What Does PETCO and Pastoring Have in Common?
I am not what some would call an animal lover. At the moment, I don’t have any domestic pets. But if I did, there are two standard rules I live by: 1. I do not allow them to sleep in my bed, and 2. When it comes to licking, my face is off-limits. But I do like them. My father and mother had two dogs during my adolescent years. Both were Cocker Spaniels. They were great family dogs. And my wife and I had a Toy Rat Terrier in the early years of our marriage. Now that we have a child the thought of getting another one has come up in conversation a few times. Because of this I have begun to pay a little more attention again to anything related to pets.
The other day while I was watching television, a PETCO commercial came on. To be honest, I don’t remember much about it, except the tagline. Take a look for yourself:
“What We Feed Them Matters.”
When I heard that tagline, the preacher in me took note. I said to myself, “There is an illustration in that.” As I began thinking about it, I immediately saw a connection between that PETCO commercial and our calling as pastors.
The Bible depicts us elders as being shepherds and the church as being sheep or a flock (Acts 20:28-30). As the Apostle Peter writes, we are called to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willing, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Shepherding the flock of God entails a number of responsibilities. As Jeramie Rinne writes in Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus, “Elders manage, lead, admonish, and keep watch over members.” (p. 74) But central among these tasks is teaching; teaching the word of God (1 Timothy 3:2 – “able to teach”; also see 2 Timothy 4:1-2). Rinne affirms this assertion, “If elders shepherd Jesus’s sheep, then their most basic task is to feed the souls of church members from the Scriptures.” (p. 45)
But in teaching the word, we must commit to rightly handling it (2 Timothy 2:15). I have been in ministry long enough to know that everyone who is teaching the Bible ain’t teaching the Bible. It is important that we prayerfully strive to rightly interpret the word, or cut it straight. Our desire should be “to give instruction in sound doctrine.” (Titus 1:9) That word “sound” means healthy. Take note, brothers: healthy doctrine produces healthy disciples. So let’s, by God’s grace, feed them the pure, unadulterated word of God.
May the Lord Jesus’ command to Peter in John 21:17 be applied to our calling as pastors as well, “Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.‘” (emphasis mine)
What we feed them does indeed matter.