Hired Help or Faithful Shepherd?

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Most of us loved to be stroked. We appreciate people who agree with our opinions, do what we ask of them, and don’t challenge us. When faced by some real or imaginary threat, we follow the old western model and “circle the wagons” with the “good guys” (the ones who stroke us) gathered around us ready to repel the “bad guys” (the ones who challenge us).

It’s not a good plan, certainly not a Biblical one. And in spiritual leaders it’s a heinous crime, an affront to all that Jesus taught.

Paul, preaching to the believers in Ephesus, remarked: “Keep watch over yourselves and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, NIV).

He then goes on to say that it is the wolves who come in and destroy the sheep, and distort the truth (20:29).

But it is Paul’s statement in verse 28 that needs to be etched in the minds and on the hearts of all those who would call themselves overseers of the flock.

    1.    They are to watch themselves, to look for whatever might be in them that would turn them into destroyers of the flock as opposed to shepherds of that flock.
    2.    An overseer is called to watch over “all” the flock. Spiritual leaders can’t play favourites or play one sheep, or group of sheep, against another.
    3.    Shepherds protect, feed, nurture, heal, carry the weak and wounded, and firmly guide. (And interestingly, good shepherds don’t need to drive their sheep. The sheep follow their leader (John 10:3-5). Shepherds die for their sheep as opposed to killing their sheep, either literally or figuratively.)

Why? Because these are the sheep the Good Shepherd, Jesus, gave His life for.

A little later in the passage in John 19, Jesus reminds His listeners that the “hired hand” does not fulfill the duties of a true shepherd and because he doesn’t care, he abandons the sheep to their enemies (John 10:12, 13).

Hundreds of books have been written about spiritual leadership. Paul’s formula, based on Jesus’ example, understood and put into practice, would probably have saved a countless number of trees from destruction by making all those books unnecessary. And Paul's formula, understood and put into practice will save a lot of “sheep” in our churches from that same fate.

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