One Sunday a friend cornered me after I had preached a sermon on Elders as Shepherds. "Why don't you find a better way to communicate this spiritual leadership idea?" he asked. "No one in our church knows anything about shepherds and sheep, especially the way all that stuff worked in the ancient world. People like me just can't get it."
Admittedly, the shepherd metaphor does sound strange in today's cyberworld. But God keeps sending me back to the pasture. The shepherd notion is not original with me, of course, nor with Paul and Peter. Not even with Jesus. Shepherd walks through the whole long story of God's people, showing up more than 500 times in the Old and New Testaments. Without question, the shepherd motif is the dominant biblical model for spiritual leaders.
The shepherd motif is the dominant biblical model for spiritual leaders.
After mulling things over for some time, I explained to my modern friend who had trouble with ancient shepherds, "I can't find a current metaphor to fit the biblical leadership model. And I don't want to rip about 500 pages out of my Bible, or risk feeding the church wrong-headed ideas. So I'm sticking with 'shepherd.'"
Pull up a chair as we dust off the various notions of shepherd we may have. What is a shepherd, anyway?