This becomes a most troubling question for every pastor. We love to care for those who love and support us. We learn to develop tough skin for those who attack us. But shepherding those who are difficult or attack us…that is a another story. This may seem like an impossible task, but Richard Baxter reminds us of our responsibility:
“So you see it was then taken as a duty to look upon every member of the flock by name, even if it should be the meanest servant-man or maid…A faithful pastor should have his eyes on them all.”
What is implied by Baxter here is not just a knowledge of our people, but a faithful pastor has his eyes on them for the purpose to know how to best shepherd them. Although I recognize this may be one of the hardest tasks we carry as pastors, we must be faithful to shepherd ALL our people God has entrusted to our care. Because of this, here are a few tips that might help:
1) Read Hebrews 13:17 daily and be reminded that God has entrusted the souls of those people to you. You will give an account to the Cheif Shepherd for them. On that day you will not want to fire these words of defense to our King, “But Jesus, they did not like my preaching!”
2) It takes very little time to hurt or offend your people, but it takes a long time to earn their trust. You have to allow time to build a relationship with each church member where they see you as their shepherd. It does not magically happen the moment they slip a title on you and pay you a salary (I am amazed at the amount of first time pastors who think this).
3) You may be dealing with unconverted people in your church. Please receive this with caution. You cannot know this until you have spent adequate time doing what Baxter exhorts us to above and to do so for years. There were several in my church I was tempted to label “unconverted” when years later only revealed I had not grown to know and understand them as I should as their shepherd.
So then, keep your eyes on every one of your people knowing it is what a faithful pastor does. Several who wanted my head in our church 5 years ago are still at the church and I have a warm, good relationship with them. Those relationships, because they once despised me, are now some of the most precious to me.