The Good Shepherd Part 1
Three-Part Blog Series
As I sat staring at a blank page and my unopened Bible, thinking about what to write, I had nothing. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I hadn’t been doing any in-depth studying during that time and of course I did not want to come unprepared. I stared at the blank page. I felt like a parachuter who excitedly jumped out of the plane only to realize there was no parachute. I know you are waiting for the “but then… God brought a revelation to me in that moment,” but no. Just empty thoughts.
I asked myself, what have I been doing? What have I been listening to? And where has my time spent with God been? All these questions started to weigh heavy on me and I thought, “How can I be called to pastor if I can’t even pastor myself?” This is where things started to change.
What I realized was that I have been watching a lot of Tiktok videos and Instagram reels. It is very addicting but I've been wrestling with a lot of the Christian content that I've been viewing. Some are just cringy. I see the cringy ones and immediately don’t want to be associated with Christians. You know the ones! Where a couple is running towards the camera and stops and says, “Jesus loves you” and then runs away. Or the hyper-emotional person begging you to stop scrolling so they can pray for you or say they have a prophetic word for you. Most of the time, it does not relate to me. Now, I am joking… sort of. I am sure they all have good hearts and I know they mean well but those are just a small few. Then there are the ones I thought would be encouraging videos on Christianity and faith, but after watching I would end up angry and heartbroken. I felt this because much of it, not all, but unfortunately the majority of the Christian content is soaked in pride and hate. They attack any other Christian content makers that oppose their theological view. Honestly it is disgusting because it only fuels viewers to agree in hate or to run away hating the church, leaving the faith because they knew pastors that held to this view they were hurt by. In fact, I noticed a lot of content where someone was describing their experience with pastors that lived double lives or were not true to their character on and off stage.
Then there are the pastors who post for the sake of popularity and clout. They sound like rappers trying to get the loudest applause for their lyrical and poetic genius. Their focus is wanting to be a socialite, which is someone who is well known in fashionable society and is fond of social activities and entertainment. The term socialite actually was originally used referring to women but has now become a gender-neutral term as popularity and fame have become the forefront of the highest self accomplishment.
Yes, you can find honest pastoral content on social media but it does not get any popularity because there is no drama or controversy that even as Christians we crave. So we will skip over honest, loving, grace filled content to get to the latter.
It’s heartbreaking. A conservative pastor bashes the progressive pastor and then the progressive pastor bashes the conservative. People talking about how their church and pastor emotionally manipulated them to the point of brainwashing. Others, which are hard to hear, were physically abused by pastors they followed, followed them because they trusted and believed them, only to be torn and left with the deepest of hurts, physically and emotionally.
That takes a long time to heal from. If you are reading this and you have been involved in such a situation as this, I am so sorry. That is not what a pastor is or is called to do. I encourage you to come see me or any pastor here with your most trusted friend so we can help you find the healing you so desperately need and allow Jesus to be the light and love you need.
All of this is absolutely heartbreaking. Christian content is either debunking another creator with satire or rhetoric or just plain demeaning each other. This creates such animosity towards the church and pastors that these Christian content creators don’t understand that it is not guiding our generation to Jesus but rather they are turning away from Jesus. We are seeing our generations enter deconstruction without any reconstruction and will leave their faith. On the topic of deconstruction, Aj Swoboda writes,
“Here the enneagram has more weight than the words of scripture. Podcasts trump one’s service to the bride of Christ. And theology is acceptable so long as it’s sanitized of anything that might offend a Sunday afternoon audience on NPR. This has led to a kind of gnostic clique of naysayers who rest their pride on finding every last vestige of dirt on the church and the bible with a pretense of arrogance that’s nauseating. Go to the internet. Descend into the angsty, hopeless cesspool of Christian nihilism readily available online and you’ll know what we are talking about. Both sides miss the boat.. Conservative Christianity critiques the new questions. Progressive Christianity scoffs at old answers. One demonizes doubt, the other demands it.” - A.j. Swoboda
We are being shepherded by disingenuous content and influenced by pastors who care more for their status than care for the souls at hand. Just like what Aj Swoboda said, pastors and churches have missed the boat, they have missed the mark of shepherding God’s people. We are seeing many young adults leave the church and leave hurt, angry, and disappointed because of the selfishness of the pastors.
There is a famous painting by the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and someone presented this painting and shed light on the meaning of the painting. It is called Starry Night and I noticed how the church is dark and not lit up like the houses around, as they are warmly lit. Van Gogh had a struggle with the religious organizations because of how they treated him. He had a faith crisis but it was with the mistreatment from the church, the place where he shouldn’t get mistreated but feel welcomed. So in this painting, we see Van Gogh’s bitterness. We see that God is in the homes of the villagers but He is not where He should be, the church. Churches and pastors have been missing the mark for a long time.
I found myself wrestling with a tension of aggression and frustration as well as a deep sadness and brokenness.
So many of us are being led astray by every side of the spectrum of the church. There is no loving community in the social media content field.
Harold L Senkbeil writes,
“In our digital age, we’re swimming in gigabytes of data, but thirsting for reality. We’re drowning in information, but starving for genuine community” - Harold L Senkbeil
When you are going through tough situations and the difficulties of life, please do not look to any social media platform as a pastor or good shepherd. Look to those that carry humility and love and have the willingness to sit with you and listen and pray for you and guide you through God's plan for your life. Find an honest pastor.
If you take away anything please take this…
Social Media is NOT your Pastor.
When we look at the word pastor, it has a lot to do with the word shepherd. Though many pastors love to overlook this and go straight to preaching and leadership, shepherding is really the forefront of pastoring. In the Old Testament, the imagery we see is God shepherding his people, Israel, out of Egypt and guiding them to the promised land. This is God laying his model of what it means to be a pastor, yet many pastors believe that they have to have an influencer-like status and create the biggest network amongst the well-known circle of pastors. Those who are called to be a pastor have the responsibility of leading, protecting, guiding and caring for God’s people. But we’ve missed the mark. We have distorted the Gospel and have scattered the people of God…
We need good shepherds and a good shepherd is an honest one. Everything we do or say, we want to reflect honesty and humility just like Jesus. We want to love others the way he did on earth and still does today.
In the words of Eugene Peterson on the topic of being a pastor…
“For me, this is what it means to be a pastor: to be in touch with the Lord’s word and presence in whatever I am doing - while leading you in worship, teaching scripture, talking and praying with you individually, meeting with you in groups as we order our common life, writing poems and articles and books.”
Eugene Peterson has so much more on the art of pastoring that I could just read his books to you. He was someone who felt called to help the congregation God gave him to understand the Bible that he made the Message translation and ever since making it, he has faced constant scrutiny from so many pastors and scholars. But he has stated that this translation was not meant to be a replacement to the Bible itself but was crafted for the guidance of his congregation.
I came to the realization that being a pastor is not about a look or intelligence and profound sermons; it is not about status within the celebrity pop culture or wielding a position of power. A pastor is not about abusing the charismatic movement and genuine revival for their own social platform and status. A pastor is not supposed to be so “busy” with an overwhelming task list that needs to be accomplished that he or she dismisses the people God put in front of them to help, to pray for, to shepherd, to simply sit with and be a listening ear.
As I watched video after video, heard story after story, lived experience after experience, I concluded that it is rare to find real pastors. There is no good shepherd. Yes many and probably all have such great intentions and good hearts that love Jesus, but none who were willing to put aside opinions of theology or rhetorical responses to other content that was in their eyes evil, wrong or false. No one is willing to be the good shepherd that Jesus is looking for.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, scholar, theologian and as he was pastoring in Germany during WW2, He couldn’t stand watching the Jewish community being horrifically attacked and oppressed. He played a key role in a mission to attempt to kill Hitler. He was assassinated by Hitler’s secondhand man but his writings have been life giving to many Christians for decades.
Listening to the words of Dietrich Bonhoffer stabbed me right in the heart… because it is the honest truth of how pastors have missed the mark. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he says,
“His Gospel of the kingdom of God and his power of healing belonged to the sick and poor, wherever they were they were to be found among the people. God’s beloved people had been ill-treated and laid low and the guilt belonged to those who had failed to minister to them in the service of God. The Romans had not done this, but the chosen ministers of the Word, and their misuse of that word. There were no longer any shepherds in Israel. No one led the flock to fresh waters to quench their thirst, no one protected them from the wolf. They were harassed, wounded and distraught under the dire rod of their shepherds, and lay prostrate upon the ground. Such was the condition of the people when Jesus came. There were questions but no answers, distress but no relief, anguish of conscience but no deliverance, tears but no consolation, sin but no forgiveness… The bad shepherds lord it over the flock by force, forgetting their charges and pursuing their own interests. Jesus is looking for good shepherds, and there are none to be found”.
His book will be one that I will continually come back to not only for my soul but to help me remember that it is about Jesus, not me. Not only did his writings about Jesus activate in me a passion and humility to emulate the likeness of Christ, but Bonhoeffers’ character as well, as he was someone who not only adopted Jesus’ teachings but adopted his characteristics to the point of death. It is hard to believe that there is a pastor today who could love the way he did and do what he chose to do in the face of oppression and violence. He was a good shepherd. When he tells us, “Jesus is looking for good Shepherds, but there are none to be found”, I felt like Mike Tyson threw his best right hook to my chin. I asked myself, “Am I a good shepherd?” Or am I like the religious leaders we see in John 10 - forgetting my calling to lead and protect, leaving questions unanswered, giving no relief to the distressed or deliverance to the anguish of conscience, not consoling the tears of the people, to highlight sin but not forgiveness, and I am pursuing my own interests?
It’s a hard question to ask but every pastor needs to ask themself this almost every day.
I want to be a good shepherd, but even as someone called to pastoring, I can never be fully the good shepherd because I am a human who sins as well. I also need a shepherd and that is where this sermon is sprouted from, thinking I could have a profound sermon. God reminded me of my own humanness so I had to go to the source himself, Jesus, the good shepherd. We are his sheep. I am a sheep, pastors are his sheep… but unfortunately, most pastors forget that, don’t they?
But like Bonhoffer we can strive to be like him, even pastors who fail all the time. There is no such thing as a perfect pastor but there is such a thing as an honest pastor. Sadly, amongst social media platforms, it is a rare find.
I know many of you are “like why do I need to know this, I am not studying or working towards being a pastor and this does not relate to me at all”... Oh but it does!
Because as you can see, pastors around the globe and on every platform are missing the mark. When we miss the mark, we mislead you. We’ve left a bad taste on the word “Pastor” - so much so that we either avoid being called that, or we embrace it as a title of high status and let it boost our ego. We get in our own way, what gets in your way to being shepherded?
I want you to discern where to find good pastors that are willing to walk with you on your journey. At the same time, I want you to become a pastor with the pastor (like a mini pastor) to build the kingdom of God.
When someone is introducing you to a pastor, I want you to hear that this pastor is someone you can talk to, and who will welcome you with love and open arms. I want you to be seen and not dismissed to the next popular social media pastor. I want you to get a glimpse of what it is like to be loved the way Jesus loves and from that point on I want you to become, like me, a mini shepherd.
We have to become a flock of sheep that are willing to step in as mini shepherds on behalf of the Good Shepherd to bring all the sheep in our flock home.
So now that we have gotten through the foundation of the “why” behind this blog, I want to share with you a few points that I’ve drawn from John 10 that best describe what a good shepherd is and what they do. I think you’ll find yourself in awe of how Jesus is the ultimate shepherd and gives us the path to become part of the flock he cares for. I hope you enjoy this mini blog series.
Watch this Full Sermon
Read Part 2