What is the “pastoral approach” except the approach of a shepherd? By definition, a shepherd is pastoral. That’s what the word means. So think about what shepherds must be like. According to Psalm 23, a good shepherd feeds, leads, guides, protects, and preserves. Shepherds in the ancient world were “remarkable and broadly capable persons.” As Timothy Laniak observes, “They were known for independence, resourcefulness, adaptability, courage and vigilance. Their profession cultivated a capacity for attentiveness, self-sacrifice, and compassion” (Shepherds After My Own Heart, 57). Shepherd leadership involves the use of authority, expressions of compassion, and protection of the flock. A “pastoral approach” may entail sympathy and patience, but the adjective pastoral must not be reduced to these things. The work of the shepherd encompasses everything from watching little lambs, ordering the sheep, and fending off wolves.
Quote is from Kevin DeYoung’s blog “DeYoung, Restless and Reformed” in the article “Embracing a Pastoral Approach“. He has (co)authored eleven books, including his most popular Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. His most recent publication is The Hole in Our Holiness.
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