Thoughts on Pastoral Ministry from Psalm 23:
Being Satisfied with Our Shepherd and Pleased with Our Pastor (Part 1 of 4)
by Doug Smith
Note: This article is adapted from a message delivered at the first graduation for the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply (an extension of Bancroft Gospel Ministry in Kingsport, Tennessee), Phase 1 Training, on April 14, 2007.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (KJV)
Are you satisfied? Satisfaction seems to be a rare commodity these days. In fact, the marketing gurus capitalize on our dissatisfaction, by focusing our attention on things that make us discontent or by trying to make us think we need more of something, or something better or bigger. How many times have you replaced or upgraded your computer or installed updates for its programs in the last 5 years? 2 years? 1 year? Month? Week? Have you ever obtained a new vehicle because you were not satisfied with the one you had? Perhaps it guzzled the gas. Or there wasn’t enough room. Or you didn’t have enough horsepower to pull that trailer.
Related to this idea of satisfaction is the “law of diminishing returns.” This is the idea that the more you get of something, the more you need to satisfy you. You may never have a car fast enough, or a house big enough. You may never have a computer with enough memory, or a drill with enough bits. Among other people, drug addicts and those enslaved to pornography experience this. They constantly seek increasing quantities and increasingly extreme experiences to fill their cravings.
The tendency toward dissatisfaction in our earthly lives is ever-present in the ministry as well. If you are the pastor of a church ten years from now, will you be satisfied and content? Will you be the target of books that promise to increase the apparent success of your ministry? Will you be the type of individual that conference promoters seek to court because they want to give you that secret that will make your ministry explode with growth? Will you constantly be depressed because you cannot gain the favor of everyone in your congregation? Many churches close each year and many men quit the ministry each year, often because of such frustrations.
Now, it is true that we should be discontent in some areas, even in our Christian lives. We should never think we have arrived. We always have room for improvement in our relationships with our wives, our children, and our friends. We can do better in our witness to nonbelievers, and even in our preaching and leadership. But more than any of these things, there is one area in which we should constantly be seeking satisfaction. We should not be satisfied until we are satisfied in our relationship with God. He is the only one who can truly satisfy us.
Are you satisfied? If God is going to be pleased with you as a pastor, you must be pleased with your Pastor satisfied with your Shepherd, who is God.
As we turn to Psalm 23, we are reminded of these familiar images of a Shepherd, a sheep, and pastureland. We think of David, who probably penned these very words, who experienced firsthand the life of a shepherd as a young man. He knew what it was like to feed, lead, and protect sheep. He also knew the life of a king. He knew popularity, power, and prosperity. He also knew the emptiness of sin, and God’s correction and restoration. He knew his need to be happy in God. David was not satisfied with his prestige, but with his Pastor, that is, his Shepherd the LORD.
Psalm 23 reminds us of some important aspects of pastoral ministry and demonstrates our need to be satisfied with the Person, Provision, and Promise of our Pastor.