So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
Acts 20:28 NLT
I suspect that most people would choose not to be compared with sheep! It would hardly be seen as a flattering description! Sheep are rarely viewed as the brightest of animals and are generally understood to be easily led. However, God’s people are frequently described as being like sheep in both the Old and New Testaments. It isn’t surprising therefore that, as Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in his final talk with them, he speaks of their responsibilities for caring for the flock. Paul knows that the church, like any flock of sheep, needs to be guarded, fed and cared for.
The responsibility for caring for the church was so great that the appointment had to be made by the Holy Spirit. That is still the case today. If an individual feels an inner conviction that this is something that they should do that should always be greatly welcomed. But it isn’t enough.
That inner conviction needs to be carefully weighed and assessed by others who, listening to the Holy Spirit, will seek to discern whether this is God’s will.
The responsibility of the shepherd always involves guarding the flock. In Psalm 23 David, who had himself been a shepherd, reflected that the Lord’s “rod and staff protect and comfort me.” The rod and staff, or shepherd’s crook, were the means of defending the sheep from attackers but also of rescuing those that got into trouble. The shepherd had an active and continual role of protecting the sheep and that’s exactly the role that church leaders need to perform today. Life is full of threats and temptations and the shepherd must be continually alert.
There are many different aspects to a shepherd’s role but they are summed up in the word love. We see that supremely in the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gladly laid down his life for his sheep. We need to thank God that the Holy Spirit continues to appoint people to the awesome responsibility of church leadership.
How do you understand the role of the shepherd in church life today?
Thank you Lord for those whom you set apart for leadership in the church in our day. May they be faithful in guarding, feeding and caring for their flock. Amen
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
Grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory,
we may be made like him
in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.