|Traits of a Good Shepherd—Steve & Samantha Nelson|
(From the January 2005 edition of HopeSpeak)
As much as we wish clergy sexual abuse and misconduct didn’t exist, we have to acknowledge the fact that, sadly, it does, and it affects the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people around the globe.
While the very nature of The Hope of Survivors’ ministry necessitates focusing on the pain and devastation of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct; the hope, healing and comfort available in Christ; as well as the responsibility of the pastor, church and individual; we believe it is important to recognize and reiterate that pastors who “fall into sin” or who “prey on the flock” are the exception, not the norm. While this ministry stands for truth and justice, mixed with compassion and mercy, it by no means seeks to bring dishonor or reproach upon the house of God but, rather, to bring glory and honor to God by providing information and assistance to those who are struggling and hurting.
We support God’s chosen method in establishing the church and placing the pastor at the head of it in a servant-leadership role. We support and respect those ministers of the Gospel who are faithful to their calling. However, we recognize that, unfortunately, not every pastor is called of God, but some are in their positions as hirelings, and seek after their own benefit rather than that of the flock.
God calls pastors and church leaders—anyone who ministers to others’ spiritual needs—to a higher calling, to a life of sacrificial service and devotion, a life dedicated and consecrated to God. When those who stand in Christ’s stead tempt the people to sin or lead them astray, God is not pleased.
We believe that time is short before Jesus returns and that God is using the ministry of The Hope of Survivors as one of His last mercy calls to those in His church. As it reads in 1 Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” We pray His children will heed the call and follow Him.
If we could but lift our eyes to Jesus, we would see a perfect Example of what a pastor should be. After all, Jesus was the Good Shepherd, the Pattern for all others. Could we, then, by looking at Jesus, find a model for our pastors and church leaders today? Could we find a model for our own lives as well? We believe so. Some of the characteristics of Jesus and, therefore, of a true shepherd, are honesty, compassion, love, kindness, mercy, patience…this list could go on and on, but you get the idea. (There are many characteristics listed in 2 Kings 13:23; Psalm 78:38; Matthew 15:32; Matthew 20:34, Psalm 26:3; Psalm 36:10; Jeremiah 9:24; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 145:8; and many others!)
We know the Lord is compassionate, not willing that any should perish. We are told in Psalm 86:15, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.”
Could we seek to emulate Christ? Could we encourage those same character traits in our church leaders? We believe we not only could seek them, but live them, by the grace and power of God. For additional characteristics and qualifications for service, please read the article entitled "Qualifications for Service" under the section titled "Are you a pastor?" on our web site, www.TheHopeOfSurvivors.com.
There is instruction given in 1 Peter 5:1-11 for those who lead the church and have the care of the flock, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
As we can see from the above passages, a pastor or church leader is to humbly and gracefully administer to the needs of the flock. The role is that of a servant, not a dictator. It is of one who seeks the best interest of those under his care, not his own selfish interests. Christ never forced anyone to do, say or believe anything. Neither should we. We should work for the eternal wellbeing of those entrusted to our care.
We plead with those who are battling with the enemy and are tempted to sin or, perhaps, are even caught in a snare at this moment, to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). Seek Him with your whole heart, turn from temptation and sin and live (Ezekiel 33:11). The Lord is calling you, even now, to repentance.
For those who are tempted, those who have fallen and remain unrepentant, or those who have been victims of CSA, we point you to Nahum 1:2-3 where we can see God’s patience, mercy and justice. “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. The Lord will avenge His own and He will not let the wicked go unpunished.” That applies to all of us…not just erring church leaders. We must all seek to be like Jesus, repent of our sins and follow Him. Justice will be served when God’s mercy ends. Those who have hardened their hearts in willful disobedience will face their punishment. As one writer states it, “Even if wicked men talk the truth, some may receive it; but it does not bring those who talked it into any more favor with God. Wicked men are wicked men still, and according to the deception they practiced upon those who were beloved of God, and according to the confusion brought into the church, so will be their punishment; their sins will not remain covered, but will be exposed in the day of God’s fierce anger.” (Early Writings, page 99)
Sheep must look to a shepherd and the sheep in the church must look to a true shepherd. A true shepherd, one who loves God suprememly, will obey the command Jesus gave Peter in John 21:17, “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” A true shepherd, called of God, will feed the sheep, not feed on them. We commend those who are called of God to feed the flock and who do it willingly and sacrificially to the honor and glory of God, and for the eternal benefit of the flock. May God bless you and continue to strengthen you as you strengthen and nourish the sheep in your fold.
Only by looking at the Good Shepherd will we all be able to discern right and wrong, and follow truth in righteousness. May God help us to grow more and more into His likeness each day.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” 2 Corinthians 13:14