From the Pastor
Under-Shepherds and the Good Shepherd
Something we pastors don’t talk about very much is… well… what it means to be a pastor! The word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.” In the Scriptures, concrete images —not philosophical jargon— communicates Truth. Here, the image to describe the spiritual leader of a congregation, whether in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 3:15) or the New (John 21:15-17; Ephesians 4:11), is “shepherd.” Since Jesus Christ describes Himself as “the Good Shepherd” (John 11:14), pastors are often described as “the under-shepherds”— or, as a friend of mine likes to say, “the sheep dogs”— of the flock under Christ. That distinction is an especially important one to make. Pastors love it when the worship livestream “views” tick up, when the income column of the church financial report swells unexpectedly, when people are generally happy and feeling cared for. Pastors know that an element of their job will concern attention to important details… ensuring properties are operating properly… checking to see that the social needs of individual congregants are being meaningfully met. But the pastor’s primary task is to be the under-shepherd for his flock. The pastor’s first job is to feed and tend the sheep in his care with the proper application of Law and Gospel, the message of Christ crucified, and the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The pastor’s primary burden is for his own sheep who go missing and the sheep not under any under-shepherd’s care who do not yet know the Chief Shepherd. More than anyone else, a pastor will err and sin thinking his primary task is to be an inspirational speaker, successful businessman, or any number of other roles designed to motivate and produce outcomes. But the grace of God is there for him, too! He is at his best when he confesses his sins and understands himself to be a redeemed and forgiven child of God. He works best when he sees himself as beloved and valuable sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and therefore one used by God to feed and tend the Good Shepherd’s sheep.
I still remember when I attended my first RLC Voters’ Meeting in December of 2019 and listened to the conversation about whether or not we should call an Associate Pastor. I asked you all for a little time to determine not only whether an Associate Pastor would be needed, but also what traits and attitudes would be appropriate for the present moment at RLC. Since then I’ve been able to map out the following course of action:
- RLC is a congregation of over 1000 souls that I believe could be better served with another full-time servant of Word and Sacrament ministry. This does not deny the contribution of our present RLC salaried staff and committed lay volunteers! It simply means I believe another full-time under-shepherd is needed to assist me in the work I do and allow our congregation to continue to grow and serve our community.
- Vicar Alan Shaw will be ordained later this year and serve us part-time as a Specific Ministry Pastor (the areas of Christian life coaching, conciliation, and counseling). We look forward to the day of his credentialing and service as pastor among us!
- A new Associate Pastor, whenever the Lord blesses us with one (hopefully by summer of 2021, but possibly later), will serve, as I do, in full-time Word and Sacrament ministry with a focus on younger families and single, young adults.
- I’ve asked church leadership and our congregation’s Call Committee to consider a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for Associate Pastor call; were we to receive a seminary graduate, we could have an Associate Pastor on hand to serve among us as early as July of 2021.
- In the event we do not receive a seminary graduate this year, we are ready to begin calling an Associate Pastor according to “traditional” route (i.e., we would call a pastor already serving a congregation.
Please keep me, Vicar Shaw, RLC staff, our church council, and our call committee in your prayers as we navigate the terrain of the next several months together. I would also ask you one other favor: if you believe, as I do, that an Associate Pastor would enhance our current ability to touch the lives of our congregation and community, please review your current pledge to our church and prayerfully consider whether you and your family might more actively take part in this future course for our congregation. I invite your emails, phone calls, and personal contact in feedback to me about anything shared here, if you have any questions.
Blessed to be an under-shepherd in service to you….