Archive for Saturday, August 3, 2013

Faith Forum: Does leading a congregation — in and outside of church — ever feel overwhelming?

August 3, 2013


The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:

Absolutely! Regularly! I have no fear the vigor of my response may offend church members who read this. The overwhelming nature of the pastoral calling is part and parcel of the task as assigned by the Shepherd of our souls.

Observations: Pastors are shepherds. We are also sheep. If sheep feel overwhelmed at times, so should their shepherds, so we learn empathy (how to suffer with). It is arrogant for pastors to claim that members need our shepherding, while we will get our help directly and exclusively from the Great Shepherd, Jesus. We (pastors) need human helpers too. Shepherds need shepherds. Pastors need close friends, mentors and accountability relationships (official ones within elder boards, presbyteries, conventions; unofficial ones, that guy I call every week).

The design of the universe — it seems to me from Scripture and life as a born-again Christian — is to drive people to the only One who supplies all needs. If the preachers assigned to communicate this message don’t come to know this overwhelming need experientially, our words will lack conviction and fall flat. What do I say to the student, the under-employed, the sick, the grieving when they feel overwhelmed? Go to Jesus; let’s come to Him together. Pastors must do that as well, for real, not for show.

There is a good intimation in the question: a flock is to be led outside the church, into the world. There is real ministry to be accomplished by Christ’s body in God’s world, and yet the world is often hostile toward the biblical congregation. “Fear not, little flock,” the Good Shepherd promises, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” The overwhelmed will overcome, through Jesus Christ, the Good/Great/Chief Shepherd! (Luke 12:32; John 10:11,14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4)

— Send email to John McFarland at


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