Shepherd’s Care: Specificity

The shepherding we wrote about last week is connected to a third dimension of ministerial spirituality:  specificity.

Peter wrote, “tend the flock that is in your charge.”  Years ago, I was influenced by Eugene Peterson’s exhortation that the best way we can define our pastoring is this: “I am a local pastor.”  In other places, he has written that there is always a connection between vocation and location—spirituality and geography.

And as you have seen previously on this blog, I believe Peterson’s “pastor’s question” is unbeatable in helping us keep our feet on the ground:  “Who are these people, and how can I be with them, so that they can become what God wishes to make of them by grace?”

Specificity and locality are at the heart of pastoral ministry.  Each of us has a “flock,” and it is our care for that flock which defines our accountability.

I was ministering in the midwest, and I asked a District Superintendent what was the “number one” problem he had with his clergy.  I expected him to say something like, “Wow, Steve, there are so many problems I could not possibly name the top one.”

But, that’s not what he said.  He immediately replied, “The ‘number one’ problem I have with my clergy is that they are always serving their next appointment.  They are thinking that if they do well where they are—and ‘get noticed’—they could be in a certain kind of church in several years—-and, if they do well there, they could be in another kind of church in ten years.  They are serving their next appointment.”

Peter stands against this mentality and exhorts us to care for the flock that is in our charge at the present time.  Current reality is what shapes pastoral ministry.

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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2 Responses to Shepherd’s Care: Specificity

  1. Judith Warren-Brown says:

    I loved this message. Thank you.

  2. Ed says:

    Thanks Dr. Harper….good stuff…

    I think this lack of specificity can happen to believers in general as well. Instead of contemplating how we can be a good influence for Christ to those around us in our current situation – we are often thinking about our next step in life and how to quickly get there. Thus, we really don’t try to go deeper in the relationships around us…

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