Pastor Sam is frustrated. He is tired of looking after the sick and the hurting members of his congregation, when other pastors are clearly able to devote their time to greater goals. Now, thanks to a megachurch pastor’s new book You Too Can Be a Megaman of God, Sam believes he can delegate pastoral care to a committee (“let the lesser people take care of the lesser people”) and begin to megasize his church.
Will Sam’s plans work? Not without some challenges. In between sessions of the Vivant Victory Successful Pastor Simulcast, Sam struggles with difficult committee members, a slick pastor friend, a traffic accident, and even 17th century Puritan Richard Baxter, author of The Reformed Pastor.
O Shepherd, Where Art Thou is a short fable for pastors written by Calvin Miller. I loved another of his fables, The Sermon Maker. I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much, but still found it valuable and challenging.
For one thing, most pastors can relate to Sam’s struggle. What pastor hasn’t grown frustrated at the never ending demands of a congregation, and felt pressure from the latest megachurch book or conference?
As well, the excesses of evangelicalism deserve ribbing. O Shepherd includes pastors who talk in clichés, churches that encourage kids to get baptized in a fire truck with sirens to celebrate, and book titles like Right Behind, The Prayer of Jehudi, and The Neon Yahweh: Is Your God Too Biblical?
Miller writes, “If we pay the sick no mind, we have already admitted we are only rhetoricians who love speaking the truth but not acting it out…No matter how large a church grows, the church that only gets big but will not care for the sick and broken, is no church of Christ.” He challenges us to consider Richard Baxter’s premise that a church should not grow larger than the pastor’s ability to know and care for its people.
Miller also challenges us to end our obsessions with megachurches. He quotes Kurt R. Schuermann: “I often think that churches reflect American culture’s obsession with size, glamour, and even celebrity…Churches seem to want bigger buildings, larger numbers attending, better landscaping, and off-street parking.” Miller adds, “The size of a church does not indicate how well it is doing in ministry.”
I wish Miller had developed the idea that congregational care should not be done exclusively by pastors. Nevertheless, I found this a quick but challenging read that prompts us to overcome our drive to find the next big thing to grow our churches. Instead, Miller challenges us to see that a pastor’s call is not just to crowds, but to the care of individuals. “I have discovered that most of all which God is waiting to give me comes not in the reading of books or how-to manuals. Rather, it all comes in the demand – sometimes the all-consuming heavy demand – of the desperate cry for pastoral care.”