What is the most infamous text from the book of Psalms? Worldwide, I am sure the answer would be Psalm 23:1. I recall, on a missions trip several years ago, visiting a very poor home occupied by two wonderful followers of Jesus Christ. The home was sparsely furnished, lighting non-existent and the obvious financial resources available were in short supply. While awaiting ‘sacrificial hospitality’ from our hosts, my translator pointed out to me a weathered plaque on the wall. My linguistic ability was limited, yet I was clearly able to grasp, in the local language, the assuring words ‘The LORD is my shepherd.’
Shepherding is the biblical model of leadership. Illustrated through narrative accounts of Moses, David and other infamous models, the Old Testament portrays God’s relationship with His people using this paradigm. The New Testament continues to develop our thinking with our Lord Jesus Christ being revealed as the Good Shepherd (John 10), the Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13) and the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5) of the flock.
As Jesus Christ establishes the church, in fulfillment of His promise made in Matthew 16, He shares leadership with undershepherds. These men are called to the office of eldership and function as overseers (bishops) and pastors/shepherds-teachers of the flock. First Timothy 3 and Titus 1 prescribe spiritual qualifications, Acts 20 and I Peter 5 provide further instruction as we see apostolic leaders, namely Paul and Peter, defining and focusing the leaders they are training in their God-given responsibilities.
As part of our burden for church revitalization, we seek to help current leaders redefine and refocus their ministry in the light of relevant Scriptures. We have profited immensely from the writing and equipping ministry of Dr. Tim Laniak in his detailed theological assessment of shepherding. His useful website provides instruction and assessment as well as a forum for leaders to engage on a variety of relevant topics. His Shepherds After My Own Heart and While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks offer a more scholarly overview and a practical reflective meditation for leaders committed to a biblical paradigm.
As we develop annual formal courses and more informal training tools, we trust God will sharpen the focus of those whom the Holy Spirit has raised up to provide the oversight needed for local flocks. We are thankful for church leaders who take their God-given responsibility seriously and are prepared to share lessons they are learning as part of the Shepherd’s growing flock.