The metaphor of shepherding is threaded throughout the entire Bible. In the Old Testament, God is presented as the Shepherd of Israel (Genesis 48:15). Men who served God were to shepherd His people following after the example of God as Shepherd (2 Samuel 5:2). Unfortunately there were many human shepherds who did not faithfully carry out their duties in shepherding the people of God and they were chastised for their disobedience. One of the most well-known passages of Scripture in the Old Testament is the 23rd Psalm which presents beautiful imagery of God as our Eternal Shepherd.
In the New Testament it is clear that Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). Undershepherds of Jesus have the responsibility for spiritually watching over, feeding, and caring for God’s flock. I think some who have this calling on their lives have lost sight of what being a shepherd/pastor is all about.
Shepherds must take heed to themselves (Acts 20:28-30). This indicates a need to carefully watch over your own life so you can be an example to others.
Shepherds should serve according to the heart of God (Jeremiah 3:15). People are not a means to an end. Rather they are created in the image of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and should be properly cared for.
Shepherds are to make disciples and equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Matthew 28:16-20; Ephesians 4:11-15). The desired end is to move people toward a greater likeness of Jesus as hope in Him.
Shepherds must watch out for the souls of the sheep, and will give an account to God for doing so (Hebrews 13:17).
Shepherds are to care about the 1 as much as the 99 (Matthew 18:12-14). Sheep are prone to wander and go astray. The shepherd should keep a watchful eye on them and seek to bring them back into the fold when they do.
Shepherds encourage and embolden the flock of God in their faith (Luke 12:32). Living in a sin-fallen world is difficult and people need constant encouragement.
Shepherds need to feed the flock, tend the flock, and guard the flock (John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28-35). Attacks come constantly against the people of God and they need to be prepared to withstand them.
Sheep need to be shepherded. There was a story in recent years about a sheep named Barack. He was found after being lost by rescuers in Australia with more than 75 pounds of wool weighing him down. After he was rescued, the staff who found him gave him a long overdue shearing. Sheep need at least a yearly shearing to keep their coats light enough otherwise it will continue to grow. The animal was underweight relative to where his body weight should have been, his vision was impaired, and there was grit and debris all over him. If sheep go for an extended amount of time without adequate care, they can develop infections and health problems. (Ryan W. Miller, USA Today, 2-24-21).
As it turns out, sheep really do need shepherds! God is the Eternal Shepherd and He has entrusted shepherds on this earth to care for His people. For those of us who are shepherds, let’s carry out our calling faithfully.