Have you ever watched a shepherd? I am sure you have at some time. I had the opportunity to raise sheep for a short time, but I was not a shepherd, though I did learn a lot about sheep. I got a better understanding about why the Lord often refers to us as sheep in His Word! But on a bus trip between Xining and Xiahu in western China, the bus stopped on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere for a “rest” stop and Debbie and I had the opportunity to observe a Tibetan shepherd as he watched over his large flock of sheep as they grazed on a nearby hillside. He kept a sharp eye on them and if they began to wander too far away or in a direction he did not want them to go, he simply whistled, and they would return to where he wanted them to be. It was fascinating to watch!
This week I would like us to reflect on elders as shepherds. Not too long ago we were studying I Peter and we gave thought to what Peter said about elders in I Peter 5:1-4. The charge he gave to the elders to whom he was writing was to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (5:2).
Over the last nine months or so the Fellowship of Elders and I have looked into the Scriptures and given a lot of thought to the role of elders as shepherds, specifically with regard to the responsibility to protect the congregation charged to our care.
This week in preparation for our time together on Sunday morning, I am going to encourage you to consider several of the same passages the Fellowship of Elders looked into together in this past year. Pray and give careful thought to these rich passages of Scripture! And use the questions to help you meditate on them.
1. We will begin with a familiar text, perhaps the most familiar text in the Scriptures: Psalm 23.
• What does a good shepherd do?
• What does a good shepherd do when sheep walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death? How are sheep comforted in that place?
• What do you think the rod and staff represent? (v. 4)
• What do you think a shepherd would need to protect his sheep from?
• What might the shepherds of BCC need to protect her members from?
2. In the Old Testament Israel’s leaders were often referred to as shepherds. In Ezekiel 34:1-24 the Lord expresses His displeasure with the shepherds of Israel. There ae valuable lessons here for the elders of the church. Read this text carefully.
• What was God’s judgement of the shepherds of Israel? What were they doing wrong?
• What should shepherds do? What should they be like?
• What does this passage tell us about how shepherds should protect the flock?
• What does this passage add to your understanding of what the shepherds of the church should do?
3. Turn back a page or two. Ezekiel 33:1-9 does not address shepherds directly, but simply God’s call on the prophet Ezekiel, but there is an important principle here for shepherds of God’s people. What is it? And in what way do shepherds of God’s flock also serve as watchmen?
4. Jesus, of course, is the Great and Good Shepherd (I Pet. 5:5; John 10:11). Read John 10:7-30. If Jesus is the model of a good shepherd, what does a good do? (of course we understand that no one except Jesus can redeem the life of another)
• What does Jesus the Good shepherd protect us from and what does that tell you about the role of shepherds in protecting the church?
• What does BCC need to be protected from and how do you think the elders can do that?
5. One more passage! If we consider Paul a fellow elder in the Church, what can we learn from his example in Acts 20:17-38? In what ways did his work in Ephesus resemble your understanding of what it means to be a shepherd in the church?
• What was Paul’s primary concern for the elders and the church they were responsible to oversee?
• What does it look like for an elder to protect the church?
• What do you think it means for an elder to protect the church? What they do? What must they be like?
• What dangers do you think face the church at Bear Creek?
7. Remember that the Lord is pleased when we pray for all people, especially those in positions of leadership. How might we pray for our elders who shepherd the flock of God at Bear Creek?
God be with you and hope to see you on Sunday!