“Maa…Maa…Maa……..” What is this I hear? The bleating of sheep in my ears.
Two years ago, we broke our homeowner’s association covenant big time. Guilty was the verdict. Before you turn us in, I must explain. We fostered newborn lambs in our home, for a week, as part of a 4H project. I did just say “in our home.” Actually, they lived in our breakfast area, until they began to leap over the barrier I had erected, invading our living room.
We did it all: stayed up for multiple nights, losing sleep to take turns bottle feeding them, took their temperature rectally, wiped their bottoms, put them in diapers to help prevent them from peeing all over the carpet in the living room they had invaded, took them back to the farm to get their shots, and even walked them on leashes out in the yard.
I did it for the kids, of course, a great hands-on learning experience. It’s what moms do; especially, those weird homeschool moms, of which I must admit I’m also guilty of being. Who was the one who got most attached to those sweet, cuddly lambs? Me, of course. But out of it, I tasted what being a shepherd is like. And two years later, if we go back to the farm, and I call out into the field, two sheep will still come to me, because they bonded with me and remember my voice.
A few decades ago, a movement came through the church called “the shepherding movement.” It began with all the right intentions, as many movements do, with a true desire for pastors and church leadership to “shepherd their flock.” The problem was it quickly became perverted into “How can I control ‘my’ flock; how can I manipulate ‘my’ flock?” It morphed into a distorted form of spiritual leadership, where the mantra was: obey without question your “shepherd,” because you are just sheep and you will be led astray from the flock if you don’t do exactly what your pastor says. Obviously, this led to many people damaged and hurt, because the “wolves” came in.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a pastor, who truly has a shepherding heart. In fact, now we’ve swung the other way. Where have all the true pastors gone?
Today, it seems like many want to be a prophet or an apostle (an apostle is one who goes into a new place and sets things up. The word first appeared in Roman culture, because they would go in and recreate their culture where ever they would go). Now it seems we’ve ignored the other gifts, especially the pastors (those who truly have a caring, nurturing heart).
Many megachurches are steered by the “Apostle.” I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, when in balance. A visionary is needed in the lead, but that position is no better than the one changing dirty diapers.
Let me back up a step. Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that God has given the five-fold ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher to the church to help us to grow it up into maturity until we are all priests and kings. All of these gifts are equally important. There will be more need for certain gifts from time to time. Not only that, we are all supposed to operate in all of them at different times when the need arises.
Now I can hear some saying, “Oh, I’m not a prophet.” Or even that the office of prophet and apostle are not for today. I’m not going to argue that point here. I’ll just say this. Jesus most assuredly operated in all of those ministry gifts as the need arose. He was called “prophet,” “teacher,” and “shepherd.” He certainly “evangelized,” bringing the good news to a world who needed it, and He certainly brought heaven’s culture wherever He went, thus He was an “apostle.” So, who are we supposed to emulate?
In fact, the Bible says we will do greater things than Jesus did! Logic follows that the Creator of this Universe gave those gifts to us, for us to utilize at the right place, at the right time, in order to build up each other until we all grow up into maturity to be priests and kings before the ultimate Priest and King.
My friends, it’s not about one person lording one particular gift over another, and everyone else bowing down to the great man of God with that gift, as we depend on them to lead us. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the gifts and their equal importance. In fact, regarding the particular gifting of prophet, because though it is personally one of my favorite gifts, it can be seen as a “showy” gifting. Paul goes further in chapter 13, to say that if he were to have the gift of prophecy, but did not have love, then he is nothing, a zero. He also describes it as a clanging gong, a noisy cymbal, just making a lot of noise.
I once had a church leader look at me and tell me that basically he wasn’t warm and caring because he was an apostle; therefore, he was excused from being a shepherd. I’ve also heard many people say that they are certain personality types; therefore, they are locked into acting or not acting a certain way. They were just born this way. There’s nothing wrong with having a better understanding of the way you are wired and what strengths and weaknesses we have. But we can’t throw that around as an excuse for a lack in character, a lack in love.
So, here’s why I began with our lamb story.
I was terrified of having those lambs in my home. I was so afraid I was going to do something wrong to hurt them. They were the owner’s prized babies, “her golden ones,” because they had come from the lineage of her first ewe. But as the week went by, I realized I could be a shepherd to those sweet babies, as they slept trustingly on my lap after a good feeding. God had put everything I needed in me to care, love, and protect those who were needing it.
We need pastors, as much as we need any of the ministry gifts, and we are all called to operate as a pastor from time to time. To have a healthy, vibrant body, we must have all the parts fully functional, each one doing what’s needed at the right time.
We are all called to be shepherds because we are called to be like Jesus. We are all called to build up one other until we all reach maturity with whatever gift is needed at the time. The gifts come from our good Father in heaven who delights to give them to us. Let’s be like Jesus.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on wholeheartedwomen.org.
Featuring Image by Niko Manuelides