From fishermen to shepherds

When I first came into ministry it was the days of leadership development under guys like John Maxwell. There was the mantra: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

Over the next two decades, though, it was all that was talked about. What was lost in all of it was pastoring. Being a shepherd. It turns out, as we’ve focused on leadership in the Church we haven’t done a good job of making good leaders, and we’ve lost our ability to shepherd.

Witness the ongoing tragedies of megachurch leaders and numerous “falls from grace”, along with others in smaller contexts we don’t pay attention to. In the bigger contexts, leaders fail but instead of calls for repentance other bug church leaders defend their fallen comrades.

In cases of sexual abuse it is too often the case the church will rise in defense of the leader and fail to care for the victim. It is a failure to shepherd.

The power of the resurrection isn’t about the power to lead. It’s is about the power to shepherd. John 21 is a beautiful picture of that calling. Peter and other disciples have gone back to fishing. It’s all they know. They knew how to get fish. They knew how to count fish.

When Jesus appears, he allows them one last huge catch, then calls Peter in and invites home to shepherd. The new order of the resurrection, the ushering in of the Kingdom, is about being a shepherd.

Yet, a good deal of the church’s work has been consumed on fishing and helping others fish rather than on shepherding. Peter’s move from fisherman to shepherd means he has to confront his sin so he can receive forgiveness.

As N T Wright says, “Those who don’t want to face that searching question and answer may remain content to help the world with its fishing. Those who find the risen Jesus going to the roots of their rebellion, denial, and sin and offering them love and forgiveness may well also find themselves sent off to be shepherds instead. Let those with ears listen.” (Surprised by Hope)

Resurrection calls us to new things. It is a call to leave the familiar and find the new path of life given by a resurrected savior. Let us move, fellow ministers, from fishing to shepherding. The people of God and this world need it from us.

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