When Dr. Wolfe asked me to participate in this project, Psalm 23 came to mind almost immediately. I cannot think of a better time to visit this familiar song than in 2020–the year of politics, protests and a pandemic.
David’s familiar words still ring true with pastors in particular because it takes a shepherd to know a shepherd. The opening line is perhaps the most personal and powerful.
“The Lord is my Shepherd”
David wrote the 23rd Psalm in the present tense, which can be translated as, “Yahweh is shepherding me.” David was not just reminiscing about what God did in the good old days of defeating lions, giants and bears, but also what his Shepherd was doing currently in his life.
Even as I write this for you, I am recalling with fondness how well I was shepherded in my home church in Tyler. I am recalling countless memories of high school, college and seminary. I’m rejoicing in the privilege of pastoring churches and pastors in the last 33 years.
Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. (Isaiah. 43:18)
Today is a fantastic day to pastor our churches, our families and each other! What an honor to love, lead and feed people during this monumental moment in history! We will pastor well in this Covid season, friends, if we first allow the Lord to pastor us well.
“I shall not want”
I recently asked pastors on Facebook what they needed most right now, and the top two answers by far were wisdom and rest.
Barna’s Pastor Poll in August asked, “How encouraged are you feeling today?” Fifty-six percent are somewhat/very encouraged; 31 percent are somewhat/very discouraged; and 13 percent said they are neutral. Seventy-eight percent of pastors say parents are overwhelmed by the current moment, which is a double dose of stress for those of you with children still at home.
The CSB translates this verse as, “I have what I need.” If you do not have what you need, perhaps it is because you have not asked for it yet (James 1:5).
“He leads me beside still waters”
Janet and I live in metro Tulsa and our yard connects to an urban farm with horses, ponies, llamas and sheep. In the video I share a story about an old pony I mistakenly thought was drowning in the pond behind our house. My shepherding instincts were embarrassingly wrong because I know very little about farm animals. You have no formal training on pastoring through a pandemic, so give yourself–and others–an extra measure of grace.
All of us are pastoring imperfectly by the same grace from which we were saved. Our call to salvation and to pastoral ministry are undeserved gifts from our true Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
“He restores my soul”
Living in a constant state of anxiety will rob your soul of joy and even damage your testimony. Instead of asking God to bail you out, ask him to hold you up. My primary challenge for you today is to lie down in green pastures and beside still waters every day for a few minutes and every week for a few hours so your Shepherd can restore your soul.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
These words of encouragement come to you as a part of an initiative from the COVID-19 Task Force for church leaders to be “together for the unfinished task” during this time of uncertainty.