I am the Good Shepherd. –John 10:11
Jesus is the starting point, the continuing experience, and the finishing point for all pastoral ministry. If a pastor loses a Biblical vision of Jesus the Good Shepherd, then the pastor will certainly be corrupt, in any varying degrees. Presbyterian church government, with its system of church councils, which I believe is the most Biblical type of church government (see Westminster Confession, ch 31, with proof-texts), may have a restraining influence on even the most corrupt pastors–but that can only be an external influence. Pastors need the internal influence of the Spirit of Jesus in their hearts. The closer the pastor is in union with Jesus by faith, then the holier the pastor is, and he is becoming the image of Jesus to the church. So, it becomes absolutely necessary for the pastor to have a solid Biblical Christology in his head; but if not, then he will have nothing Christlike to base his ideas of pastoral imaging, modeling, and ministry.
Even if the pastor has a solid Biblical Christology, and even if the pastor’s hip has been broken by the angel of the Lord (Genesis 32:25), and even if he is trying with all of his might to be like Jesus:–he is still going to err, sin, offend, and come up short. No pastor is perfect, but a Christ-imitating pastor is better than thousands of others who don’t take this approach. No pastor will ever be the Good Shepherd, but any pastor who wants to imitate Him, and ask “What Would Jesus Do?” in this pastoral ministry issue, is better than ten thousand pastors who are not as Christ-minded in their ministerial duties. At the very least, the pastor who strives to imitate Jesus Christ with all of his might, will likely keep himself from the scandals, and major sins, that sometimes become the downfall of pastors–embezzlements, adulteries, power trips, spiritual abuse, etc. Any pastor who is well studied in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–and who is well versed in how Jesus behaved in these four Gospels–is leaps and bounds ahead of all the other pastors in his city, provided that he is imitating Him (1 Cor. 11:1). Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ comes to mind.
But if the pastor is not imitating Jesus, then he will be spiritually abusive, one way or another. How many thousands of souls would be preserved from the countless emotional heartaches that abusive pastors have caused their congregants, had they just imitated Jesus in their ministry activities? Ronald Enroth’s Churches That Abuse details what pastoral abuse looks like; the paths of thought that are taken in the name of pastoral ministry, when pastors turn their eyes away from the Biblical Jesus, and start following their own theology of ministry (especially the kind of authoritarianism found in John Bevere’s Under Cover, Section 3). JESUS IS THE GOOD SHEPHERD! He is the one, in the four Gospels, that pastors should be basing their pastoral theology and ministry on! JESUS! He said “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). Not harm them!