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Topical - Shepherd With Care

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Leadership and rulership are often mistakenly equated. Although being in a position of oversight will require making decisions that affect others, biblical shepherding calls for ministry, not monarchy. The key to effective leadership is service, as the apostle Paul makes clear: “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12–13, emphasis added).

The caring shepherd must learn to be vigilant, watching over and guarding his flock. In his parting instructions to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Heb. 13:17 echoes the same thought, noting that leaders “keep watch over your souls.” By the foresight of the shepherd the sheep find protection; by his courage they receive defense.

The caring shepherd must learn to guide his sheep to green pastures and still waters. Jesus said of the shepherd, “When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). The spiritual leader must know where he is going and encourage others to follow. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Spiritual nourishment to bring growth through the Word are his responsibility to prescribe and dispense.

The caring shepherd must learn how to provide for the welfare of his flock. He needs time with the sheep to become familiar with their needs. When queried as to why He ate and drank with taxgatherers and sinners, Jesus replied, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31).

The true leader regards the welfare of others rather than his own comfort and prestige as of primary concern. He manifests sympathy and concern for those under him in their problems, difficulties, and cares, but it is a sympathy that fortifies and stimulates, not that softens and weakens. He will always direct their confidence to the Lord. He sees in each emergency a new opportunity for helpfulness.29

The caring shepherd is one who loves the sheep. He has affection for them. The Good Shepherd carries His sheep in His bosom (Isa. 40:11), calls them by name, and lays down His life for them (John 10:3, 11).

To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach is quite another. The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching. If you lack this element of compassion for the people you will also lack the pathos which is a very vital element in all true preaching. Our Lord looked out upon the multitudes and “saw them as sheep without a shepherd,” and was “filled with compassion.” And if you know nothing of this you should not be in a pulpit.30

To try to practice the role of a caring leader apart from love is legalism. Love is the glue that holds all these things together. “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:14).

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