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Sheep for the Chief Shepherd’s Benefit

I started reading a book – Hit the Bullseye – in preparation for a MBGC board meeting I’ll be attending later this week. The author gave a new perspective on the sheep/shepherd metaphor that might make a few comfortable sheep angry and a few shepherds anxious.

In congregational life our declining institutions think that shepherds take care of sheep for the sheep’s benefit, rather then to benefit the Chief Shepherd by accomplishing God’s mission. The paradox of Christianity is that sheep are most fulfilled when they are risking life for the Chief Shepherd rather than being pampered by appointed shepherds.


The misunderstanding and misuse of this metaphor has enormous ramifications in local congregations . . . . First, the pastor is normally taught that she or he is to function as a shepherd, meaning chaplains to the congregation. We even use the term pastoral care, meaning shepherd care. Most would describe pastoral care as feeding, caring, serving, and meeting the spiritual needs of the sheep.

Borden goes on to write that according to Ephesians 4:10-16, it is the congregation’s job to care for each other – “Mature sheep are to be trained by the shepherds to do this for other sheep.”

This missional thought goes against the idea that shepherds are there only to care for the sheep for their own benefit. The opposite is true. The shepherd cares for the sheep for the Chief Shepherd’s benefit – and in the church’s case – to fulfill the glorifying, multiplying, mission of God. Bordon sums it all up in this quote:

The leader serves the sheep by casting vision, maintaining mission focus, and modeling risk so the sheep will be excited and challenged to resist the enemy, who deserves the metaphor of a roaring lion. Congregations where sheep take on lions and win are congregations filled with excitement that motivates sheep to multiply.

A new understanding of the metaphor means significant change in the ways pastors and elders lead.

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