Have you ever stopped to think about the metaphors that God uses in the Bible? He uses a lot of them. For example, living the Christian life is described as “a walk” (Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; 1 Jn. 2:6). False teachers are described as wolves—an apt description (Lk. 10:3; Acts 20:29). Scripture is full of metaphors. Jesus’ speech was full of metaphors, similes, parables, and similar descriptive language. One biblical metaphor is that of the pastor as shepherd (Jn. 10; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 5:2). It’s a metaphor that is very helpful for instructing pastors in the practice of biblical humility. Real shepherds are rarely famous people (King David would be an exception). Real shepherds are seldom-famous people. The task of shepherding is humble work, hard work, dirty work, constant work, dangerous work, and definitely not high-minded work. Perhaps that’s why God chose to describe those who pastor His people as shepherds. The very definition of a shepherd demands humility. A proud shepherd is a contradiction in terms, a violation of God’s plan, and a disgrace to the ministry.
A Shepherd is Focused Upon his Sheep, Not Himself.
The shepherd’s task is the care and protection of his sheep. When we read of David, an exemplary shepherd, taking on a bear and lion in the defense of his sheep, we get an idea of the devotion he had to his task. If I saw a lion looking for lunch in my flock, I would probably make sure that I outran my sheep in getting away from the devourer. Maybe that’s why so many pastors up and leave their churches when the going gets tough. Cherishing creature comforts, a good salary, a better area, or nicer sheep is all the motivation that some pastors need to find a new pastor post. Such vacillation doesn’t reflect the kind of dogged determination that one pastor missionary demonstrated in his church-planting career: “With countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received…forty lashes…three times I was beaten…once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked…in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure…” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).
A Shepherd Feeds His People from the Word, Not His Own Imagination.
One way in which shepherds can become proud is by feeding their people from their own imagination. We must recognize that the only legitimate source of nourishment for the sheep is the Word of God. Anything else is junk food. Junk. Food. It malnourishes. It contributes to sickliness. It makes them vulnerable to the ravages of diseases. It makes them easy prey for the devouring wolves. Only the Word can strengthen, nourish, and provide. Unfortunately, some shepherds think that their weekly routine of one-liners, warm-and-fuzzies, plus a smattering of prooftexts (for good measure), will suffice to feed the sheep. Not going to happen. Besides malnourishing the precious sheep, such unpalatable fare is contributing to the shepherd’s arrogance.
A Shepherd is an Undershepherd, Not the Chief Shepherd.
Although God has gifted the church with pastors (Eph. 4:11), he has also identified One Man as the True Shepherd. That is Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:25; Heb. 13:20; Rev. 7:17). Jesus is the Exemplary Shepherd. What kind of example does He provide for us? An example of absolute humility (Phil. 2:1-10). There is no room for pride in following the pattern of Christ. Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” one of the most humiliating forms of punishment known to mankind (Phil. 2:8). Pastor, Shepherd, how does Christ’s humility, the Chief Shepherd compare to your humility? Is yours the humility-to-the-point-of-death? The lovableness of sheep is not the arbiter of our humility or service. Rather it should be the teaching of Scripture, grace from God, and the example of Christ that can sustain the pastor in His shepherding role. Keep in mind Sharefaith’s role in helping Shepherds with ministry tools and resources. Sign up here if you haven’t yet.