Summary: This is an ordination sermon I wrote when we accepted 2 deacon couples and a minister as leaders in our church.
HOW SHEEP BECOME SHEPHERDS
Murray had a little lamb…shouldn’t that be Mary? No, my brother Murray once had a lamb named Lambert that was white as snow and terribly cute. But then it grew up. And boy was it the stupidest animal ever. I had heard that sheep were dumb but this one was a prime example of dumbness.
Actually, he was quite the escape artist, always getting out of his pen or enclosure. Trouble was, he wanted desperately to get out and run away, but he always ended up in Murray’s garage, bewildered and lost. He could escape his pen but not the garage.
Sheep are dumb. They wander and stray. They eat things they shouldn’t and put themselves in harms way. And filthy, wow, they roll around in all kinds of garbage. When he was a lamb I enjoyed playing with Lambert; when he got older he was too filthy to touch.
Now you know very well that Jesus refers to us as sheep – you have to wonder about the implications of that metaphor. Are we as dumb as sheep? If the metaphor fits…I suppose there are a few similarities. Isn’t it odd then, that Jesus calls on sheep to be shepherds? In the world of domestic sheep it is highly unlikely that sheep will lead other sheep in an intelligent manner. They would probably mill around thinking someone’s in charge but it isn’t me.
The analogy isn’t perfect. We are His sheep and though we stray like literal sheep, we have a conscious relationship with the Good Shepherd. In this flock sheep do become shepherds or undershepherds to assist the Chief Shepherd. How do sheep become shepherds?
The Apostle Peter wrote these words to some elders of a church, he said: “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who will also share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
For sheep to become shepherds of God’s flock, they must be what Peter describes in his letter:
1. A Willingness To Accept The Call
Peter’s words are simple but express a pastoral heart and carry a serious challenge. A great trust is placed into the hands of human shepherds who are to pattern their lives after the Good Shepherd.
In his words “…not because you must, but because you are willing…” Peter speaks of the reason elders are to serve. There must be a desire, not a sense of compulsion or necessity (because no one else will do it), but because they freely choose to lead. They are not like drafted soldiers, they are volunteers who do not need to be urged to every task, but as running to put their hands to it, delighted at the opportunity.
I will never forget the various responses we received when we called on these candidates and offered them these ministries. Bob and Iris said “yes” right away; Gus and Hilde thought about it for a while; but it was Gary’s response that got me – do you remember – he said, I don’t want to but I will. At first it does not sound like willingness, but that’s because of the humility of this response. Gary did not feel like he was worthy of a title like “minister.” However, the calling he received was greater than his hesitation. He is willing to accept the call. So are the others – in great humility.
2. An Eagerness To Serve
Peter turns quickly from reason to motivation for undershepherds of God’s flock. “…not greedy for money, but eager to serve…”
This may seem a little comical when you think “How is a deacon going to get rich volunteering?” or “How can a minister fleece the sheep?” Okay, that last one has happened too much not to be true – especially in the case of Jim Bakker, whom we will not name here.
Peter is likely recalling Jesus’ words about the difference between a shepherd and a hired hand. A shepherd will stay and protect the sheep when trouble comes while the hired hand runs away. A leader who is eager to serve will not abandon his or her ministry opportunity, whereas the person who is seeking some personal reward will quickly assess the situation and say “forget it.”
When we left Crestview to come to Kleefeld, one lady in the congregation asked me, “So are they paying you more money?” And in fact, there wasn’t more money in coming here. There was only a $1000 difference in salary. What brought us here was a strong belief in God’s call to ministry here.