A few weeks ago, I traveled to Nashville for a two-day meeting. There were eighty-six of us attending, each with his or her own agenda and purpose for being there. Some were quiet and reserved, seemingly offering little to the meeting. Others were very vocal, opinionated, and determined to be heard at all costs. Those attending were representatives of their state and were there to make nominations for various leadership positions. As we moved through the agenda set by our chairman, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison of that group with a local church.
Our chairman was very prepared and obviously skilled at maintaining order and assuring that we remained on point since there was much work to be accomplished. He was assisted by three others that were paid staff members responsible for tracking our progress and making sure we followed the rules. At one point, there was a heated discussion and the chairman intervened, made a decisive call, and in no time we were again making progress. It was then that I wondered what might have happened if he had not been there. I can assure you that it would have been chaotic and we would not have finished our assignments.
Occasionally, churches go through periods when they are without a pastor. It is at times like these when we are tested and thus quickly discover both our strengths and weaknesses. When Jesus was walking among the people here on earth, He made various observations about their behavior. One in particular took place when he was traveling through various places around Jerusalem. In Matthew 9:35, it says:
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
Here we see that Jesus was emotionally “moved” as He watched these people that were weak, disorganized, and seemingly without hope. They desperately needed someone who would come to them, sort through their needs, and offer direction. Little did they know that the One who could resolve all of their issues, was right there in their midst.
There was another time when it appears that our Lord seemed brokenhearted over these people. In Matthew 23:37, it is as though He is agonizing over their decision to reject the care and comfort that only He could offer them. He says,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
It is a wonderful provision of God when He sends to His churches, His man to serve as their undershepherd. But with this blessing they become responsible to reverence and respect the office to which God has appointed him. Should that office become vacant, the flock are never really without leadership. You see, “the Good Shepherd” has promised, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deut. 31:6)