For sheep who are stepping forward as shepherds
Here are tips and encouragement for sheep who are stepping forward as shepherds.
God’s word urges us to grow into maturity in Christ:
….until we every one (in the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God) grow up to be perfect in the maturity of the fullness of Christ; so that we henceforth would no longer be children, wavering and carried with every wind of doctrine by the wiliness of men, and craftiness whereby they lay in wait for us, to deceive us. (Eph 4:13-14)
The Matthew Bible says:
Rom 16:19 – “your duty to listen extends to all men”
The Matthew Bible note on Romans 16:19 says:
Paul would have the lay people to be learned, able to judge the prophets [pastors, priests, teachers], and to heed them only according to true knowledge.
Authority and responsibility must always be equally balanced.
Shepherds must not become so focused on preserving their authority that they neglect their responsibility to serve the sheep. If shepherds become puffed up with the authority they have been accorded by the sheep, they effectively become hirelings and wolves-by-proxy. (If you want to know what I mean by ‘hirelings’ and ‘wolves’ and ‘wolves-by-proxy’, follow the links I’ve given at the bottom of this post.)
The Matthew Bible says:
1 Tim 3:1 This is a true saying: if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.
The Matthew Bible note on 1 Timothy 3:1 says:
A bishop is as much as to say one who sees to things, who watches over: an overseer. When he desires to feed Christ’s flock with the food of health – that is, with his holy word, as the bishops did in Paul’s time – he desires a good work and the very office of a bishop. But he who desires honour, looks for personal advantage, is greedy for great revenues; who seeks pre-eminence, pomp, dominion; who wants more than enough of everything, rest and his heart’s ease, castles, parks, lordships, earldoms, etc. – such a man does not desire to work, much less to do good work, and is anything but a bishop as Saint Paul here understands a bishop.
What is the task of ministry? What is the job description of a shepherd?
Augustine (A.D. 354–430) was bishop of Hippo (in modern day Algeria) as the Roman Empire was collapsing. He is best known for his writings about theology (City of God) and Christian living (Confessions). In one of his sermons, he clearly outlined the challenging task of ministry:
“Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low-spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, litigants pacified, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved.”
—Augustine, Sermon CCIX (source)
Good shepherds are often unpopular. No wonder! Part of their task is to restrain the contentious, rebuke the disturbers, confute the objectors, repress the haughty, and liberate the ones who the haughty are oppressing.
Jesus – the chief shepherd – was unpopular in his day and ended up being killed for what he said. Jeremiah’s ministry was also unpopular. If you are trying be a good under-shepherd by standing against injustice, and especially if you are being disregarded by the institutional church, you might identify with how Jeremiah cried out to the Lord: —
You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived.
You seized me and prevailed.
I am a laughingstock all the time;
everyone ridicules me.
For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I proclaim, “Violence and destruction!”
because the word of the Lord has become for me
constant disgrace and derision.
If I say, “I won’t mention Him
or speak any longer in His name,”
His message becomes a fire burning in my heart,
shut up in my bones.
I become tired of holding it in,
and I cannot prevail.
For I have heard the gossip of many people,
“Terror is on every side!
Report him; let’s report him!”
Everyone I trusted watches for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived
so that we might prevail against him
and take our vengeance on him.”
But the Lord is with me like a violent warrior.
Therefore, my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
Since they have not succeeded, they will be utterly shamed,
an everlasting humiliation that will never be forgotten.
Lord of Hosts, testing the righteous
and seeing the heart and mind,
let me see Your vengeance on them,
for I have presented my case to You.
Sing to the Lord!
Praise the Lord,
for He rescues the life of the needy
from the hand of evil people.
May the day I was born
May the day my mother bore me
never be blessed.
May the man be cursed
who brought the news to my father, saying,
“A male child is born to you,”
bringing him great joy.
Let that man be like the cities
the Lord demolished without compassion.
Let him hear an outcry in the morning
and a war cry at noontime
because he didn’t kill me in the womb
so that my mother might have been my grave,
her womb eternally pregnant.
Why did I come out of the womb
to see only struggle and sorrow,
to end my life in shame?
(Jer 20:7-18, HCSB)