Friday, April 4, 2008

Smelling Like the Sheep

by Mike Ortel

At an office staff meeting a few years ago, my Conference President was leading a discussion about leadership. He had just read a book in which the author had made a leadership symbol. “In today’s ministry, the pastor doesn’t smell like the sheep anymore.” That idea took me by surprise. My mind reflected on Jesus’ ministry and wondered if that model was relevant for today.

Biblically, it states that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. His Sheep knew His voice and followed Him. Jesus was known as one who “mingled with men as one who desired their good.”[i]

In much of our training for ministry, there is a mentality that promotes pastoral leaders as CEOs. It suggests that as a teacher or organizer, the pastor remains a distance from his congregation, doesn’t get too close, and primarily operates in a supervisory mode. Mingling is not a part of the ministry that is highly promoted or taught.

Perhaps with today’s society and a fear that exists to allow our parishioners to really know us, a safe and comfortable position is to stay our distance, to be a bit aloof for protection and the good of our profession. I wonder, though, if God had another idea. I wonder if our God, who knew our world would be technologically sharp, prepared us from the beginning to be relationally sensitive.

Returning to the shepherd/sheep concept, we remember how intensely involved the shepherd was with his sheep. Let’s face it, they, the sheep, were helpless and the shepherd knew what, when, and how their needs were to be met.

When Jesus did ministry on this earth, He did a phenomenal thing. He understood the mindset of the day, the exclusiveness which caste promotes; He understood the misrepresentation people had of His Father; and He committed to demonstrate to us how to do ministry. He actually left the comfort zone of His familiar culture and mingled among men and women and children! If He had an office, a computer or a cell phone, He could have easily hidden behind that technology and served. However, Jesus mingled. He smelled like His sheep! He didn’t mingle with people just at the synagogue on Sabbath. He took the initiative and went where the people were during the week. He made Himself available. In fact, He went out of His way to relate. He was intentional about being with people. He was intentional about being available—knowing His people.

When Jesus mingled, He did so after spending meaningful time with His heavenly Father. He saw that people needed to experience His Father’s friendship, too. He saw how lonely, sad, or harried people were. He mingled with them to show them a better way.

Recently I heard of a pastor who, although in a conference position, started visiting in the homes of members at a church which had been without a minister for many months. Visit after visit, the members shared how much they appreciated a pastoral visit. “It has been years since any pastor has been in our home.” One member stated she “never saw the pastor or any other church member in her home once she was baptized.” Attendance at the church increased; tithe went up; participation and a sense of family began to emerge. The visiting pastor even knew what the needs of the congregation were so he could prayerfully prepare his sermons week after week. All profited.

There are all types, sizes, and styles of churches in the Adventist denomination. Perhaps the pastor is called for a particular purpose or need that a church may circumstantially have at a particular time. However, smelling like the sheep, leaders mingling with members, seems to be part of the Good Shepherd’s plan of sharing the gospel.

How have we been smelling lately?

[i] Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1905), 143.

1 comment:

Harold Cunningham said...

I was especially blessed by this post. We are kindred spirits in regards to what composes the heart of pastoral leadership: RELATIONSHIP!

Stan Patterson has posted an on-going series to the GEORGIA GROWN blog ( shares your same sentiments. The series in entitled "Leadership Is A Relational Process".

In recent years, even secular leadership sources such as CEOs, the U.S. military, etc. have recognized that leadership attempted without relationship is neither transformational or inspirational.