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No “Safe Distance” Ministry

A main theme of this blog is the necessity of pastors knowing their people in order to be able really to pastor them. A colleague of mine, Justin Barnard, recently pointed me to Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus as a source making a similar point. The following excerpt is a powerful summary of ministry drawing from Jesus comments in John 10:14-15.

“He [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead. … But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship? Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life.

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.”(61-62)

[For further discussion of the implications of this scriptural text for pastoral ministry with quotes from key church leaders of the past, see this previous post]

One Comment

  1. sue curtis says:

    I enjoy all of your posts but this is a subject I feel needs to be visited occasionally as a reminder. A good way to lose souls. Thank you for being about our Lord’s work.
    Sue

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