Shepherd’s Care: Perspective

We’ve spent quite a bit of time interpreting Acts 20:28 in relation to pastoral ministry.  We end our examination with Paul’s reminder that the church has been “obtained with the blood of His own Son.”

Exegetically, this is the grand story of redemption.  Pastorally, it is a healing perspective. 

In many places today clergy health is a major problem.  Stress-related illnesses are not only taking their toll on pastors, but also creating financial strains on judicatory insurance programs.  Over the past five to ten years, I’ve heard as many conversations in the institutional church about these challenges as anything else.  We, who are supposed to understand and practice a deep wellness in God,  are often sicker than those we serve.

Many factors account for this, but the one that connects to Paul’s words is this:  God has not called us to shed our blood for the church.  Jesus has already done that.  The church has been “obtained with his blood.”  Too many of us live with a self-imposed (or congregationally-imposed) sense of responsibility—one that drives us to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits.  And if we do this over a long period of time, we pay a high price for it.

It is a false spirituality that demands we live “beyond the limits” of legitimate activity and healthy behavior.  Our bodies (physical, emotional., and mental dimensions) do not evaluate the stimuli they receive; they merely respond.  We can literally “give our blood” to things, but the anemia and disease which follow are at best unnecessary and at worst tragic. 

We must not lose the perspective that blood has already been shed for the sake of the church.  The church has “been obtained with his blood.”  God is not asking for your blood.  You cannot be the church’s savior; it already has one.  Slow down.  Calm down.  Live as a human being, not as a “super pastor.” 

In doing so you will save your own soul and the souls of those under your care, because “crazy sickness” inevitably infects those around you.  Keep your blood in its place, trusting the blood of Christ to “obtain” the church.  You’ll live better, more authentically, and probably longer.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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