Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thinking about shepherding

We know from many, many places in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 10: 1-16), the Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25), the Lamb of God who is also the Shepherd of His sheep (Rev 7:17). We also see some places in Scripture where shepherding is spoken of in regards to people. We see reference to elders in a shepherding role (1 Peter 5:1-2), we see shepherding as a function in the church (Ephesians 4:11) and we see Jesus exhorting Peter three times to shepherd believers even before the crucifixion (John 21: 15-17). The imagery is mixed and confusing in some ways. Jesus is the Shepherd but He is also the Lamb. We are His sheep but we are also called to shepherding.

This whole topic of shepherds, shepherding and sheep raises some questions in my mind:

Is shepherding an office or a function?

Is shepherding reserved to a select few in the church or is it the responsibility of all Christians?

Is shepherding the same thing as pastoral ministry in a traditional church?

I have some thoughts on these questions but I wanted to throw them out there. In the life of the church, how should we view shepherding?

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Mark said...

I believe that when Ephesians 4:10 mentions "pastors" it is referring to a function within the body. I personally don't believe in "offices" within the body, as an office implies a position that has to be filled, and, in my mind, would be hierarchical in nature. I believe the pastor-teacher is a function or gifting within the body, just as apostles, prophets and evangelists are, and that any given body of believers would have multiple people who function in a shepherding role. I do not believe that any function in the body is reserved "for a select few", because Christ is not about exclusivity (except, of course, that Christ is the only way to God!). I personally feel that one tragedy of the traditional church is that the primary way to fulfill an internal call to minister to others (which in reality we all should be doing every day) is to become a "pastor". As such, there are probably many people who really should be functioning as an evangelist, apostle or prophet, but are stuck trying to function in a role that does not suit their giftings.

Arthur Sido said...


I would agree that we have a "one size fits all" model of ministry where every young man who feels drawn to greater service is shipped off to seminary and expected to become a vocational pastor. How much better off would we be if we encouraged young men to minister right where they are instead of sending them away?

Mark said...


I agree, and how much better off would we be if they (or we all) were encouraged to develop the giftings given to each of us. From my church experience, to call oneself a prophet or apostle is heretical, which pretty much removes these gifts from functioning.