God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20).
More than a dozen years ago I tried to initiate a slogan to describe my desire for the people for whom God made me responsible. That slogan was, Bible Fed and Spirit Led. If we would be Bible fed and spirit led, we would enjoy the abundance of life that Jesus Christ came to make available.
One of God’s favorite metaphors in the Bible is that of a shepherd. God describes Himself as a shepherd and he trained people to lead his people in pastures. Abel kept flocks. Abraham and Job amassed enormous amounts of sheep and goats. Moses and David, two major leaders of the Old Testament, were both trained for leadership in the pasture with a flock.
When the Old Testament prophets began speaking, they spoke against the negligent shepherds of their generation and predicted a time when a greater Shepherd would emerge. Of course, Jesus was that good shepherd. He described his mission to seek and save the lost sleep (Luke 19:10) and reach out and claim the sheep that were not part of his flock. The church and pastoral epistles addressed to us call pastors to feed and lead the flock. They contain the necessary instruction to equip them to fed and to lead.
Finally, as the Bible closes in revelation with God’s people fed and led:
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
In my perusal of scripture, I’ve found the two major responsibilities of God’s shepherds or pastors are to feed the flock and lead the flock. God loves the idea of a good shepherd and a good flock and will go to great extents to provide them.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Feeding the flock:
One of my favorite accounts in Acts is Paul’s leaders meeting in Acts 20. The apostle had some final words to share with the elders so he summoned them to meet with him before moving on from Ephesus. Many of these elders who had traveled considerable distances to see him one last time. In this tearful parting, Paul challenged them to keep watch over themselves and the flocks over which God had placed them. Paul had declared all the counsel of God to them and challenged them to do the same for their flocks.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Leading the flock:
While God wants His shepherds to feed the flock effectively, He also calls them to lead them specifically. This requires hearing from God and walking out on what He says. One leads a flock by walking ahead of it. Again Acts 16 shows how Paul led and peopled followed.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. 11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
To feed and lead the shepherd or pastor must be with his people. The closeness of their presence brings security and strength to the flock. He carefully feeds the sheep and strategically leads them. While a pastor cannot remain always in sight, he must use his time well and not avoid those entrusted to his care. Without a shepherd, the flock is prone to wander. God grant us grace to feed and lead our flocks as He directs.