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Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Shepherds not hirelings.

I love my Church. I love it’s stubborn, careful approach. I love the fact that a minister has to be called and cannot be appointed. I love it that this means those who have fallen to liberalism, and the women who get a B.Th. or even a Ph.D. thinking that will that is required.

Last night I got a tutorial from Dad… who when he was younger than I am was an elder in his Church, and he explained that the congregation is not independant but is accountable to the wider body and that the call to ministry has to be a call from God.

For God wants shepherds, not hirelings.

John 10:7-17

7So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away — and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

Let’s reverse this for a cescond. the wolf is always trying to get in. The church is imperfect: there will always be antichrists — those who deny the power of the gospel, or the truth of the gospel, and call somethign other than Christ Lord. And their message will always appear easier than the message of Christ.

For the message of Christ is that salvation is but by faith in him, and there is no other way. That, in faith, we have to choose to walk with him — not for fear of the penalties of the law, but because of our relationship with him, which means we shoudl be like him.

Thinking back to yesterday — dad did not give me that tutorial. he gave my son the instruction. Because my son, like me, is intelligent stubborn and argues constantly, and we discussed this issue after dinner. The joys of a theological and geeky household. But the sons do what I do — for good and for ill. Sons are like their faithers And we aer supposed to be like our father, which is Christ.
Now, as I write this I am considerting the fact that many young men I know have little or nothing to do with their father. Their mother has divorced their father and may be in another relationship, berhaps marriage, or berhaps they are like the Samaritan womeen — four husbands and the wone she lives with is not her husband. The consequences are that the boys do not have a male model — teaching them how to lead, how to be strong, how not to be a wimp. (Which is part of what men do with boys. Girls is different: many women I know have great difficulty with their daughters and having a man around allows that competition to slow down and for the girl to learn from her mother, not compete with her).
The term pastor == used for the spiritual gift fo leadership, not the role (originally elder or presbyter) implies that you are a shepherd. Guarding. In the field, doing hard work. Shepherding has always been risky, hard work. It generally has not been high status: david may have become king but most shepherds were guarding the sheep from predators.

And it requires a sense of responsibility. The shepherd owned the sheep: they were his assets, his income, and the sheep where what was taxed (every tenth animal under the crook was the tithe). If a pastor does not feel that it is his congregation, he will be like a hired hand and not be out there doing the work. In this sense, it is akin to the ethics of a physician — if he does not “own: his “firm” (or she feels the responsbility of being the captain and responsible for the multidisicplinary team) a doctor will not put in the hours required to get the best resutls for their patients. And teach that to the junior physicians in their team.

One of the reasons I love the Presbyterians is because they understand that they need Shepherds, not Hirelings. And because they understabd there is no way to salvation a

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