Considering sheep as an animal helps pastors understand much about God’s instruction to us as we shepherd His flock. One main reality that is continually driven home to my heart is the reality that sheep are most of the time very timid and easily frightened. Because of this, I believe Peter understands the need to admonish Elder/Teacher/Pastor/Shepherds to consider the kindness of the Great Shepherd when tending to His sheep. Often times Pastors consult with other pastors and one thing leads to another and the realm of oversight of the flock becomes an “us” vs. “them” battle whereby the shepherds begin to feel like they alone are wise and the sheep are all rebellious herds railing toward destruction and must be beaten into submission. All to well, those of us who have pastored for any length of time understand that this mindset is easy to allow to settle within and also would readily admit that we have damaged some sheep because of it. So, I want to take just a moment to share a fresh remembrance out of our Elder training today from 1 and 2 Peter.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:1-5, ESV)
As we closed with this passage, it became very apparent the reflection of oversight was governed by the gentleness of the Chief Shepherd who lays His life down for the sheep. The good shepherd, as should the pastor, provides comfort, protection, food, hope, grace, and humility to the flock of Christ and therefore reflect the power of God in the Gospel. Even when rebuke and correction is required, it should be done, toward the sheep, in a gentle and corrective manner, not a condemning manner. It appears that most believers are intimidated by the Pastor, mainly because the pulpit is so protected and bold and “up there.” But, the demeanor of the preacher should not be bold and ruling when down from the platform, but gentle and eager to hear and lead.
Sadly, I have failed in this area more than I would like to admit, but God is faithful and gracious and if nothing else, in my error, I can lead other men to right shepherding and save the pain of shearing the sheep to closely with the blade of correction. Pastors sometimes feel that they must “make the sheep see”. But everyone knows it is not the mouth that opens the ears and eyes, but the Word sent by the Spirit that makes men see and believe and walk upright before the Lord.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV)
Peter is clear that the instruction of God is not myth but a proclamation of what they had witnessed. However, it is not the experience of witnesses that matter to the fullest, but the sovereign word of the living God that creates the testimony of God through Jesus Christ. Peter explains that their witness is to that which the Word indeed pointed, so that the word of the Lord will indeed to all that it was intended to do. So, when shepherding, do so in a loving manner because the scripture will be harsh enough as it says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
So, just as before in answering the question, “What Should a Pastor Really Be Doing?“, I would make sure that the “how” a pastor does what he does in regard to the sheep is in a gentle and humble spirit.
For His Glory by His Grace,