Just as Christians can never retire from serving the Lord Jesus Christ, so also we can never retire from serving other people. The work of prayerfully proclaiming Christ, his cross and resurrection is a way of life more than an occupation.
One form of this service is that of a pastor: that is a shepherd or under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd. Being a pastor involves caring for and leading a flock. We misuse the word ‘pastor’ when we confine it to ‘counselling’, especially counselling an individual. Pastoral work is different to the work of the modern counsellor and a pastor does more than care for an individual sheep; he leads a flock.
A shepherd whose flock consists of one sheep is not a very profitable shepherd. He is a hobby farmer with a pet, and the emphasis is on hobby rather than farmer and pet rather than sheep. A pastor may leave the ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep, but his aim is to bring it back to the flock, not spend all his time caring for the one that was lost. The nature of the gospel is to bring people into fellowship with each other and the pastor is to draw them together. While the good shepherd of Ezekiel 34 and John 10 will lay down his life for the sheep, the work of the pastor in these passages is more specific than simply self-sacrifice. It involves gathering the scattered sheep into a flock, leading them to rich pasture and judging between them so that the fat sheep do not trample the lean.