Card-carrying Christians can sometimes embrace the biblical allusion to themselves as “sheep”.
Other times, they rebel against it. Embraced are the comforting words in Psalm 23, “The Lord is
my shepherd, I shall not want…”. The notion of God as supplier of all our wants is comforting to
most Christians. Not so embraced, however, are the convicting words of Isaiah 53:6, “All we like
sheep have gone astray…” While that may ring true, it doesn’t go down as easily.
Sheep are puzzling creatures! They are defenseless, afraid of rippling water, can be frightened
into having a heart attack, have been known to follow each other over a cliff, are smelly, dirty,
and certainly are not the smartest of all animals. Sheep seem to be lost without a shepherd.
Is There a Mission to Shepherds?
Last week, I had the privilege of being invited as a guest teacher at 2 nd Adam Church in Lahore,
Pakistan – Zoomwise, of course. Pastor Usman Raza asked me, “We talk about ministering to
people outside the Church, but don’t we also have a mission to church shepherds (pastors)?”
My answer was something in the order of, “There is no glory in being a shepherd. Our most
visible churches often appear to be in it for the glory! Shepherds are tough to find. They have
low public profiles and tend to minister in uncomfortable places to uncomfortable people. They
likely subscribe to a process of dying to self in order to live for Christ.” I suspect that most
upwardly-mobile Christians would fail to be attracted to hospice care of pastors in the throes of
dying to self. This led me to begin thinking more about sheep and shepherding.
“As Sheep in the Midst of Wolves”:
Two things stood out to me. The first was Matt 10:16, where Jesus is sending out His disciples to
preach the kingdom of God as being “at hand” and to perform certain miracles: “…I am sending
you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
The second was a passage from 1 Peter 5:
I exhort the elders among you (to)…shepherd the flock of God, not under any
compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God, and not for sordid gain,
but with eagerness; not lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving
to be examples to the flock.
The biblical metaphor for a shepherd, then, is someone, male or female, who serves a God-
allotted “flock” among “wolves”, without compulsion or excess financial reward. This is a
person who has put himself at risk for no other reason than service to God. Finding such people
is rare, because they serve in places and under circumstances we don’t find supportive of our
own ambitions. One would have to go looking for them; right?
I’m not certain how much help I, as a privileged white American male, might be to such a
person, or whether, provided such folks can be found, I am more in need of being ministered to
than of ministering. Church shepherds are dying to self in order to live for Christ. Is there room
for us wannabees in such a self-abandoning construct?