As I write this, I’m getting ready for a test at the hospital. Just routine, I think. Last week I went for an annual checkup and my doctor spotted a couple of areas for which she wanted more tests.
About the time I get through with these tests, a note will arrive from the dentist announcing my 6 month checkup. Right now, my car is overdue for its 3,000 mile oil change and it’s time for a tire rotation. The house needs painting and the air conditioning unit is getting some work.
Nothing about ‘maintenance’ sounds very glamorous. Friend of mine is in charge of maintenance at a chemical plant up the river, but don’t let it fool you. We’re not talking about sweeping the floors and mowing the grass. His area is keeping those massive machines and intricate processes working as they were intended.
That lovely old car you spotted on the highway still purring like a kitten after 200,000 miles functions well not because some rich guy bought it and spent a fortune overhauling it, but more than likely because its owner took good care of it from the first day. He had it serviced regularly and kept it in a garage and treated it as an investment.
Sheri, a single young woman, said to me once, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about maintenance. I’ve owned my car for a whole year and have never had an oil change or anything, and it drives like new.” I said, “Just stick around. You’ll find out.” She did.
On the program at a state evangelistic conference, a hot-shot speaker tries to urge upon pastors the need to be more evangelistic. He quotes that old saw as though he made it up. “We were commanded to be fishers of men–not keepers of the aquarium!” It always provokes a few laughs and several amens. The fact that he is wrong never registers with most of his hearers.
The word ‘pastor’ literally means ‘shepherd’ in the Scriptures. A shepherd’s prime responsibility is to keep the sheep–to guard them, feed them, stand with them. When he does his work well, the sheep with bear more sheep. That’s the plan.
It is not either/or. We are indeed called to be fishers of men. That mandate came straight from the mouth of Jesus and the heart of God. (Matthew 4:19) No argument there. Most of us need plenty of reminders and extra motivation to be faithful soulwinners.
But at the same time, we are to watch the children. To protect the flock. (Acts 20:28) To feed the sheep. (John 21:15ff) Keep the aquarium, if you will. Metaphors abound on this subject, but the point is the same: take care of the members of the Lord’s family.
Maintenance. For me as a pastor, it involves sermon preparation and sermon delivery. It requires prayer for the Lord’s guidance, prayer for my own ministry, and prayer for the church members. Visitation, weddings, funerals, committee meetings. It requires gatherings of church leaders in which we urge deacons and teachers to take care of the members assigned to their care. Counseling those in crisis, nurturing the hurting, admonishing the strays. It’s all part of our responsibility.
You get the impression from some speakers that we should forget the need to do the necessary upkeep on the family of God, but just keep bringing in more and more outsiders. Many will drop away, but enough will “stick and stay” to give you a growing congregation, and after all, isn’t that the point?
No, it isn’t. Bearing fruit that remains is the point, according to the Lord in John 15:16. Whatever else that means, it surely means people coming to Christ, being discipled, and becoming mature teachers and role models and influencers of others for Jesus’ sake.
Pray for the shepherd. When he does his work well, the flock is healthy and well-fed and safe. And prolific.