A Word from Ras Robinson
Discerning Good and False Shepherds (Pastors) and Does It Really Matter?
Church attendance has always been important to my family. Most of those who gather at church seem like family to us. In most worship services I am greeted with hugs and holy kisses. I enjoy also giving those hugs and kisses in return, just as I do in my biological family. It has always been that way. I have given over fifty years of my life to serve and defend the local and global church. My personal desire is for the church to rise to spread the good news of the gospel and godly living across America and around the world. It is my goal to do what I can to help equip the church for that task. How about you?
However, a look at the current condition of Christianity in America is really disturbing. A rather caustic remark heard from too many born-again Christians is, “I don’t go to church anymore because I have already been.” This implies that they went, were disappointed and no longer embrace today’s church.
Pastor Jonas Bohlin (Fullness in Christ Church, Fort Worth, TX) recently shared this in the morning worship service: It is based upon surveys taken during 2008 to 2010.
The State of the Church in America — 2008-2010:
a. The majority of Americans (73-80%) identify themselves as Christians.
b. About 15-20% of Americans have no religious affiliation.
c. Americans who say they attend services nearly every week are 36%.
d. Only 9% of Americans in a 2008 poll said religion was the most important thing in their life. This is compared with 45% who said family was paramount in their life and 17% who said money and career was paramount.
What is wrong? The clergy blames the people for their lack of loyalty and commitment and the people blame the clergy for not making the church the most exciting and fulfilling place they can find.
Let’s look at what Scripture says about the shepherds (pastors) of the flocks and the role they are to have in the life of Christian believers.
Defining a Shepherd (Pastor) and Its Role in the Life of a Christian
A “shepherd” is defined as a keeper of sheep. The first keeper of sheep in the Bible was Adam’s son Abel ((Genesis 4:2). Shepherding was the chief occupation of the Israelites in the early days of the patriarchs: Abraham (Genesis 12:16); Rachel (Genesis 29:9); Jacob (Genesis 30:31-40); Moses (Exodus. 3:1).
As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings and slaves (compare David in 1 Samuel 16:11-13). Farmers such as those in Egypt even hated shepherds (Genesis 46:34).
The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. However, the Hebrew word for shepherding is often translated “feeding.” Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water (Psalm 23) and protected them from wild animals (1 Samuel 17:34-35). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8) or in sheepfolds (Zephaniah 2:6). They counted the sheep as they entered the sheepfold at night (Jeremiah 33:13). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isaiah 40:11).
The word “shepherd” came to designate not only those who herded sheep, but also kings (2 Samuel 5:2) and God Himself (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11). Later prophets referred to Israel’s leaders as shepherds (Jeremiah 23; Ezekiel 34).
In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food (1 Samuel 14:32), milk to drink (Isaiah 7:21-22), wool for clothing (Job 31:20), hides for rough clothing (Matthew 7:15), and leather for tents (Exodus 26:14). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system (Exodus 20:24). They were offered as burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:10), sin offerings (Leviticus 4:32), guilt offerings (Leviticus 5:15), and peace offerings (Leviticus 22:21).
The New Testament mentions shepherds 16 times. They were among the first to visit Jesus at His birth (Luke 2:8-20). Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ’s relationship to His followers, who referred to Him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them (John 10:7-18). Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep (John 21). Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds (Acts 20:28). The Latin word transliterated “pastor” means “shepherd.” (Elmer L. Gray, Holman Bible Dictionary).
Having defined “shepherd/pastors” according to Scripture, let us now look at the blessings and disappointments in good and false shepherds/pastors and how their role in your life affects you.
Read more of this “Introduction to the Five-Fold Ministry Gifts from Jesus,” in the Ras Robinson Blog. Get a free subscription so that you can automatically receive each blog entry in your personal inbox as published.
~ Ras Robinson
Fullness in Christ Ministries Inc. , Fort Worth, TX