Sacrifice: Authentic shepherds lead sacrificially, rising early in the morning to check on their fields, their flocks, their students. John 10:11 notes that “the Good Shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep.” As shepherds, believers manage with tireless precision to sacrifice time, energy, and sleep in order to fully support the people God has entrusted to their care.
Honor: Authentic shepherds take their callings personally, bustling about daily tasks with a sense of honor and dignity while providing for and guiding the flock. A living, breathing application of 1 Peter 5:2 shows when we, as shepherds for Christ “watch over [others], not because [we] must, but because [we] are willing…[and] eager to serve.”
Empowerment: Authentic shepherds motivate their flocks with constant nudging toward fresh pastures even when the flocks resist. After Peter’s denial disaster, Jesus engages and empowers the despondent disciple in John 21 with the career-altering commission to feed and care for the Master’s sheep. Similarly, empowerment occurs when we as shepherds reach out to engage struggling believers with Christ-like acceptance and belief in their potential as creations of God.
Pro-action: Authentic shepherds know by name each individual member of their flocks, which enhances the ability to guide and serve those entrusted to their care as illustrated in Luke 15’s Parable of the Lost Sheep. Christ’s shepherds likewise serve their flocks masterfully by affirming each individual as a unique being created in God’s own image and for His glory.
Humility: Authentic shepherds lead their flocks with assertive humility. Numbers 13 describes Moses as a vastly humble shepherd, but Scripture also reveals that he led Israel from Egypt to Canaan with Godly assertion. Likewise, I firmly believe that GCTS is blessed with its rank among the top seminaries in this country because its traditional, hybrid and online programs are organized and instructed by shepherds who serve with that same assertive humility. When we direct and nurture fellow man with his best interest ahead of our own, we call into play the wisdom of Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as [they] will…give an account.” Example: Authentic shepherds, in keeping with 1 Peter 5:3, serve their flocks by example. This truth is lived out by our shepherds through clear demonstration that serving as example involves the pursuit of holiness and integrity in every aspect of life: our walk, our talk, our dress, our attitudes toward Christ, toward each other and toward those He places in authority over us.
Restoration: Authentic shepherds bring restoration to flocks as needed. Many passages of Scripture that paint Christ as Shepherd, in fact, are connected to the idea of restoration. I was so blessed to personally experience Isaiah 40:11 during my years as a student at GCTS: “He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” So many times I arrived to campus wearied in the most literal sense, weathered from personal or cultural expectations of myself on a given day or week or month. But I never left campus without feeling rejuvenated and restored by the affirmation, encouragement and genuine fellowship that God provided through His shepherds there.
Discipline: Finally, authentic shepherds exercise self-discipline. How? They constantly investigate land that will better serve the needs of their sheep; this discipline guarantees the sheep the greenest grass and purest water for nourishment as depicted in Psalm 23. Believers as shepherds are called to develop some unlikely habits. In the words of Beth Moore, as we journey forward into ministry may we never gain such confidence that we neglect the need to “study, study, study!” Stay current with aspects of theology, but measure each against the lessons that church history has taught us. Search diligently to discover the threads that connect each book, chapter, verse to the beautifully overarching Story that winds its way from Genesis to Revelation. Only when we as shepherds continue to grow spiritually will others in the flock receive sound nourishment.