And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. – Jeremiah 3:15
I did not grow up wanting to be a pastor. I sort of stumbled into it by default. I’ve been told from my early teen years that I was a good teacher and I’ve developed that skill over the years. But I didn’t want to be a pastor, just a teacher.
However, this was the problem I encountered with not wanting to be a pastor: in order to be a teacher in a church, too often I was forced to fit into the mold of the senior pastor. He wanted to recreate me in his image, make me be like him. He wanted me to think like him, have his sense of humor and his manner of speech. Too often they wanted a “mini-me.” And since I wasn’t always willing to be like him, my teaching opportunities were infrequent.
The Lord says in Jeremiah 3:15 that He will give people shepherds (pastors) after His own heart. If this is so, then why did most pastors I served with (read that, “under”) want to make me in the image of their heart at the expense of God’s heart? Why did I have to do an imitation of them in order to do what God called me to do? I finally determined that to do what I felt called by God to do I had to be a pastor, a shepherd and leader, after God’s own heart. I couldn’t do an imitation of a pastor still living in the 1970’s. I had to be who God called me to be.
I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s new memoir The Pastor. In this book he quotes Baron Friedrich von Hügel who said “there are no dittos in souls.” When I read that I wanted to jump up and shout, “That’s it! I don’t have to be like anyone else. I just need to follow the heart of God!”
Now, before you go off and just “be yourself” (claiming all you need to do is obey God, not man, quoting Acts 5:29 as your proof text), you should know that when you follow the heart of God you also follow the leadership structures He has set up. I have willfully submitted to the leadership structure of my denomination. However, in that submission I am also free to be the pastor God has called me to be. No one in my denomination has ever suggested I would be a better pastor if I were more like Bro. So-and-So.
I want to encourage you, my half-dozen readers, to be the shepherd/pastor/leader that God has established after His own heart. Stop trying to imitate your favorite pastor in order to be “successful.” Or worse, stop being manipulated by other leaders to do their imitation of what it means to be a successful shepherd/pastor/leader. When God gifted you, He did so knowing what He was doing. He didn’t make a mistake. He didn’t make a ditto soul or a ditto pastor.
Now, when you feed on that “knowledge and understanding,” you’ll be ready to be the best at whatever God has created you to be. There may be some dittoheads on the radio, but there are none in the Kingdom of God.