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Home > Issues > 2012 > Fall > What Good Shepherds Don't Do

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We spend much of our energy calling people to our mission, to advance our church, to be evangelists, or even better—missionaries. And we do this with the best of intentions. We want to see God's work accomplished. What we forget is that Christ has called us to be shepherds who feed and tend, not masters who call. That is his job; they are, after all, his sheep. In Matthew 9 Jesus says, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few," but he does not tell his disciples to find, call, and send out more laborers. Instead, he instructs them to "pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers." Jesus does not outsource his responsiblity to call to us.

The instinct to protect the sheep under our care is a good one; heaven knows they need it. But when feeding and tending becomes controlling or determining life direction, we've overstepped our role. We may think it's our job to call as many people as possible into missions or church work. But a disciple's specific calling always comes from Christ. Our task is to lead them into deeper communion with him. Christ's sheep need a shepherd. They already have a Lord.

Skye Jethani is senior editor of Leadership Journal.

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Skye Jethani is the executive editor of Leadership Journal, an ordained pastor, and the author of numerous books. He co-hosts the weekly Phil Vischer Podcast and speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and colleges. He makes his home with his wife and three children in Wheaton, Illinois.

Related Topics:CaringDiscernmentMentoringPastoral Care
From Issue:Ministry's Core, Fall 2012 | Posted: December 17, 2012

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December 22, 2012  12:37am

Part of the issue of discipleship and the mentoring that takes place (like Jesus and the disciples and Apostle Paul and those he mentored) is that in learning we do take on the tasks of another man that is called of God with an understanding that these services (handling that which is another man's) are steps and pathways that help us get to the place God wants us to go and fulfill the purpose He has for us. This doesn't mean that we are to control the person we are helping disciple but we can be important in helping them draw closer to Christ, gain skills, gain experience, become excellent in what they do, build great relationships with others that will help them grow in stature before God and man, etc. In fact any one of them should be able to at any time decide they will not do what we suggest or instruct as leaders and mentors. Yet, every disciple including the leader and mentor should recognize that God's plan for our future includes oversight and instruction from other people.

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December 20, 2012  12:00am

I appreciated the article, as it speaks to a real issue. Yet there are a few tensions that remain. First, pastors are sheep too, before they are shepherds (I mean that in a responsibility way, not a time-line way). So we pastors, are still stupid sheep. How do we seek shepherding? How is that different than other believers? (Or is it?) Secondly, Jesus also calls Himself the Good Shepherd. This is always ironic to me, because the ensuing verses basically says no matter how "good" we think we are, we will all flee/fail when trouble comes. It is for this reason that I quickly (re)direct God's sheep under the charge of their Good Shepherd, then graze among them as our Lord Jesus leads. Thanks for the thought-provoking article!

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Becky Kenyan

December 18, 2012  10:37pm

This ia a good article that provides one part of a conversation. The emphasis on men and women who are dependent on God's grace takinga position above others as shepherds is one way to impede the spred of the gospel. At what point do those viewed as sheep become mature enough to 'go to the world to preach and teach obedience to Christ'. Every believer who has submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and is living in obedience to the word, and in fellowship with others who share in the same faith, should be a witness of Christ wherever he or she is. The concept of shepherd is derailing and arrogant and it represent dominance which must be sustained through giving 'tithe' instead of investing in what spreads the Good News. Organizing thegathering of believers so that they come together to encourage one another is not shepherding and giving it more emphasis that it should denies the Lordship of Christ for his church.

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December 18, 2012  9:58pm

What a powerful article! This is so true. As pastor we have been instructed by Jesus to feed and tend, not to count, manipulate, control, or abuse. Thank you for hearing from God on this one.

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December 18, 2012  6:54pm

Great article, You can't schedule discipleship. I see today to get sheep involved in church activities they are just placed on a schedule and expected to do it. If something is in the heart of a person to do they will do it. What a man calls you to another man can talk you out of, but what God calls a man to he will do it till Jesus comes. If we are well feeding the flock, discipleship will come it can't be demanded.

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