One metaphor used throughout the Scriptures is that of a shepherd with his sheep. God is the wonderful, loving, ever watchful Shepherd who jealously cares for his flock. As such, God is faithful to guide, feed, nurture, love, disciple, and protect his church. Perhaps, his passionate commitment is best summarized in John 10 where he states, “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Without reservation, the Shepherd gives his all to secure blessings beyond number for his flock. David presents the joy of being shepherded by God, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Friends, do you know the Shepherd? If not, please make contact with me; I would love to introduce him to you.
Well, back to our devotional thought for the day. Jesus, as the Chief Shepherd, has chosen in his wisdom to ordain under-shepherds who will care for men’s souls on his behalf. These under-shepherds are found under many titles including, pastor, preacher, bishop, reverend, elder, apostle, overseer, presbyter, priest, shepherd or minister. However, one should be less concerned about the title and more concerned about the job description. It is true that ministry in the church can be like employment in the business sector. In both realms, many can be found who desire the job, desk, office, title, perks, prestige and paycheck, but not the work. Such an attitude is less than desirable in the business sector. Such an attitutde is damnable and dangerous in the church. Why would I say this? Perhaps the following passage from Ezekiel will prove my point.
Ezekiel 34:1-10 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.
Therefore, what ought we to do with this revelation from God?
Ministers and elders, be honored by the internal calling of the Holy Spirit and the external calling of men and women in the church. Represent Christ well through your character and your work ethic. Many of you, especially those in presbyterian denominations, have taken vows before God and man. Keep you word and labor hard. And when, like me, you find yourself hopelessly despairing and ready for retirement, find the Chief Shepherd. He never fails his flock, and he will take care of all his sheep — including you and me. Everyday, find yourself close to Christ before you represent him. It is only as you stay connected to the vine that you will be able to provide excellent pastoral care for all those he has placed under your care.
Husbands and parents, I have a thought for you as well. While you may not have been called to formal ministry in a local church, you have been called to shepherd those under your leadership. Your household is your parish, and the Lord expects the same level of work ethic and commitment from you. How are you doing as a priest or priestess in your home?
Finally, a word to all Christians. Your Savior and Lord has stated his desire; he wishes for all his children to find their place in local church families under spiritual fathers. Yes, there is the invisible church which transcends time, geography, ethnicity and denomination. But Scripture also presents the need for local churches to be established under the leadership of godly men. Are you following the leadership of the Good Shepherd by taking advantage of the leadership of under-shepherds? If so, are you making it easy for your burdened leaders? Are you worshiping with them regularly? Are you available when they call, transparent when they talk, and submissive to the counsel of the session? Additionally, are you praying diligently for your church fathers. They do not have what it takes to naturally shepherd you well, but through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, they can shepherd you well. Pray without ceasing for your church fathers. And finally, whatever you do, never confuse the Chief Shepherd with your under-shepherd. They will fail you; he never will; that is why their number one job is to point you to him every single day.