Shepherd’s Care: A Pattern for Protection

Last week, we saw that in Luke 5:15-16, Jesus modeled for us the pattern for ministry.  St. John Chrysostom put it this way, “It was his will to live his live in an ordinary rhythm of interaction and solitude.”

But it was a pattern for a purpose.  We’ll use the next several weeks to highlight some of the more-obvious purposes.

Jesus’ pattern provided protection.  One of the foundational convictions underlying Oboedire is that sin is essentially self-reference and self-reliance.  I think Jesus knew that engaging in “successful ministry” is dangerous, precisely because it can so easily inflate the ego.

The compliments and affirmations of others can “go to our heads,” and worse, lead us into believing that it is “my ministry.”  We need a pattern that takes us out of the picture long enough to show that it’s God’s ministry, and that it can continue without our direct involvement all the time.

Of course, this pattern implies other aspects of leadership (e.g. delegation), but whatever else it does, the pattern protects us from egotism.  It is a pattern that expresses what we pray: “deliver us from evil”—that is, the evil which comes when we believe ministry is “what we do.”

The pattern also protects us from the downright temptation to exhaust ourselves in what one pastor described to me as “the unceasing round of feverish activities.”  We must not separate the physical and the spiritual.  Jesus never asked anyone to harm themselves in doing ministry.  His words, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” flies in the face of some concepts of ministry, and his example here in Luke challenges those who think they can never “take a break.”

We need to be protected in the practice of ministry—protected from even good things that can engulf us and lead to egotism or exhaustion—or both.  Jesus’ pattern protects us from inflation and deflation.  We need to watch our souls and be sure one or the other is not happening to us.  Those evaluation moments can only occur in solitude.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Shepherd’s Care: A Pattern for Protection

  1. Tom Pope says:

    I really needed this today. I have had a couple of intense years of ministry in the church I serve with the new reality of a sizable mortgage following a building program in bad economic times. The church has not had any financial concerns in recent history and this has led to conflict and several leaving the church. I am in the third week of vacation and just now being able to separate mentally. I commit myself to get back into that healthy rhythm of interaction and solitude of which you spoke.

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