In a book the bishop asked several people (including my wife) to read for the realignment committee there is an argument which states the church needs to remove from its language and mind the idea that pastors are shepherds. The author states the metaphor of pastor as shepherd "is ultimately destructive to effectiveness in ministry".
The author makes a good argument to remove the metaphor in our churches. One point which I thought particularly interesting is "Shepherds were entrepreneurs who raised sheep for their livelihood, for food and clothing. Good shepherds lead their sheep into green pastures and by still waters in order to obtain three results." Shepherds used the sheep for personal gain; for cloth, food and/or reproduction. Pastors should not been seen as shepherds because we do not own people and we do not use people for personal gain (or at least we should not!!).
I know every metaphor breaks at some point, and this book is saying we have a broken metaphor of pastor as shepherd because we have a romantic idea of what shepherds do.
I am curious to know if it is really a good thing to remove the metaphor from our theological imagination or if it would be better if we reclaim it?
There are many metaphors which are destructive and we continue to use them (such as God is only a male). And like I said, all metaphors break at some point (such as atonement metaphors). So should we purge all metaphors which are either destructive or those which have been stretched beyond their limits, as though we are metaphor iconoclasts?
I wonder if instead of taking such a black/white stance on this metaphor if there could be a third way. The way of reclaiming?
What if pastors across the UMC lived out the metaphor of shepherd only in those ways which the metaphor was intended?
For that matter, what if Christians across the world lived out all the metaphors of God in only the ways in which those metaphors were intended?
What would it mean if we only took the metaphor of God as male to the proper limits?
What would it mean if we only took Jesus as lamb to the proper limits?
What would it mean if we only took God is good to the proper limits?
What would it mean if we only took God is love to the proper limits?