A Shepherd’s Work
Last Sunday I spoke about the three distinctives that set apart the “good” shepherd from the hired man and the mediocre, self oriented shepherd.
The distinctives are: 1) The good Shepherd IS the door; 2) The good Shepherd KNOWS his sheep; and 3) The good Shepherd LEADS his sheep
These distinctives not only make clear that good shepherding is much more than doing a job. It also sets the framework of what the good shepherd does. It lays the foundation for a job description based on the needs of sheep in a world that is sometimes hostile and often ambivalent. It comes down quite simply to a single truth: Sheep need care and protection.
The Shepherd’s work is necessary because sheep live in a hazard filled world
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. 12 The worker who is paid to keep the sheep is different from the shepherd who owns them. When the worker sees a wolf coming, he runs away and leaves the sheep alone. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.
Sheep need a shepherd to protect them from the world
There are many dangerous destroyers of life.
There are wolves, bears, lions, panthers, and wildcats.
There are life damaging diseases. Scabbies is a skin ailment that destroys the sheep with an itching rash.
There are thieves and robbers who come into the sheepfold to steal and use.
There are flash floods, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hailstorms, snow blizzards, hot summers, dry periods without any rain.
All of these things conspire to take away life or to reduce it to bare survival.
Shepherd carried several bits of equipment.
There was the shepherd’s rod or club that was used to defend against wild animals and to drive them off.
The staff or walking stick that was used to nudge and guide the sheep.
He also carried a sling. Two leather strips connected by a pouch in which a stone the size of a marble or even a little larger was place. Grasping the leather strips firmly he would spin the rock in the pouch over his head and then with a lunge forward he would release one of the leather strips and the rock would be sent at tremendous speeds with killing power at whatever he aimed at.
Shepherds would practice for hours and were so good that they could hit a specific rock on the ground or a branch in a tree from a great distance.
They carried a bag with food for themselves and a sheep that was sick. They carried oil to pour on the scabbies of the sick animals.
They also often carried a flute or a lyre to make music at night or during the long days while the sheep grazed.
Everything they carried and everything they did had a single focus – the protection and comfort of the sheep
The world we live in isn’t much different
There are many dangers in this world that we face daily. There are false teachers who bring life destroying philosophies clothed in the robes of intellect, reason, and value.
We live in a world of relativism where there are no absolutes. We live in a place where the existential moment of our present feelings matter, the past events are irrelevant, and future potentials aren’t even on the radar screen. We live in a time when the cry for tolerance is great and the damnation for right and wrong is even greater.
We live in a world filled with hypocrisies like laws against hate crimes and punishing murder with an average of 7 years behind bars. Where an executive in a corporation can “cook” the books to make the company look more profitable and be sent to prison for 24 years while a “Martha Stewart” can be the beneficiary of insider trading and complain about a 5 month sentence as being too harsh.
We live in a world where cancer lurks behind every tumor and every cyst. We live in a place where there is Alzheimer’s and arthritis combine to make old age a scary time. We deal with aches, pains, and rickety knees.
Our world has layoff’s, divorce, drug abuse, and angry young teenagers wearing black nail polish and studded dog collars.
This is a scary place we live in. To live in it well we need to have faith in the one who is the good shepherd and those who serve as his “under shepherds”
It is the loving, caring, compassion of a guiding shepherd that gives us the ability to keep on keeping on in this old world
D Hansen writes in “The Power of Loving Your Church” that
What Kills Faith
“What kills faith is not so much that people go through the valley of the shadow of death; it is that during and after their suffering they never felt God’s rod and staff comforting them. God is the great Shepherd, and we are his rod and his staff.”
The work of the elders in a church and the work of the pastors is to protect and keep the sheep from the dangers of the world.
In Marquette a couple came into the church through a home group and began to teach a false doctrine that demanded a particular activity.
I met with them privately and let them know that what they were teaching was not a matter of salvation but of personal conviction. They were welcome to stay but to stop teaching this doctrine as a matter of salvation. I never saw them in church again.
The Sheep trust the shepherd to protect them
The Shepherd’s work is difficult because he works with sheep
25 Jesus answered, “I told you already, but you did not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name show who I am. 26 But you don’t believe, because you are not my sheep.
A shepherd has some influence but little control
Sheep are not easy animals to work with
They are passive and helpless.
They are “prone to wander” as John Wesley said.
They are easily upset and made to panic
They are sometimes grumpy, sensitive, irritable, and they will bite.
I believe Jesus chose sheep as an analogy for people with good reason.
Carpenter vs. Shepherd
With tools like saws and routers, a cabinetmaker directly and immediately molds his product to conform to his vision. There is no delay between the push of the circular saw and the cut of the board, and if he pushes the saw to the left, it goes to the left. If he wants a half-inch-wide groove along the lower edge of the board, he uses a router or chisel to make one. Because the tools and wood have no life or will of their own, the results of the cabinetmaker’s work are primarily a function of his skill and diligence. In other words, a cabinetmaker enjoys almost complete control.
A shepherd, on the other hand, has influence but no real control. He works in partnership with a host of other forces, resources, and living things: soil, sun, pastureland, weather, pests, and, ultimately, God. Because he deals with living things, a farmer cannot directly shape the animals. And because living things require time to grow, a shepherd must wait patiently for the process to be completed.
He has the authority of God and the responsibility for men and women’s souls.
Control is not really a desired outcome. Personal growth and individual development is the desired outcome. The church is not the “Borg” with all of us assimilated into one mindless mass of humankind. God made us individually with great differences and tremendous personal potential.
That’s why a healthy church is a bit chaotic and a
always entertaining! You never know what is going to happen next and sometimes you don’t even know who is in charge.
Rod Darrah and his company. “Who is in charge?” Answer: “Who’s got the best idea?”
Being the shepherd of the flock isn’t like being in charge – it’s more like trying to herd cats! – Oops, I mean – sheep!
In the 70’s 80’s there was a discipleship movement involving accountability. It was hierarchal in structure. At the top were 5 shepherds – each accountable to one another. Each of these men, (Derek Prince, Bob Mumford are two names I know) were over others who in turn were over others.
The ultimate desire gave way to control. Sheep in this system were required to pay a tithe. They were expected and told where and when they would minister to others. The single men and women were expected to ask permission to date another.
What come from this eventually was abuse and terrible spiritual damage – because no one ever released control. They kept it and eventually hurt the sheep. The only one I know that apologized for his part in the whole movement was Bob Mumford.
A shepherd builds his work on trust and then teaches in both his life and his words how to follow the good shepherd and the sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice.
The Shepherd’s work is valuable beyond measure and immeasurable to mortal eyes
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never die, and no one can steal them out of my hand. 29 My Father gave my sheep to me. He is greater than all, and no person can steal my sheep out of my Father’s hand.
It is built on leadership
Much is said about meeting needs. Consumerism drives much of our world. Living to satisfy needs can get you into a host of troubles. It can justify stealing a little cash to tide you over. It can justify a little sex with the wrong person. It can justify the booze that makes you feel good – for a moment. It can justify the manipulation of truth to get a better job or a raise.
Sheep will eat their pastures down to the roots and destroy the land forever all to satisfy their needs. On the other hand a shepherd will lead the sheep to green pastures and still waters – even when the sheep are unaware of the problems and dangers they face.
A shepherd must build the church on leadership not on needs. It is about leadership. Everything rises and falls on Godly leadership.
But this is sometimes difficult to understand and hard to see when the need is so insistent.
There is so much to gain but so little to be seen
The Sheep follow the shepherd’s lead, who follow the Good Shepherds lead gain eternal life! They will never die and no one can steal them out of God’s hand.
But can you see that? Do numbers tell the story? What is the worth of all that work?
The shepherd does the work and let’s God be the judge of his efforts – not man.
The Shepherd’s work is valuable beyond measure and immeasurable to mortal eyes
1 All of you people in faraway places, listen to me. Listen, all you nations far away. Before I was born, the Lord called me to serve him. The Lord named me while I was still in my mother’s body.
2 He made my tongue like a sharp sword. He hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me like a sharp arrow. He hid me in the holder for his arrows. 3 He told me, “Israel, you are my servant. I will show my glory through you.”
4 But I said, “I have worked hard for nothing; I have used all my power, but I did nothing useful. But the Lord will decide what my work is worth; God will decide my reward.”
The worth of the work is measured in the soul of one person who follows Jesus
A good shepherd and a good flock
7 Remember your leaders who taught God’s message to you. Remember how they lived and died, and copy their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
To the shepherd I say: Do the work and do not grow weary
To be a dutiful under–shepherd is, in another view, to be a faithful sheep, following the Chief Shepherd whithersoever He goes. Pastors are not lords over God’s heritage, but mere servants of Christ, the great Head of the Church, bound to regard His will as their law, and His life as their model. In the scene by the lake Jesus took pains to make His disciples understand this. He did not allow them to suppose that, in committing to their pastoral charge His flock, He was abdicating His position as Shepherd and Bishop of souls. Having said to Peter, “Feed my lambs,” “ Feed my sheep,” He said to him, as His final word, “Follow me.”
To the sheep I say: Determine well who will be your shepherd and then trust him, listen to his voice, and follow his lead
You will gain eternal life and enjoy God’s peace.