Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Who is our Shepherd?

Meditation for the week of April 19, 2009

John 10:3
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Years ago a lady who kept sheep wanted to show some of us her flock.  She didn’t have very many sheep but she was proud of those that she had.  When we were there, the sheep were all in the far end of the pasture.  She told us to try calling them.  We did and of course they ignored us.  But the moment she called, the sheep all came running.  When they came to her, she was able to tell us all about every one of them including what she had named them.  She was obviously their shepherd.

Leaders of congregations of Christians are often called pastors or shepherds.  I believe that being a shepherd is the work of the bishop or overseer spoken of in 1 Timothy 3, in Acts 20:28,  and 1 Peter 5:2.   The question that is often raised is, “How do we know who our shepherds are?”  Acts 20:28 makes it clear that these leaders are raised up by the Holy Spirit.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:12, the congregation seems to “know” or recognize them in some way. 

One of the ways we know our elders/shepherds/overseers is that they know their sheep by name.  That must be quite a feat  in a church of thousands.  It probably isn’t such a difficult proposition in a small church.  In addition, some have said that you should be able to go to people in the congregation and ask them who has taken an interest in them and who they would have confidence in if they needed some spiritual advice or Scriptural teaching.  Those people would likely be the elders of the group assuming that their lives are lived as described in 1 Timothy 3. 

Being a  good shepherd is not something a person can be hired to do.  Shepherds can be helped financially or given “double honor” according to 1 Timothy 5:17 by their congregations so they can do the work that they do.  But their bond to the sheep has to come through raising, feeding, and caring for them.  They have to love the sheep enough to learn how to protect them from predators and how to help them when they are sick.  There isn’t enough money to pay for the love and affection of a good shepherd.  They have to do it out of love to the sheep and love to the Lord. 

Salesmen are told that one of the sweetest things that any person hears is the sound of their own name assuming that it is spoken reverently.  We didn’t like it when we were growing up to have our parents use our names in anger.  When they called us by our first, middle and last names we were usually in trouble.  But when someone remembers our names and uses them when they speak to us in conversation, they get our attention.  An elder should know the names of the sheep in his flock.  And the sheep should know his voice and respond to it, knowing that it is the voice of one who really cares.

The Lord is the good shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep, but congregations need men who have a shepherd’s heart and who know their sheep by name.

Bruce Collins

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