Pastoral Apologies – hypothetically speaking
Let’s say a hypothetical mega-pastor/author is accused of plagiarizing material. Let’s also assume that there was no willful plagiarism, but the material still was not properly attributed to the original author. Which of these responses sound more pastoral to you?
A: “I wrote a book. It contained things I didn’t write and didn’t give credit for. My mistake. I’ll fix it.”
B: “I didn’t make any mistakes. The researcher I paid to look things up for me is the one who blew it. Next time he should do better.”
A: “The company that originally published the material that I later used in my book says I did not cite it properly. I will do so in future editions.”
B: “My publisher told me failing to properly cite the material meets their standards for books they sell. Since my publisher is satisfied, that means the publisher of the materials I used without giving proper credit is wrong.”
A: “I am very glad someone pointed this out to me so I can correct the errors, and only wish I’d realized the mistakes sooner so I could have taken care of them already.”
B: “The person who pointed out the material to me did it in a way that I don’t approve of. Look how wrong she is.”
And so I ask again, which of the responses in those couplets sounds more pastoral to you, more nurturing for the sheep of God’s church?
The Importance of Pastoral Care
The Bible has strong words for those who breech the pastoral trust God has given them:
This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock!
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, … because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. (Ezekiel 34:2-3, 8-10.)
There’s good news for the sheep, of course, and for those plundering shepherds too. God promised One Shepherd who would watch over God’s people.
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. (Ezekiel 34:23.)
Jesus is that Shepherd, the Good Shepherd born to a line that goes back to David – the shepherd called to be king of Israel. Now Jesus is the Shepherd King of all God’s people.
I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not come of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16.)
So I’ll ask that question again. Which responses glorify Jesus? Which of them are expressions of pastoral care?
After all, even mega-church pastors/authors are supposed to be pastoral.