“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” 1 Peter 5:2-3
When Jesus first called Peter, a fisherman, to follow Him, He told him that He would make him a fisher of men. Peter understood the metaphor and could relate to it, even if he didn’t understand exactly every detail of how it would apply to him.
Once Jesus was resurrected, He appeared once again to Peter on the shores of Galilee. Peter and some of the disciples had gone fishing and Jesus appeared to them on the beach. He invited the disciples to come and eat a meal with Him. At this meal, Jesus restores Peter and gives him a new metaphor for the work ahead.
Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep and lambs three times. Peter the fisherman is now Peter the shepherd. It is through his love relationship with Christ that he is to minister to His flock. Although Peter was not a shepherd, he could understand the concept of being a shepherd over sheep. After all, Jesus Himself said He was the Good Shepherd. Plus, Peter could observe the comings and goings of shepherds in the region of Galilee.
Peter is now passing the metaphor on to new church leaders. The role of the elder, overseer, pastor is that of being a shepherd. That is important to know, especially for the pastor. It is also important for the flock, the people, to understand the concept as well.
We live in a day and age where we don’t really relate to sheep and shepherds. We live in an urban and suburban world. We just don’t look out our windows and see shepherds guiding their sheep through town.
Some people, both pastors and parishioners, want to use different models for the shepherd. These models may include the CEO business man, the military chain of command, the coach, the hired hand, the country parson, and many others. These different models bring different expectations for both the pastor and the member. Many times, they may be in conflict with each other.
Even though we are no longer an agrarian society, it is best to stick with the biblical model. That model is pastor shepherd. Peter, in his letter, is trying to encourage both the pastors and the flock. He tells the elders to “shepherd the flock of God” which clearly states to Whom flock belongs.
In order to shepherd, you must be “among” the flock. When you are among the flock, it is hard work. It will be messy. At times, it may even be smelly. Some sheep will not want to follow the shepherd. Others will stray. Some will be hurt and injured and vulnerable to attack. Some will turn and butt the shepherd. It’s not easy herding sheep.
This is something the shepherd must do “willingly” and “not by compulsion.” The NIV says: “not because you must, but because you are willing.” To be a pastor shepherd is a calling. It is something that is done out of the will to do it.
In Bible times, shepherds were not considered high paying jobs. In fact, shepherds were usually portrayed in a bad light. They were considered to be unreliable witnesses, which is even more interesting since it was shepherds that were the first evangelists of the birth of Christ. Shepherds don’t shepherd sheep for the pay.
Shepherds serve because they are “eager to serve” as the NLT translates this verse. Shepherds are to lead. They are required to walk. They walk among the sheep in order to lead them where they need to go. They do this by “example”, not as “lords’. Sheep are not meant to be driven, but led.
For twenty five years, I have been a shepherd here at RoS. First with a small flock of lambs called the youth group. Some of my fondest memories were leading our youth on mission trips to the inner city of Savannah. Later, the church called me to be the pastor. The flock grew bigger and the task grew harder. It’s hard work shepherding God’s people.
Throughout this period, there have been times of green pastures and calm waters. There have been storms and floods. There have been seasons of drought and wilderness wanderings. There have been numerous times when we faced difficult decisions. There have been sheep that were hurt and some who strayed. There have sheep that faced illnesses and death. There have been attacks and battles.
There have also been great times and great milestones and victories. There have been new lambs added to the flock. Through it all, I hope one thing has been true, that I was indeed a shepherd, a servant, and an example to our flock.
I love you and it’s a privilege to be your pastor shepherd.