There is no question that the condition of the body of believers has a lot to do with the spiritual leadership of a body of people. Proper spiritual food is the key to feeding God’s sheep. Proper spiritual food lifts up God’s children and reminds them of what they need to do and prepares them for the future in Christ. When the pastor shepherd is not feeding the sheep spiritually, most sheep won’t develop the survival skills necessary to prosper in God’s Word, at least not from that shepherd.
As an anointed and called minister to God’s people, when you give too many of your own ideas, you push God aside and abandon those that may depend on you for accurate spiritual information. Spiritual leadership isn’t simply about expounding personal ideas, but rather getting truth to fellow believers and being clear about those truths so that those that listen can receive the message into their hearts based on accurate Biblical knowledge. True spiritual leadership focuses on helping others, not on getting ahead or putting money in the coffers. “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? For the nations seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) These words of Jesus apply to each believer including those called to ministry to others through Jesus Christ.
God’s people have a singular purpose that none are exempted from. The purpose and goal of God’s people is to help one another reach important spiritual goals and to reach a level of spiritual maturity so that more Christians can reach out to others outside the body, either as spiritually mature believers or as spiritual leaders, but ALL as ministers of the Gospel. Those that have taken spiritual leadership are held responsible by God to feed His sheep just as Jesus told Peter in John 21:17. God said “feed my sheep”. If the sheep are not fed God’s Word, they will not likely come to know what God desires for them or understand how they need to operate to be within God’s Will. Christians who are not fed sheep food will never come to know themselves in Christ, which is vital for their continued well being.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:1-4) God has given man the authority to be leaders, but pride and greed often comes in with that authority and destroys what God has designed as far as His people are concerned.
In scripture, God refers to His people as His sheep. Jesus mentions separating sheep from goats. Goats have a sacrificial role in Biblical history, such as the scapegoat in Hebrew times. To help understand what is going on here, it is useful to understand some physical differences between these animals. In the real world, how do sheep differ from goats? People who are not familiar with livestock often confuse the qualities of sheep and goats. What are some of the differences?
Here are some of the more obvious:
Sheep have fleece, goats have hair.
Sheep say baa, goats say maa. Their voices are actually different.
Most goats are naturally horned, but many sheep breeds are naturally hornless.
Sheep are great, but when it comes to brain power, a lamb is unlikely to find its way out of a maze. As far as survival skills go, though, sheep must be as smart as many other species as they have survived in the wild for hundreds of years all over the world.
Sheep need less copper than goats. Some mineral supplements that are great for goats can be toxic to sheep. We can see that sheep are more sensitive to their surroundings than goats.
Sheep are more likely to overeat than goats. Shepherds must be careful about turning sheep into a lush pasture or free-feeding the sheep more hay than they usually eat?
Since the body of Christ is designed for God’s sheep, then God’s sheep should be fed there. When the sheep are spiritually fed, what do sheep eat? Sheep eat or are fed sheep food. What happens when the sheep aren’t properly fed? Scripture often balances the sheep and the goats. When sheep aren’t properly fed, they are being fed goat food, which makes the sheep sick.
Back in the natural world, sheep are natural grazers, while goats are browsers. Goats roam here and there, picking and choosing anything they see. Sheep are usually better weed eaters, since they eat grasses and other plants all the way down to the ground, grazing in a very methodical fashion. Goats, on the other hand, nibble here and there, sampling a variety of bushes and leaves. In fact, goats will eat anything when given half a chance. They will eat the bark off of trees and rose bushes. Sheep eat grasses and clover, grazing land that other livestock cannot which makes sheep unique. Conversely, there are a number of plants that grow as weeds and are toxic to sheep. Since sheep don’t know the difference, it is up to the shepherd in charge to be watchful. Toxic plants can cause immediate death to sheep if they are consumed in sufficient quantities or cause skin reactions when the animal is exposed to sunlight. Nervous system disorders, fetal deformity and abortion, or digestive problems are likely to result from toxic plants. The shepherd, in order to avoid having his sheep poisoned by plants, has to pay special attention to the grazing area. Goats don’t have any of these restrictions since they eat almost anything.
We know that in the real world of animals, that while sheep and goats can live alongside each other, they are very different and have different needs and requirements. This analogy between sheep and goats has real meaning and similar comparisons can be made in the spiritual world. In a similar fashion, pastor shepherds can be sheep or not based on their personal fruit. Whether a professed Christian is a sheep or a goat depends on his fruit and what he does with God’s gifts, often in a private way, but more often for the pastor shepherd, this is in clear sight unless the sheep are taught to overlook the bad fruit.
God’s Will is that spiritual shepherds who have failed their flock will be removed from office and held responsible for what has happened to their flock that they are supposed to lead. Wise shepherds are expected to heed God’s warning and care for their flock properly or total failure and judgment will be the result. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 demonstrates that you must discipline yourself as in running a race. Your life is hard work and the work of spiritual leaders is no easier. How many of our spiritual leaders are actually focused on God’s Word, as well as disciplining themselves? Is the pastor shepherds commitment a public act or is that commitment real, bearing real godly fruit? The discipline of prayer, bible study and worship equips us to run with vigor and stamina. Observing others from a grandstand is not sufficient to get the job done for God’s people. Diligent training and effort is required. A Christian’s spiritual progress depends on it. At times, you must give up good things to do what God wants. Each Christians’ special duties determine the discipline or denial that he or she must accept. Without a goal, discipline is nothing except self-punishment. With a goal to pleasing God, your denial of yourself seems like nothing compared to the eternal imperishable reward that will be yours. When Paul says that he might be disqualified, he does not refer to salvation itself, but rather that he could lose his privilege of telling others. God’s people are not here to tell others how to live and fail to take our “own advise”. We must practice what we preach.
Based on scripture, there is no question how God feels about shepherds of His people. Ezekiel 34 contains a vital scriptural passage that dramatizes the differences between good and bad shepherds and there is a lot more than usually meets the eye. In fact, when you take what Ezekiel says, his word is quite graphic. I have left the translation from Hebrew in simple form so that you see the way the text is really written. In my original detailed study posted on the Ezekiel 34 page, I noted the translation from the original Hebrew text to be certain that I was getting the sense of it with the nuances of the original language. You will notice that the English comparative text is from the King James Version with Strong’s numbers. By referring to these numbers, you can explore the meanings of these words yourself on the Ezekiel 34 page link.
The apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4 declared that day of Christ would not come “except that there would be a falling away first” while warning that this iniquity was already at work during his time. Errors were creeping into the congregation of God’s people that would pave the way for a large scale attack on God’s people over the centuries. After several hundred years, human traditions and Christianity were mixed and circulation of the Bible was banned. Once the Bible was out of the way, anything went and God’s Law was twisted and changed to suit the bad shepherd. Prophecy in Daniel 7:25 predicted that times and laws would be changed and the rest is history. Christianity has seen many reforms and changes over the last 500 years. During that time, the world has come to have many divisions of the changed original church or body of Christ. The good news is that there is no need for a Christian to be confused. With accurate Biblical knowledge and a little study, a bad shepherd becomes much easier to see. For nearly 2000 years, the bad shepherd in many forms and places has tried to reign over God’s people, abusing them terribly, persecuting, tormenting and torturing them to the death to gain advantage and power over them. Today, the bad shepherd still exists and others like him are working overtime to gain advantage over others, even in God’s name. On the other hand, we have the good shepherd, which can be examined by “his” fruit as well. The key is having enough Biblical knowledge to be able to know the difference. Yes, you can know the difference and stay away from the bad shepherd while helping other Christians around you to do the same.