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CEO stands for “chief executive officer” and usually designates the person who is at the top of the organization’s flowchart. Those who occupy that office frequently exhibit a top-down mindset, where everyone below them is only in that position to serve the CEO.
This may work well in the corporate world, but this is not at all the heart Jesus demonstrates toward us. Therefore, it shouldn’t be the mindset or practice of Christ’s under-shepherds—those whom He has called to pastor His sheep. The sheep aren’t in the pasture to serve the shepherd, but the shepherd is in the pasture to serve the sheep and to provide what they need to be healthy.
Check out this conversation I had when I joined a pastoral staff that is using my book Shepherd Leadership as a study guide.
Jesus was confident in who He was and what His Father’s plan was: “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God” (John 13:3 NLT).
Yet Jesus also said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NLT).
If you are a pastor, you have been charged with caring for the sheep under your care, and not the other way around—
Tend (nurture, guard, guide, and fold) the flock of God that is your responsibility, not by coercion or constraint, but willingly; not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits belonging to the office, but eagerly and cheerfully; not domineering—as arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing persons—over those in your charge, but being examples (patterns and models of Christian living) to the flock (the congregation). (1 Peter 5:2-3 AMP)
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C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” Truly there is a special bond when we find someone who “gets” us—someone who not only knows what we’re feeling, but how to help us too.
This is wonderful news for all of us! But isn’t it also comforting when we have a human companion that “gets” us too? One that will come alongside us through the challenging and painful times to help us?
In His love for His sheep, Jesus has given us under-shepherds. These are sheep that He has called and equipped to care for His flock. He did this with David—
He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:70-72)
David never forgot that his source of strength was the Chief Shepherd, and he penned a beautiful psalm of praise and reliance on Him (Psalm 23). David also made it a priority to point the sheep under his care to the Chief Shepherd. He prayed:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:7-9)
David “got” the needs of the sheep and with skill and integrity he both shepherded them as he was strengthened by the Chief Shepherd, and he entrusted them into the care of the Chief Shepherd.
In the foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership, Dick Brogden wrote, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants.”
If you have been called by the Chief Shepherd to be an under-shepherd, make sure you remain a sheepish shepherd—one that “gets” his or her sheep. Don’t be distant from the flock, but stay close by them in the pasture so that you can care for them, pray for them, and lead them to the Chief Shepherd.
I adapted David’s beautiful 23rd Psalm into a prayer that I hope all under-shepherds will use to gain the strength they need for the work to which the Chief Shepherd has called them—
BecauseYou are my Chief Shepherd, I lack nothing that is needed to care for the sheep You have placed under my care.
Just as You provide food for me in green pastures, and quiet waters for my thirst, I am equipped to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty.
You continually refresh my soul, so I can offer refreshing hospitality to those who have been beat up along life’s journey.
You guide me along the right paths for Your name’s sake, so I can show others the path into Your presence.
Even when I walk through the darkest valleys, I never fear because You are with me; You comfort me and provide all that I need so that I can care for the sick, the downhearted, and the weary without ever lapsing into my own pity party.
You continually prepare a table before me, even when I’m in the midst of enemies. You have anointed my head with oil and caused my cup of blessing to overflow, so I have more than enough to share with others.
I am secure that Your goodness and Your love will follow me all the days of my life, so I am equipped to lead others to the place where they too will dwell in Your house forever.
T.M. Moore has given pastors a phenomenal training resource in Shepherding God’s Flock. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here.
“The work of church leaders today—and especially of that class of leaders called elders, with which this study is concerned—has been shaped and conditioned more by the temper of our times than by the teaching of God’s Word.”
“According to Paul, any church that does not have in place elders—and other leaders working with them—who are functioning as shepherds is a church that is not in order.… A church without a strong ministry of shepherding is a flock without genuine pastoral care, oversight, and equipping. It may be very active, even happy, and may be ‘growing’ in what some consider impressive ways. But without shepherding as the framework and integrating dynamic, such a church will always be something less than what God intends.”
“Where the work of shepherding is being faithfully pursued, the gospel goes forth with power, lost sheep are located, and the flocks of God grow as He adds new souls to the fold.”
“Where faithful shepherds are at work, the Lord’s sheep will be well fed. Both milk and the meat of the Word will be their daily diet, according to the needs and callings of each. Well-fed sheep are healthy, strong, and fruitful in their own contributions.”
“The work of shepherding begins in relationships of mutual love and trust, spiritual friendships where sheep and shepherd know, love, and care about one another.”
“Only when the people feel known and loved, and only when they know and love those who are called to lead them—only then will they be willing to follow where the shepherds of the church are seeking to take them.”
“In the Christian life, people tend to live up to or achieve, not the level of their abilities, for their abilities are virtually limitless, given the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Rather, they tend to live up to the level of their vision—of what they see for their lives in Christ. Unless we are leading them into God’s vision for their lives, the people of God will settle for something less than the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
“When temptation arises we can follow one of two courses. Either we will fall through temptation into sin, or we will grow through temptation into a higher stage of sanctification. … The shepherd’s task is twofold: first, he must help the Lord’s sheep to recognize temptation, by grounding them firmly in the law and Word of God; second, he must equip and encourage them in finding the way of escape from temptation, so that they may grow as the Lord intends.”
“Jesus’ approach to bearing witness was thus energetic, proactive, continuous, compassionate, and pioneering. Should we expect anything less from the shepherds He has left to bring other lost sheep into His fold?”
T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources.
Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care.
Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards.
As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.”
When I worked in the business field, I was invited to be a teacher for a program called GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), where I taught a class on marketing. Then later on, I served as a reviewer as the students turned in their marketing plans.
One of the main points I tried to drive home to my students is a basic Marketing 101 principle which says—you can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick a niche market and then try to dominate that market. There are two general ideas here: (1) Make your product or service pricey and therefore exclusive to a select group, or (2) Make your product or service affordable and accessible for the mass market.
The Incarnation of Jesus totally violates this Marketing 101 principle. (Which goes to show you that God knows more than all the world’s so-called “experts”!)
First, there was a marketing message to shepherds (see Luke 2:8-11). This would have been the “mass market” as shepherds represented the every-day, working-class man. The first two verses of The First Noël carol addresses these “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.”
But then there is this appearance of a very exclusive group of Magi (see Matthew 2:1-2, 11). These men were highly educated and had gained great influence and affluence. Verse 3 of The First Noël references these “wise men…from country far” who could present such lavish gifts to Jesus.
God did exactly what I told my GROW students they shouldn’t do if they wanted to be successful!
The Incarnation of Jesus is one of those rarest of rare things that actually can be all things to all people! Why? Because ALL people need what the Incarnation of Jesus brings. That’s why the final verse of The First Noël calls for ALL of us to join in singing our praise to God because of the salvation Jesus had purchased for ALL mankind.
…and the penalty for that straying from God is death for ALL sinners (Romans 6:23).
But Jesus came to ransom ALL from that penalty (Mark 10:45)…
…so that ALL who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 3:22)!
“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’ So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical Advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal Advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.” —John Piper
You have been rescued, now go be a rescuer. Take this Noël message to ALL … young/old, rich/poor, Black/white, educated/illiterate, healthy/sick, friend/enemy…. the message in the First Noël and every Noël is for everyone!
I don’t think anyone who has studied the New Testament would argue that Paul was a premier pastor, evangelist and missionary. In his farewell address to the elders from Ephesus, Paul used his life as an example—“you know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:18).
Pastoring is not for the faint of heart. Nor those easily offended. Nor those lacking in patience…. You get the idea!
John Chrysostom (347-407) gave this counsel to pastors—
“Thus then must the Priest behave towards those in his charge, as a father would behave to his very young children; and as such are not disturbed either by their insults or their blows, or their lamentations, nor even if they laugh and rejoice with us, do we take much account of it; so should we neither be puffed up by the promises of these persons nor cast down at their censure, when it comes from them unseasonably.”
The Bible tells fathers not to irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, Amplified Bible)
Instead we should follow the example of Jesus, the Great Shepherd—
When He saw the throngs, He was moved with pity and sympathy for them, because they were bewildered (harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless), like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36, Amplified Bible)
Ask our Shepherd to give you His patience, and compassion, and tenderness, and wisdom to carry His sheep in your arms. After all, it’s His flock that we’ve been given the privilege and responsibility to care for!
“I am afraid of the pastor that is another man when he enters the pulpit from what he was before. Reverend, you should never think a thought or do a deed or be caught in any situation that you couldn’t carry into the pulpit with you without embarrassment. You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit. You should be able to enter the pulpit with the same spirit and the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life.” —A.W. Tozer
My dear fellow pastor, our congregations want a pastor-shepherd who is authentic, not plastic. One who is real and approachable, not high-and-mighty. One who is a tour guide on the journey with them, not a travel agent that stays behind. One who is the same in the pulpit, in the restaurant, on the ball field, in the “unguarded” moments.