Schafe können sicher weiden
J. S. Bach

Schafe können sicher weiden           Sheep may safely graze and pasture
Wo ein guter Hirte wacht.                 In a watchful shepherd’s sight.


(First in a series.)

The meaning of “pastor” is “pasture.” Paintings that depict rural scenes where cattle and sheep are grazed are called “pastoral,” and the flock’s health depends on the safety of their grazing.

Of course the shepherd is to protect them from predators. David told Saul he could handle giant Goliath because, while keeping his father’s sheep, he’d slain the bear and the lion:

Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. -1Samuel 17:34-35

This is instructive for our selection of pastors.1 Those we call to serve as our shepherds must be the sort of men we have a realistic hope can defend us—but also our ewes and lambs. We should be confident that, when the inevitable wolf invades our flock, our pastors and elders will grab our little one out of his mouth (or die trying).

This simple fact of the constancy of predators in the church is the reason most of us in Evangel Presbytery are choosing to train our future pastors in New Geneva Academy. We’re done with legacy seminaries such as Covenant, Southern, Reformed, and Gordon-Conwell. It’s been our consistent experience that legacy seminaries remove their students’ male principle.

Repeatedly we’ve warned those considering a call to pastoral ministry that legacy seminaries’ core curriculum is not theology, hermeneutics, or Old and New Testament exegesis, but rather this warning communicated in all classroom instruction and every hallway exchange: “If there’s ever any conflict in your church, you’ve failed.” Seminaries long ago stopped believing in wolves. What they believe in is church growth and the wealth it produces, so they run academic assembly lines credentialing perfectly unobjectionable pastoral leadership.

New Geneva Academy, on the other hand, trains men to recognize and deal with predators even if this work scares some of the congregation’s ewes and their spouses.

Safe pastures, though, are more a matter of providing green grass and still waters than killing wolves. Poisonous feed is a daily and hourly threat to the flock whereas the wolf only shows up now and then. So again, the meaning of “pastor” is “pasture.”

The church’s pastors and elders, along with the “older women” of the church, must provide good feed to their flock, and this is a daily and hourly work. The church’s shepherds must never stop watching their flock. We must not neglect our sheep’s constant need for us to provide them good feed and protection from bad feed.

While doing so, we also have to teach our flock this is their need and our responsibility. We don’t assume our children know their need of their father and mother’s protection. It’s not enough simply to protect them. We must also teach them to look and come to us, trusting us to shepherd them tenderly in just the manner and direction they need.

Proverbs is a book repeatedly teaching that there are only two kinds of sons: the foolish one who refuses correction and the wise one who receives correction. There is no third kind of son—the son who doesn’t need correction. Everyone needs correction.

This basic Biblical truth must be taught repeatedly to our rams, ewes, and lambs. It is the job of their shepherds to be jealous over their grass, their pasture, their grazing. At the time they may not have realized they set us over themselves for this very purpose, but honestly, where is there a sheep who thinks about this on his own, without being reminded of it? These things are not normally spoken of in churches today, so we must be even more vigilant to speak of them.

Our sheep don’t see this truth incidentally, in their day to day lives. They’re not taking walks in Scotland’s fells, England’s Lake District, or America’s dairyland. So we must restore to the church’s knowledge bank the truths set out above, including the constancy of Scripture’s testimony to the sheep’s life being dependent upon their pastor’s work providing them safe pasturing, and guarding them from straying into poisonous weeds.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. -1John 4:1

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are shepherding My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the LORD. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will shepherd them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD. -Jeremiah 23:1-4

“I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in fat pasture on the mountains of Israel. -Ezekiel 34:14

When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. -Mark 6:34

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. -1Peter 2:2

Men’s great fantasy is to prove ourselves brave and mighty warriors. It’s obvious to anyone—even those with no more contact with video games than seeing all the ads—that men’s entertainment is all about war whereas women’s is all about love and children. (If you’re angered at this observation, please pity me and every pastor. We all know what I wrote is true even if most Christians today refuse to state such truths out loud. One of the pastor’s most important responsibilities today, given the gagging of Scripture’s truths in the public square, is never to stop repeating out loud what everyone knows to be true deep down in his heart of hearts.)

Men fantasize about being that guy who protects his wife, children, and nation, and we’ve seen above that sheep need shepherds who will die fighting off wolves.

Still, the life of the sheep will depend much more on the shepherd’s feeding than his fighting. Pastors can’t warn sheep too often that they are what they eat. No good mother is dismissive about the food her children eat, and the good shepherd of God’s sheep realizes his watchcare over their feeding is eternally more important.

(First in a series.)

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Here’s more information about New Geneva Academy’s pastoral training curriculum and the men now in ministry who have been trained by New Geneva.

If you’re willing to join us in supporting New Geneva Academy, please get in touch and we’ll answer any questions you might have.

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Image is “Jailoo” by CharlesFred, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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1Also weighing our own calling to the pastorate and eldership.

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