You all know my stance on vocational pastors. I’ve written about it over the past 6 years here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Not once have I ever noticed what Jesus says about those who shepherd for pay. It wasn’t until a comment I received on my blog last week that left me with my jaw open. It’s amazing how much we can miss when we’re not really looking. This is what Jesus says in John 10:11-15 (my emphasis added):
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
In case you’re wondering, the word shepherd here is the same word ποιμήν (poimēn) that is used as the word “pastor” in other passages. Now, I am not going to sit here and say that all paid pastors flee when they see the wolf coming. Of course some of them stand fast. But think about your experiences in a modern church setting. How often have you heard of vocational pastors fleeing when trouble starts brewing? In fact, think about all those shepherds you’ve heard of leaving one church because they were hired by another (often times for reasons of pay). I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, ask yourself this question. If you stopped paying the man (who usually claims that YHWH has called him to shepherd), would he stop being your pastor? If so, for better or worse, I do believe he’s one of those hired hands.
I am thankful that the good shepherd never leaves his sheep. That he laid down his life for our sakes. And that we can rely on him when we are often so unreliable.