Suppose a friend relates to you a story, saying, “My pastor comes up to me after service one Sunday and asked me commit to serving in a church ministry, and to regularly attend small group, and be consistent in my attendance at Sunday service”.
And your friend tells his pastor, “I would like to do all that, but as you know, my children are young and family obligations make it very difficult. I feel that it’s important for me to attend to them for now, and once they’ve grown up a bit, I’ll do so.”
To which the pastor replies, “That’s not a good enough reason. Do it anyway, do it now.”
How would you feel about this pastor?
You might say, “Wow, that’s not a very pastoral response”. Meaning that shepherds should be sympathetic to the pressures and demands in the lives of their members, be cognizant of the many hats they wear, and to sensitively balance that with their church obligations. After all, isn’t caring for one’s family a foremost Christian duty?
It’s hard to argue with that.
Which is why when you listen carefully, the things Jesus says can be very surprising.
In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus encounters three individuals. It is not conveyed as a parable, which meant that these interactions really took place.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
The first man is a pastor’s dream come true. Without any urging, he eagerly volunteered to follow Jesus. But rather than praising his attitude and holding it up as an example for the rest of his disciples, Jesus appears to attempt to dissuade the man from discipleship!
That’s not very pastoral, is it? Now I’m no veteran pastor, but my advice to Jesus would be to encourage the man instead, to fan the flames of his enthusiasm rather than risk dousing it.
The Lord Jesus, however, wants to make it clear that following him is not going to be a bed of roses. In fact, there might not even be a bed at all! It’s a counter-intuitive to contemporary evangelism.
59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”
The second man is called to follow Jesus. He calls Jesus “lord”, meaning he means to obey, but before that, he must first bury his father. Now, the rite of burying one’s parents was regarded as the chief of all good works, it is the religious duty that took precedence over all others. As a pious Jew, his request is perfectly legitimate. How does Jesus respond?
60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Come on, that’s not a very pastoral thing to s