Most Bible folk know that in Ephesians 4:11 Paul wrote that, among other gifts, God gave pastors to the church. This was a fulfillment of a prophecy given in Jeremiah 3:15 when God said, "I will give you pastors according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Oh, that churches would be led by welcoming, loving, generous, wise pastors - pastors full of the Holy Spirit and motivated by the undeserved grace they have themselves received.
However, God's gift was not without warning. "Woe be to the pastors who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" (Jeremiah 23:1)
It seems that God has a simple word for those he has called to this ministry: Feed, don't destroy or scatter, my sheep.
It has been my observation that it is possible to feed and destroy at the same time. It happens in many ways in churches.
- Trying to force-feed knowledge into a person
- Portions of spiritual food that are too small to maintain life
- Insistence that church members eat the same diet as the pastor
- A monotonous diet that has no variety
As good, observant parents know, you don't treat all children the same, nor do they all learn the same way. It's the same with feeding God's sheep. Each church member is unique and gains knowledge and understanding in different ways. Some learn from the hymns, others through graphics used in the church bulletin or on the screen. Some grow through a sermon with organized points, others through a casual conversation.
I don't know of a church that uses this method, but I wonder what it would be like to organize small groups so that members with similar learning styles were grouped together? I suspect that it works better to have different styles in each group - each learning from the other.
Either way, pastors, remember that your way isn't the only way. The gift you have been given is the privilege of feeding - nourishing and growing - people who become wholehearted disciples. By the way, they're becoming Jesus' disciples, not yours.