The Practice of Grace

Lee Eclov on the life and calling of a pastor:

Doctors enter the practice of medicine. Lawyers, the practice of law. Pastors enter the practice of grace. Grace is the pastor’s stock-in-trade.

Pastors, like all believers, are agents of grace. But we dispense the grace of Christ as no other believers do. We are shepherds. Search as we might for a word more suited to our contemporary culture, shepherd is the only word that will do. If we hope to understand what we’ve been called by God to do, we have to step into a foreign world of sheep and pastures, folds and staffs, night watches and wilderness searches. Look hard at the timeless figures “keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Patient, long-suffering, committed to the often lonely routines of care. That’s how God wants us to see ourselves. In fact, that is one way God sees Himself.

No one is born with the aptitude for being one of the Lord’s shepherds. No one starts planning a career thinking, “I guess I’ll go into the practice of grace.” But when we are called, God gives us a miraculous instinct for the work. We commonly call it “a shepherd’s heart.” While I suppose that some pastors have personalities that give them a leg up, no one has the makings of a shepherd apart from God’s grace. You think you’re headed for a career in business or education, a trade or an art, and the next thing you know, you’re standing in some pasture with a shepherd’s crook in your hand, surrounded by sheep. It’s a career comedown, unless you know about grace.