rush. Pastors would do well to at least read this book over once, eat the chicken, and disregard the bones.

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3 Responses to “The Minister as Shepherd”

  1. Ched Says:

    Jefferson’s such an indefatigable wisbang.

  2. Mark Hollingsworth Says:

    I think you made some great points and so did the bok. I enjoyed it and your analysis.
    Thanks,
    Mark

  3. Mr. Daniel Thawng Mang Says:

    Thanks for your serving the Lord’s works faithfully …
    May God add blessings richly

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