Shepherd’s Care: Heart of the Shepherd

We’ve spent a lot of time in the Bible, seeking to lay a good foundation for ministry.  I’m sure we will return to Scripture down the road.  But for a while, I want to look at the spiritual formation of clergy from some other angles.

I want to spend some time thinking of it in terms of “the heart of the shepherd.”

After forty years in ordained ministry, I am convinced that the surest foundation for clergy is ministry “from the heart.”  I do not know of any external aspect that can provide the strength, stability, and spirit for long-haul ministry.

By the same token, I do not know of any external thing which can ultimately defeat us, if our hearts are right with God.  So, “the heart of the shepherd” is the essential thing.  We will spend some time exploring this in this weekly posting.

I begin with acknowledging “the devoted heart” of clergy.  My work with clergy for more than twenty years yields the undeniable evidence that the vast majority of them are living and working every single day with utmost devotion.

This truth gets lost in a world where the media loves to pounce on evidence of clergy misconduct.  To be sure, our failures do have “ripple effects” and tragic consequences in our congregations and beyond them.  There is never room to excuse the sins of the clergy.

But the darkness created by the few must not hide the light of the many.  As we begin this new topic, I want to be very clear:  my first guess would be that you are doing your best to live a life that glorifies God and practice a ministry that manifests the Kingdom.

The point is, I have no “hidden agenda” and “no axe to grind” in turning to this theme.  But I do know that there are many challenges in establishing and maintaining the heart of a shepherd.  That’s why I want to write about it, and why I hope that what I write will be helpful.

If you know some fellow clergy who might benefit from this leg of the journey each Wednesday, invite them to become part of the Oboedire family.

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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