Welcome to Skillful Shepherds blog!

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands. (NAS)
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (NIV)
(Psalm 78.72)

This blog is a humble attempt to address the concept of pastoring. What is a pastor? A basic definition would be that a pastor is one called to be a shepherd, one that shepherds and leads his people (flock), with character (integrity of heart) and skills (skillful hands). I have been reflecting on this analogy of skillful shepherds ever since reading the book “Skilful Shepherds: Explorations in pastoral theology” by Derek Tidball for my Pastoral Theology and Ministry module at bible college. Incidentally, I managed to get in touch with Dr Tidball himself, and had humbly requested use of his book title for my blog, just in case of any copyright or attribution issues. He was more than kind and encouraging towards me and my endeavours, generously giving his blessing for its use and association with this blog.

Context of Psalm 78
The psalm is described as a “maskil” of Asaph, meaning “to understand” or “to have insight,” often referring to a didactic or meditative poem. Ps. 78 also follows on the theme of remembrance, as with Ps. 76 and 77, where remembering the past (whether positive or negative) leads the reader to find direction for the present and future. This psalm is the second longest after Psalm 119. It recalls the history of God’s dealings with Israel, particularly their deliverance from Egypt (bondage & slavery), their wandering in the desert, God’s leading to the Promised Land, and the appointment of David as king.

Verse 72 alludes to King David (v.70), but ultimately to God’s shepherding of His people (cf. v.52), the nation of Israel.

Throughout my 3 years of studies at bible college, I have also been reflecting and developing my understanding of how a pastor exists in the modern 21st century. Should he/she exists in the church, or in society or in both? I believe that pastors today need to be able to integrate theology and ministry, as well as engage with culture around them.

One cannot focus solely on theology and the Word, without becoming Pharisee-tical, theoretical, over-righteous, academic, high and dry, and irrelevant to the average Christian and society.

One cannot focus solely on ministry and the church, or we will just be fighting fires, addressing felt needs, feeding consumeristic mentalities, leading to shallow discipleship, Christianity-lite or Church-ianity.

One cannot focus solely on culture, without running the risk of becoming so contemporary, so relevant, so sensitive and tolerent to the world and pre-believers, yet to the detriment of totally abandoning the foundations and pillars of the Christian faith, diluting the Word and gospel, becoming no different from a social enterprise, secular company or community club.

There hence needs to be a balanced approach, and an integration and engagement of all 3 components, for one to be fully Bible-based, ministry-oriented, and culturally relevant. This is the challenge that all ministers and pastors face in the 21st century. Thus the tagline for this blog, “Integrating & engaging theology, ministry & culture in the 21st century”.

An excellent classic on preaching in the 20th century (along the lines of what has been discussed) is “Between Two Worlds” (1982) by John Stott. He coined the phrase that every pastor/preacher should go about each day with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, to be in the world but yet not of the world.

Finally, this blog was started in May 2003, as that will always be a significant milestone in my life, as it marks the beginning of my journey into full-time Christian ministry, when I first starting out as a ministry staff in my home church. These past 14+ years have been an arduous, challenging and yet immensely rewarding and fulfilling experience, something that I never regret nor look back on. With God leading and walking beside me all the way, the best place to be in is at the centre of His will and purpose for my life. To God be the glory!

according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Phil. 1.20-21)