What Does A Shepherd Do?

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Our series for Pastor & People for November 2014 is:
“You Need More Than a Church: You Need a Shepherd”


In our last episode we began a series called “You Need More than a Church; You Need a Shepherd.” With this series we hope to show that a shepherd is vital to the health of a church and that faithful shepherding is greatly rewarded.

What Does a Shepherd Do?

Let me answer that question with a reference to the single best book I know of on the subject: Timothy Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader. Witmer breaks shepherding down into a biblical and practical strategy to do four things on two levels. The four broad responsibilities of the shepherd are: know the sheep; feed the sheep; lead the sheep; and protect the sheep. The shepherd must do these four things on both a macro- and micro-level.

Knowing the sheep includes having significant personal interactions and relationships with the membership. Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (). The faithful shepherd takes the Lord’s words as his model. On the macro-level, the shepherd must know the congregation as a whole. The membership process and membership directory are crucial in achieving this broad knowledge of the flock. As Witmer puts it, “This is where shepherding begins.” On the micro-level shepherds must know people individually. Shepherds must be acquainted with their faith, their walk and their needs. Some form of visitation is necessary for this micro-level knowing (; ).

Feeding the sheep refers to teaching them God’s word. Macro-level feeding includes any large group public teaching as on Sunday mornings, during Sunday school or via something like a church newsletter. Micro-level feeding occurs in more intimate, smaller settings. It includes one-on-one discipleship, small groups and counseling.

Leading the sheep involves vision setting, clarifying the church’s mission and purpose, and establishing policies. Worship, education, fellowship and evangelism may all contribute to macro-level leading from the shepherds. The most important micro-level approach to leading may be setting an example for the flock (). Witmer writes, “Failure here sabotages the rest” of the shepherds’ ministry. The shepherds should set examples in their relationship with Christ, in their relationship with their families, and in their ministry to the church family.

Finally, protecting the sheep requires the shepherds to keep the sheep from the various dangers they face. At the macro-level, protection includes public warnings from the word of God. Micro-level protection requires leaving the ninety-nine safe sheep to search for the one lost lamb. Protection requires shepherds to know the value of a good fence and vigilance at watching over the people.

The music for this podcast is entitled, “Broken Hearts,” which is an instrumental produced and edited by Dalmond Bodden, who also helps produce this podcast.

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (ESV)

5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (ESV)

2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (ESV)

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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