Being identified as a ‘sheep’ in Scripture is both distressing and encouraging, isn’t it? Sheep have their issues – they wander, they need lots of care, they’re high maintenance some times! Just visit a shepherd and talk to him about lambing, de-worming, shearing, feeding, etc..
Peter, one of Christ’s key early followers, was a fisherman. He knew the Sea of Galilee and the dynamics of fishing and Jesus used that in his original call. “Follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men!” yet Peter knew the Old Testament scriptures – e.g. Isaiah 53 and lived in a culture where the care of sheep occupied the lives of many people. As he concludes chapter two of this letter of encouragement, he writes – ‘For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’
Sheep wander. They are restless and seem to prefer the grass on the other side of the fence. Isaiah, writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, included all of us in his indictment as he wrote – “All we like sheep have gone astray...” (Is. 53:6) In thoughts, words and deeds we wander away, following our ‘instincts’ and ‘desires’ of our evil hearts. We end up ‘lost,’ far from the fold and needing rescue. I wonder how many hours have been spent in the rescue of ‘lost’ sheep.
Praise God for a faithful Shepherd! Jesus – the Good Shepherd (John 10), Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13) and Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5), comes searching. Luke 15, the classic parable of the lost sheep, is an illustrative story of the deliberate ‘searching’ done by the Shepherd of souls.
The words pastor/shepherd are the terms used by biblical writers to describe the leadership role entrusted to those called by God to this awesome task. Christ is THE Shepherd, THE Pastor, THE Overseer of souls, but He lays hold of some, plants a desire to care for the flock in their hearts, and allows them to expend themselves in such care.
“Shepherd the flock of God,” Paul urges the Ephesian elders. The flock has been purchased with the very blood of Jesus Christ. He laid down His life for the sheep. Part of his care involves intentional pastoral leadership. As part of my new responsibility as the Director of Church Initiatives, I will be encouraging churches who want to “Redefine” & “Refocus” Leadership. In March 2016, we will be hosting Dr. Tim Laniak who has reflected carefully on this subject. Take a look at this site – entitled Shepherd Leader! Why not prayerfully encourage your church and its leaders in this whole area? May God raise up “shepherds after His own heart!”