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.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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4 Responses

  1. John Klatt

    Thank you for the fine encouragement to Christian humility. It is not just one of the most important qualifications for the ministry; it is an essential one. A pastor may be lacking in certain areas and still be a good shepherd to his flock if he is humble. But if he is proud and arrogant, he will do much harm.

  2. Pastor D

    Very timely and relevant article. In light of what I’ve been hearing out of the pulpit and the actions displayed by some local clergy, I’ve began to ask God to encourage me by His Word what a shepherd should look like and who should they be like. Thank you

  3. James Wainscoat

    I have to be honest. I often see religious articles on the net but very few draw my attention as did yours. I clicked on it just to see if there was anything of truth being said. I was riveted by the simple yet powerful truth as to what qualities a true Shepherd/Pastor must have to be in relationship to the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus. This should be the rule of thumb used to measure each and every Pastor who dare step into the pulpit or take on the spiritual responsibility of another’s walk with the flock. Keep up the shepherding of the shepherds, and you will most certainly face persecution.

  4. Mark Pilger

    Excellent! A man must be a good follower before He can hope to lead! And in order to lead one must have an understanding and a practice of humility.

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