Shepherding the Flock
The Bible gives us so many great illustrations of how God is a Shepherd. We are probably all familiar with Psalm 23 and the picture that is provided there. A few nights ago, I was reading a Psalm 23 board book to my daughter before bed, I was reminded again of the gentleness, compassion, and love with which we are led.
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” (Isaiah 40:11)
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” (John 10: 11,14)
God knows exactly what kind of people we are, we can tend to take on the characteristics of a strong-willed, stubborn child; yet He leads with love. We can break His heart with some of the choices that we make; yet He continues to lead with love. We can become lost and alone; He searches for us and leads with love.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
1 Peter 5:2-4
There is nothing that reminds me of 1 Peter 5:2-4 more than a group of Jr. campers, ages 9-11, getting ready to go on a hike or an overnight backpacking trip. When I was overseeing the backpacking trips and the leaders at the camp I worked at, I would sometimes read this verse as a reminder to the leaders before they headed out on their trip.
I find it interesting that leaders are talked about with the same terminology that God uses for Himself when describing His relationship with us. I think this shows us what He desires and expects from those He calls to lead. It’s a big responsibility!
Peter says we are to shepherd the flock willingly and voluntarily, instead of under compulsion and because we must. It’s amazing how the difference in those to attitudes can greatly affect a leader’s approach to the task of shepherding, or looking after people in general.
A leader who does it just because it’s their job, really only cares about getting the job done, regardless of how their followers did along the way. The leader’s attitude becomes, ‘If I have to, but I’m going to get what I can out of it for me! And my followers are going to know that I really have better things to do’. Nobody wants to be led by that kind of leader and followers begin to feel like they are a burden to the leader!
But a leader who shepherds the flock, because they understand God’s call to shepherding and leading people, is willing to step into that role with a different attitude. They humbly approach their position with eagerness and a willingness to serve; and in turn they are an example to those they lead. Everyone wants this type of person to lead them!
Something I had to remind myself and my leadership students was to view people in light of eternity. “People are eternal; tasks are not!” It can be so easy to get caught up in ‘getting’ people from point A to B, that we don’t take the time to ‘be’ with them on the journey.
Working with and leading people is hard and there is an emotional cost. There is a headache and a heartache that accompanies the task. Some people don’t learn as quick as we’d like them to, some people make poor decisions, some people grow quickly spiritually, others seemingly very slow. It’s not easy, and the role of a shepherd is not to be taken lightly.
I think another thing that we tend to not understand is that being a shepherd was not, and is not, a 9-5 job. It becomes life and a lifestyle. It really becomes a sacrifice of self for the flock; sleeping outdoors in poor weather instead of cozy inside, fending off wild animals that want to attack the flock, and making sure the flock is accounted for and cared for. It is the example that Christ gives with his disciples.
Do we lead in such a way? Do we diligently, willingly, and eagerly shepherd the flocks that God has given us, be it our own children, our congregation, our small groups or other ministries, or even those we lead at work?
Are there any shepherding skills you need to work on this week?
*Originally posted on The Eddy Blog 2016