Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd… your rod and your staff they comfort me”. A shepherd is responsible for comforting the sheep. I’ve heard pastors say “I’m not here to make you comfortable” which is true in one sense, but at the same time a pastor – a shepherd – is there to comfort people. To bring comfort to the afflicted.
One of the key roles of a pastor is to comfort God’s people. Every person should be able to say to their pastor “you comfort me”. This is one of the key reasons why you should be part of a local church – a good pastor brings comfort to his people.
Some pastors are scratching their heads as to why their churches are not growing but it is because they don’t make their people comfortable – they don’t comfort their people. A good shepherd needs to be there when people go through grief. When people go through genuine hard times, a shepherd needs to be there. A shepherd needs to be with the sheep when the sheep are in trouble. If you are an elder, you need to make changes to your schedule to be with your flock in times of need and in times of joy. If you are a pastor, your entire schedule should be based around being with the flock when they are discomforted.
A shepherd has to be a comforter. The ministry of comfort starts with paying attention. Remembering birthdays, remembering exams, remembering names. All of that matters – it makes people comfortable. It’s amazing how a week or two after someone asks for prayer or tells you something just a simple “how is that” can bring so much comfort – hey, the shepherd knows my name, the shepherd cares, the shepherd is praying for me. That really comforts people.
The major events must be marked and celebrated: the birth of a child, marriage, funerals. God expects you to be there. The shepherd should be there.
Attention is the first step of comforting the sheep. The second step is empathy – what matters to the people must matter to you. If you tell people you are a pastor, if you introduce yourself as Pastor Jim or Pastor Bob, if your business card says pastor: what are you doing to show love and comfort to the sheep? If you cannot answer that question, maybe you should really consider what you are doing. If what matters to people doesn’t matter to you, people will never truly hear your preaching.
Ezekiel 34.1-5 tells us that:
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered.
God wants shepherds to shepherd. Strengthen the diseased. Heal the sick. Bound up the broken. Look for the lost. It’s hard work – it’s not easy. Being a pastor is long hours, hard work and dealing with broken, sick, lost people. Being a lay pastor is double difficulty! But it is worth it. It’s not enough to teach. The Corinthians had many teachers but few fathers – how much more is that true of the Christian church today. Lots of teachers who will happily fly into town for the right price, stimulate the church and hype everyone up, then fly off again. If you are a pastor, you are not that person. You are a father, a shepherd. Comfort the sheep!
Love never fails. The Bible never says preaching never fails or teaching never fails. It says love never fails. Comfort is doing love! If you are a pastor, do some love today!
(Part I of this blog is available here: https://benjaminconway.net/2014/02/05/role-of-the-pastor-1-lead/)