With all we have to say about the "ideal" pastor, why do we say so little about Jesus as the unsurpassable declaration of that ideal?
When Jesus and other New Testament writers repeatedly refer to the Lord as a "Shepherd," the original word they use is the same as the one for "pas tor." In Latin based languages, the word "pastor" is the word for "shepherd," and vice versa. Thus when the New Testament, or Jesus Himself, talks of the "Good Shepherd," one could say it refers to Jesus as the "Good Pastor."
What does this mean to us? The most direct way to express the meaning is to quote well-known "Shepherd" pas sages, using "pastor" rather than "Shepherd." Take a look at John 10: "I am the good [pastor]. The good [pastor] lays down his life for the sheep [his people]" (NIV). Another says: "And when the Chief [Pastor] appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Peter 5:2, 4, NIV). Here's one other example: ". . . Our Lord Jesus, that great [Pastor] of the [people] sheep . . ." (Heb. 13:20, NIV).
Jesus' portrayal of Himself as "the good pastor," provides ministers with a pivotal way of not only viewing Jesus, but of looking into the heart of pastoral work. Jesus as the definitive pastor sup plies us with our unique identity as men and women called of God to be lovers of human beings, spiritual leaders, evangelists, healers, encouragers, teachers, and proclaimers of hope and faith. When we look into the face of this divinely designed and appointed role of Jesus Christ, we realize it is not merely a quaint, charming, or touching view of the ministry of Jesus; it is, instead, our consummate model.
How Jesus dealt with and felt about people, what His innate attitudes were, the way He thought and taught and lived and loved; this defines for us what pastoring is all about.
Jesus' way of pastoring is our model for pastoring. He is our Mentor before anyone or anything, including the best books, seminaries, seminars, and our most inspiring human role models.
Jesus Christ as the Good Pastor must be taken out from behind the stupendous array of ideas and views of what constitutes pastoring. It is not that these views don't have a role, but they must play second fiddle as we seek to unearth, in the person of Jesus Christ, the essence of our calling.
We must confer with Him as our conclusive oracle so that He may actually etch into our souls our "job description." By His divine expressions in the New Testament and through down-to-earth revelations from the Holy Spirit, He must become for us the ultimate Advisor, our unsurpassable Consultant.
In this context, I recommend a powerful little volume from which I have derived the essence of this editorial. The book is titled Jesus the Pastor (subtitled Leading Others in the Character and Power of Christ). It is by John W. Frye (Zondervan 2000) and costs only $10.99 in the United States.
Among many other aspects, Frye deals with the question of how Jesus, through the way He practiced pastoring, actually saw the pastoral vocation. Frye tackles such issues as what is at the heart of the pastoral vision in the day-to day work of Jesus. And, in the light of Jesus' pastoral work, what actually brings authentic power to the pastoral task. The closing chapter of the book ("How Jesus Shepherds His Undershepherds") itself makes the book a worthy read.
I am moved by a notation on the back cover of the book, which says in part, "There are times when the best training, the wisest principles, and the most effective procedures break down in the face of the realities of pastoring. How often have you wished not for a method, but a mentor? Someone caring enough to join you in the trenches and wise enough to guide you unerringly through your most impossible problems? ... There is such a person: Jesus."
While some may consider such a claim overdrawn and typical of some of the overextravagant pretensions we sometimes make, the essential approach and thrust of Frye's thesis will go far in making this claim a reality in your ministry and mine