Together As Sheep

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The city isn’t known for its animal population. There is life, certainly, but of a different sort. I get weary of gray building after gray building rising over gray streets. The city seems monochrome too often – a wasteland of stone and diesel and steel, all cold and sterile. There is often beauty in this, but for this Indiana-raised girl, it gets tired.

A couple of years ago I took a short trip to visit some friends in Zurich. There was a grassy hill next to their home where a flock of sheep grazed, bells around their necks clinking and clunking, announcing their presence. I stood still and stared at them for a long time. They seemed perfectly happy to survey the surrounding neighborhood as they ate. (And if the quality of Swiss grass is anything like the Swiss chocolate, I can’t blame them.)

I am in my fourth month of being a lead pastor. A lead shepherd, if you will. I have been part of this city for almost eight years. I know these people. I know the weariness of being surrounded by the cold. I know the loneliness that comes with living in a city of millions of people but having no one that knows your heart.

So each Sunday, we gather. We gather other times, sure, but Sundays we find joy in one another. We come together like that flock of Swiss sheep – some of us taking in the Word and the fellowship with a ravenous hunger, and others of us closing our eyes and enjoying the warmth of friendship. We find oasis from the loneliness in one another’s company, and we find our hunger satisfied, with full knowledge we will need this again next week.

This season of my life is teaching me that, while pastoring brings with it a lot of roles, that of shepherd is the most vital. Sure, I am passionate about leading an organization well. I want to dream, I want to hear from God about the direction of this church. But on Sundays, there together with this gorgeous flock, what matters is that we eat together. It matters that together we wait for the voice of the Good Shepherd, that we are sensitive to follow His lead.

Pastoring wasn’t meant to be a competition of who can build the biggest or most powerful congregation. And, like the pressure some of us feel, it’s not meant to produce the most emotional offering-time stories of change. It’s about shepherding well. It’s about doing a great job with the people God has entrusted to us. It’s about hearing the heart of the Father and finding ways to express that to the people around us. It’s about carving out a place in the middle of the madness or the cold and creating a safe place for people to share their lives and their hearts.

And maybe you’re not in an official role of ‘pastor’, but I bet you that there are people around you that need to be shepherded. People need to gather, they need to be surrounded by friendship. They need to eat well – both physical and spiritual food. They need rest. And what a privilege that God allows each of us, in our context, the opportunity to function in this role. And whether your ‘shepherd’ role is as leader, or nurturer, or gatherer – may you find great fulfillment and rest in this purpose.

What has God called you to shepherd? Where do you find energy in shepherding? In what ways does it drain you?

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Photo by Niklas Tidbury on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Spring November 29, 2017

    I am an introvert. Shepharding takes a lot out of me. I realize it is a growing process and that in order to expect other to fully participate, I need to. Thank you for the reminder that this is one of the most important things I do.

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