n teaching the nations God’s requirement, it is vital that we do not simply impose new rules and regulations but bring God’s people to a new stance of grace and faith. This requires Spirit-inspired and empowered preaching and teaching that calls for and ignites a response in the hearers.
Holy Spirit-inspired preaching brings about an encounter with God that demands a verdict and produces a changed life based on revelation, faith and love, not cold obedience to external rules.
God’s flock will intuitively hear His voice and respond as truth is fed to them by called and anointed pastor/teachers. Gradually a culture of God-centredness will emerge characterised by worship, faith, grace, mercy, respect, service and the awareness of being an alien people whose fundamental citizenship lies elsewhere (Phi. 3:20).
Shepherding love and care
The shepherd’s ability to feed and be a channel of God’s grace will result in the gathering of a flock. The sheep gather to the gifted anointing of shepherding and thus a flock forms.
The responsibility of the shepherds is not simply to expound truth but to develop relationships of love and trust, and in some cases to ‘parent’ a flock often made up of those who have never been parented before. Paul says that he was among the Thessalonians ‘like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children’ (1 Thess. 2:7), adding that he also was ‘exhorting, encouraging and imploring each of you as a father would his own children’ (1 Thess. 2:11). Many in our modern world don’t have true fathers. No one has helped to shape their lives. Many modern city-dwellers are lost and lonely, like sheep without a shepherd, distressed and harassed (Matt. 9:36).
There has never been a greater need for true shepherds to be raised up to care for God’s flock, unafraid to use rod and staff when the need arises, and thereby keeping the flock safe and secure, at rest and able to lie down unafraid in green pastures.
A final word
Paul, when speaking to the Ephesian elders, urged them not only to take heed to the flock and shepherd them, he also reminded them ‘to take heed to themselves’ (Acts 20:28). If Jesus prayed, ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself’ (John 17:19) how much more must under-shepherds be on guard.
In John Piper’s words, ‘Brothers we are not professionals.’ Ultimately, we also are sheep. We need to stay very close to the great shepherd, enjoying His smile, drinking in His lavish grace and being diligent to embrace His disciplines and training and follow His guidance.
Moses came from encounters with the Lord with shining face. David made it his pre-eminent desire to spend days in the Lord’s tent, feasting at His table and delighting in His presence. No under-shepherd is an end in himself, or has intrinsic superior wisdom. If Jesus said, ‘The words I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative…’ (John 14:10), how much more must we be constantly receiving fresh grace and instruction.
God has promised ‘shepherds after his own heart’. May we be the fulfilment of that promise.