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Pastoring Our Workplaces

But when He saw the multitudes,
He was moved with compassion for them,
because they were weary and scattered,
like sheep having no shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

To discuss on this subject, I would like to invite you to a breakfast by the Sea of Tiberias. In John 21, there was this account of Jesus showing Himself again to His disciples, after His Resurrection. And this was how it happened. Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples of Jesus were together.

Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." What else could Peter do besides fishing after the death of Jesus? Yes, he had seen the resurrected Lord twice but so what? These were the days between the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ, and before the actual outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. How could he continue to do ministry without the presence and company of His Lord? How could he face the severe opposition and hostility of the people he was called to serve? Without any clear direction or strategy to follow, the only way out was to go back to his former occupation – to be a fisherman again.

The rest of the disciples of Jesus were equally discouraged. They too expected the Messiah to rule and reign in Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. But to their great horror and dismay, the Christ, Whom they believed in and followed all these years, was crucified and buried. Though Jesus had resurrected, He was no longer with them in flesh and blood like He used to be. When they heard Peter’s decision, they too agreed with him, "We are going fishing with you also." And they went out without any second thoughts. Immediately they got into the boat. That night they caught nothing.

When the morning had come, Jesus stood on the shore, and His disciples were in the boat, a little distance away. But the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any food for breakfast?" They answered Him, "No." They had caught nothing, and had nothing for breakfast.

Jesus said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." They hearkened to His instructions, and cast their net. But they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish caught therein.

Upon the witness of this miracle, John, that disciple whom Jesus loved, said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment that he had removed during fishing. He plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat. They were not far from land, about 100 yards away. They were dragging the net loaded with fish.

As soon as they had come to shore, they saw a fire of coals there. Bread and fish were laid on it. Jesus had prepared the breakfast for them! The morning meal was ready to be served! Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish which you have just caught." Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land. It was full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three. Although there were so many, the net was not broken.

Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast." This time none of the disciples dared to ask Him, "Who are You?" They knew that it was the Lord. Then Jesus came and took the bread, and gave it to them. Thereafter, He also served the fish after they were cooked. This was the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

After they had eaten breakfast, Jesus had a heart to heart conversation with Peter. He wanted to restore Peter and renew his passion for ministry. On the night when Jesus was betrayed and arrested, around a fire of coals, in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter denied the Lord three times. "I do not know Him!...I do not know Him!...I do not know Him!"

Three separate occasions on that night of betrayal, Peter's relationship with his Lord Jesus Christ was questioned and smashed. Not once, but thrice he denied knowing the Lord! Now Jesus gave him three opportunities to reaffirm his love and relationship with Him. Was it true? Was this just a spark at that moment? Is it still true?

Jesus desired Peter to be more than a fisherman. He had called him to be a fisher of men. It was to Peter’s advantage that Jesus asked him, "Do you love Me?" Peter was in a state of disgrace. He had failed the Lord Whom he loved. He was cowardly disloyal. He was deeply ashamed of himself. In Mark 14:27-31, Peter had boasted that he would never deny the Lord even to the point of death! But he could not fulfill what he had said and declared! He was a failure! He did not do what he said that he would do! He was simply not qualified to be Jesus’ disciple! That’s why he went back to fishing. He was both discouraged and downcast! Wounded in his soul, he needed Jesus’ affirmation and acknowledgement that he was still His disciple, and that He still loved him.

Jesus did not condemn or rebuke Peter. He simply asked him three questions in love in order to heal and touch Peter‘s broken heart. He asked Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" Peter said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs."

Jesus said to Peter again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep."

Jesus said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep."

Interestingly, Peter was a son of Jonah. Whether he had his genealogical roots from the reluctant prophet of old, I would leave that for the scholars to find out. Herein we could see a similar story of the prophet Jonah being replayed. Jonah was sent to preach to the Gentiles, while this son of Jonah was sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). Jonah was reluctant to obey the commission of God. He set sail from Joppa to get away from God (Jonah 1:3). Similarly, when God opened the door for the Gentiles to be saved in the New Testament, Peter was also at Joppa. Through a vision, Peter, the son of Jonah, obeyed the Lord and brought the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-23).

God sent Jonah to Nineveh, the capital city of the great Assyrian Empire. But the prophet shrank from his calling. He attempted to escape to Tarshish. But the love of God would never let him go! God watched over him first in a storm, and then over him when he was swallowed by a large fish for the space of three days and three nights. After his deliverance out of the fish‘s belly, Jonah executed and fulfilled God's commission.

The whole city of Nineveh repented, and escaped the judgment of God. But the prophet grudged at the mercy of God shown to a wicked and heathen nation. He was really upset and angry. Thus, God taught him a lesson by making a vine grow up to shade Jonah's head and protect him from the blazing sun. Jonah was very happy to have the vine. But early the next morning, the LORD sent a worm to chew on the vine, and the vine dried up. During the day, the LORD sent a scorching wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head, making him feel faint. Jonah was ready to die, and he shouted, "I wish I were dead!" But the LORD asked, "Jonah, do you have the right to be angry about the vine?"

"Yes, I do," he answered, "and I'm angry enough to die." But the LORD said: "You are concerned about a vine that you did not plant or take care of, a vine that grew up in one night and died the next. In that city of Nineveh, there are more than 120,000 people who cannot tell right from wrong, and many cattle are also there. Don't you think I should be concerned about that big city? "

Like Jonah, Peter was appointed to be a shepherd - to love others and take good care of them! To have a true burden for the people whom he was called to serve. To have a genuine care and concern for their needs - physical, emotional and spiritual. At the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus was re-establishing and reinstating Peter to be a shepherd to pastor His sheep! He was restoring Peter back to do ministry. It was an awesome task! The Great Shepherd was going away, He needed someone to take care of His sheep.

In Matthew 16:17-19, Jesus said this to Peter:

"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

But before Peter could fulfill this commission, Jesus needed to know this one thing: "Do you love Me?" This is where ministry begins and continues to have its existence. Did Peter fulfill this commission that Jesus gave him? Absolutely yes! In 1 Peter 5:1-4, we can clearly see that he had kept the Word of His Lord! One of Peter's final instructions in his first epistle was to shepherd the flock of God:

"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."

Peter knew that what it meant to be a true shepherd of God. He was lovingly saying to his elders, "Just as shepherds watch over their sheep, you must watch over everyone whom God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not out of obligation and compulsion. Let it be something you desire to do, and not something that you do to make money. Don't boss over those people who are in your care, but set a good example for them to follow. Then when Christ the Chief Shepherd returns, you will be given a crown that will never lose its glory."

A true shepherd is one who:

  • feeds the sheep (1 Chronicles 4:39-41, Psalm 23:2)
  • watches over his flock at night (Luke 2:8)
  • defends the sheep from their predators (1 Samuel 17:34-37, Amos 3:12)
  • cares for the wounded and sick sheep (Ezekiel 34:16)
  • finds and saves the lost or trapped sheep (Ezekiel 34:12, Luke 15:4-5)
  • gives and risks his life for the sheep (John 10:11).

Pastoring has the same functions as shepherding! Pastors love their people by feeding them, protecting them, defending them, caring for them and sharing with them. They are even willing to lay down their own lives for the sheep. Through their lives and loves, they earn the trust and obedience of the sheep.

The pastoral role is more than just teaching. The pastor is a guardian as well as a teacher. He oversees the total welfare of His sheep! Note that it is His sheep and not our sheep! Jesus told Peter, "Feed My sheep!" This reminds us that the sheep are His, and not ours! They belong to Jesus! We are just stewards, and not owners. We cannot do our own things! We cannot lord over them. We need to be exceptionally careful with those sheep who are entrusted to our care! When other parents entrust us with their kids, we must bear great responsibility in ensuring that their kids are properly looked after and carefully handled! There should not be any abuse or misuse of authority and leadership! It calls for integrity and accountability! Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, they are His sheep and we are just His shepherds.

The job of pastoring is not just for the pastors inside the churches. Like it or not, God has given us some of His sheep to take care of:

Shepherd Sheep
Parent Child(ren)
Husband Wife
Elder sibling Younger sibling(s)
School Teacher Student(s)
Elder Student Younger student(s)
Master Servant(s) & maid(s)
Housewife Family member(s) & maid(s)
Employer Employee(s)
Manager Subordinate(s)
Supervisor Foremen
Foreman Worker(s)
Christian Colleague(s)

Wherever we are in our workplaces, we are called to pastor His sheep that are entrusted to our care. We cannot run away from our responsibility. It is not the job of our church pastors to take care of our children or students or employees or colleagues. We are His eyes that see their needs, we are His hands to touch them, and we are His ears that listen to their pleas.

God still uses ordinary people like you and me to carry out and accomplish His extraordinary plans and purposes. David was a shepherd when he was just a young boy! Shepherding is not a matter of age or position, it is a matter of the heart! It does not require an attitude that is holier than thou. It simply calls for us to have a heart of flesh and not of stone. It requires us to become human again, landing back on earth instead of being airy-fairy up in the air. It calls for reality checks against presumptuous omissions.

Peter declared that he would never deny the Lord even if he were to die. But when reality hit him, he was shattered badly. He became a coward instantaneously! Many of us are like Peter. During the altar calls in church services, we will tell the Lord that we will be who He wants us to be, we will go where He wants us to go, and we will say what He wants us to say. But back in our homes, offices, schools, factories, streets and workplaces, our lips are sealed. Our Christian jargons and languages don't seem to have an impact on our communities!

Like Jonah and Peter, we have our reservations and hang-ups, likes and dislikes. We do not like these pagan people. We do not want to talk to them. We are not willing to humble ourselves to be their shepherds. And we ourselves have not received good pastoral care. But that is obviously not true. We often forget that we do have the Great Pastor and the Good Shepherd named Christ Jesus! Remember Psalm 23 and John 10. He watches over us day and night!

Maybe there are just too many hurdles and obstacles to clear. But on the road of the second mile, there are no roadblocks. If our heart are filled with His love, there will not be any heart barriers between us and our neighbours - the people at our workplaces. Love never fails! Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

Shepherding is a dirty work. It is hard work. Sheep are often stubborn and dirty. They cannot take good care of themselves. They will follow the crowd. They are exposed to all sorts of dangers. Their predators are always eyeing on them! Therefore they need true shepherds to watch over them. The young shepherd, David, had killed lions and bears while taking care of his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17: 34-37). He would go after the wild animals until they released their preys.

People around us need the Lord. They are like sheep without shepherds. We must take up our positions and start pastoring them. It is not about opening the Bible and start teaching them the laws of God. It is having the compassion of Christ for the multitudes. It is being His living epistles to be read by all men. It is living out the Word of God. It is actualizing the life of Christ in our homes and workplaces, and everywhere we go! Our actions and life examples speak louder than our words. It is more than just hard work. It is heart work! Our hearts at work! It is caring for others and sharing with them like no others. It is simply loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is what Christ will do when He is in our shoes. It is being His light and His salt to a generation that is lost. It is being real and truthful about ourselves. It is actually saying, "I love You, Lord!"

May this song "People Need The Lord" be an inspirational theme daily as we start pastoring our workplaces:

Everyday they pass me by
I can see it in their eyes
Empty people filled with care
Headed who knows where
On they go through private pain
Living fear to fear
Laughter hides their silent cries
Only Jesus hears

People need the Lord
People need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams
He's the open door
People need the Lord
People need the Lord
When will we realize
People need the Lord

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right
What could be too great a cost for
Sharing life with one who's lost
Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear
They must hear the words of life
Only we can share

People need the Lord
People need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams
He's the open door
People need the Lord
When will we realize
That we must give our lives
For people need the Lord
People need the Lord
People need the Lord

Written on:
18 September 2004