Shepherding our Thoughts to the Good Shepherd

This morning I was struck by an expression in a sermon of one of our most renowned Apostolic preachers, Ian Macpherson. It wasn’t the point of the sermon at all, yet it expressed not only what Ps Macpherson was doing in that particular sermon (‘Jesus is the Atonement’, in None Other Name [London: Epworth Press, 1946], pp.77-84), but also a great deal more about the work of preaching and the nature of pastoral ministry. For, what Ps Macpherson was seeking to do was ‘to shepherd your thoughts’ to Christ and His atoning work. Preaching is not merely the transmission of facts. Nor is preaching the stirring up of emotions. Preaching is a shepherding of the thoughts, and so a shepherding of the heart and soul. That is why preaching is the great work of the pastor.

We live in an age where pastors are constantly tempted to shepherd actions. We might shepherd actions to conform to a vision, or to conform to a moral principle, or to conform to the needs of the team. But, as one of our greatest and most fondly remembered preachers reminds us, the pastors call is not shepherd actions, but thoughts. Our call is not to move the feet of the sheep, but to lift their eyes to the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for them. And when the thoughts are shepherded to the Good Shepherd, He will lay hold of hearts, and from changed and captivated hearts, truly new and godly actions will flow.

Preaching and pastoring aren’t about getting people to do stuff. They’re not about behavioural change. Preaching and pastoring are about shepherding the thoughts, and so shepherding the heart and soul. Preaching and pastoring are about lifting eyes to Jesus, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.