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Who is the shepherd?

May 10, 2007

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:12-13)

A common analogy in Christian circles is to refer to a pastor as a shepherd. This probably comes from the fact that pastor comes from the Latin word for shepherd. Jesus is also often referred to as the Great Shepherd. Are Jesus and pastors the only ones who Christ is speaking to here?

Over the last two weeks I have been conversing with four different people in my church family that are wounded and hurting. Some are even considering leaving the church. They aren’t finding others to reach out to them, support them, and encourage them. Their issues aren’t because of a specific problem within my church. It like any other church is a place made up of imperfect people who make mistakes. No matter what has caused the pain though, these people are hurting and need support. My heart grieves over the hurt they feel. Every story of woundedness I have ever heard is different, and each one is intensely real to those who experience it.

I have a growing heart and burden for those who have been hurt, disheartened, wounded, disgruntled, or neglected by churches, Christians, or religion. Our churches are loosing these wounded and abandoned sheep in great numbers and few are willing to listen, support, guide, and help these people heal. It takes time, and effort that most people are not willing to put forth. I myself am walking that path of healing and know how long and difficult it can be. You don’t have to look very far either in or outside of the church to find those who are hurting because of our failings as Christians. Jesus is the Great Shepherd, and I believe pastors are called to shepherd those under their care, but what if we are also called to be the one to go out and find those who are lost, those who have wandered off, and those who are alone and hurt? I don’t believe this parable is about those who haven’t come into relationship with God yet, but rather it is about those who have strayed or fallen away from the safety, care, and support of the flock. The parable above doesn’t say those sheep “will” be found, it says “if”. That implies there is a chance some of them won’t be found. Do you think it only the responsibility of God and the pastors to find those people and bring them home? What if God is waiting for you to be involved? Do you know someone who it hurting, wounded, or abandoned that could use your hand, a word of encouragement, or a supporting shoulder to lean on? Are you willing to join God’s search and rescue team and be a shepherd to needy sheep?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2007 7:09 pm

    “I have a growing heart and burden for those who have been hurt, disheartened, wounded, disgruntled, or neglected by churches”
    If you are wanting to do this, you will certainly have your work cut out for you as there are many, many hurt people out there in this category. Most often that hurt gets expressed through anger and theological wrangling. If I may offer my thoughts, please don’t try and “help” these people by quoting verses at them or preaching. They have heard it all before, and many of them know the bible way better than you ever will. If you are ready to take the time to ask questions, listen, and seek to understand, then you will have a great impact!
    Peace, Jon

  2. May 11, 2007 6:54 am

    Thank you for your honesty and your candor. I appreciate it and agree with it. Quoting scripture and preaching doesn’t change lives, walking out life together and being present and available does. You bring up key points (give time, ask, listen, seek to understand them). I know from my own walk through the wasteland that comes from being hurt and disillusioned those are the things that make a difference, and yet most of what I get from others are comments that they will pray for me (no one has ever offered to pray with me) or invitations to a bible study or other church meeting. Healing takes time, work, and support. That doesn’t come when we are relationally distant from each other. It amazes me how deeply others embrace relationship and how relationally distant many Christians live. That is not how I want to, aim to, and try to live. I don’t want to be another one of those who turn people away from the church and God.

  3. May 13, 2007 5:02 pm

    Hi Sherrie!

    I respectfully both agree and disagree. We agree that relationship is very important and you have been writing about this here in the past. I have recently read the following statement: “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Having taught troubled kids in a residential treatment facility one learns quickly that you will not get no where teaching them until you build relationship and trust.

    But equally important is scripture. It is God breathed for our instruction which I know you’ve heard many times and believe it does change lives.

    These two work hand in hand.

    Gal 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

  4. May 14, 2007 7:20 am

    Delany, thanks for pointing out that my points were not complete or well communicated. It is so easy to do that. I do believe that scripture is incredibly important and it does change lives. I also agree with your point about relationship and how relationship and trust are so important to opening up hearts and minds to hear more about God.

    What I was trying to express to Jon’s caution was an agreement that spouting scripture without relationship often isn’t helpful. There is an added barrier if someone has been hurt in a church or religious setting or if they are angry at God. They may need time, space, and grace to be able to reapproach God and scripture. I appreciate how Sharon Hilderbrant addresses the issue in an article on Spiritual Abuse ( “All survivors will need help working through memories and feelings triggered by scripture. Scripture was twisted to the advantage of the group or its leaders. True meanings of Scripture are healing and give life. Untwisting takes much work. Make no assumptions of what they know or understand. Challenge every concept, all usage of jargon and Bible language for clarification of what it means to them. They may assume you know their understanding of a phrase, as if there is only one way to interpret it. Respect their spiritual boundaries. Be sure they are ready to grapple with scripture. (It is normal to avoid reading the Bible at all for 12-18 months or more.)”

  5. May 14, 2007 8:53 am

    BTW, take another look at Ezekiel 34.

    Meant to mention this but forgot as I was writing. Just a note. I became very frustrated in worship yesterday. Worship leader started singing verses not on the sheet again and all over the place. I at first just started singing verses from other songs, then just sat down. I am upset with myself for the reaction. I fear being branded if my reaction. We are new to this church (only been here for 6-7 months) and still getting to know folks. You had suggested confronting the worship leader but don’t think I have that relationship to do so.

    Interesting about your link. I was looking at spiritual abuse on the web yesterday. The Lord sure does strange things. Blessings beyond your imagination to you…..

  6. May 16, 2007 2:48 pm

    It has been a busy few days but I finally had a chance to look at Ezekiel 34. That really laid heavy on my heart as I think of those I have any level of responsibility with, and those who are struggling. (I read the passage from my leadership bible which called out our role in leading and supporting others.) In fact I just got an email from a friend today who said she has voiced to friends and her church that she is struggling and hurting, and I am the only one who has reached out to her. It is sad to hear that because God calls us to deeper relationship and community with each other.

    I am sorry to hear about the continued worship issues. I understand you not feeling you have enough relationship to speak with the worship leader. I have been in my church just 15 months and I feel I have stuck my foot down my throat repeatedly and caused damage where I sometimes wonder if I will ever be trusted. My intention has never been disunity or criticism only seeking of understanding or honesty about my own struggle. Even though you might not like the attitude you found yourself having, it is great that you could recognize your attitude on Sunday. We can’t work to change something we don’t see. I had a similar issue with a new song that was taught at my church. I found myself not wanting to sing. Once I recognized that I, like you, tried to shift so I was still praising God in some other way. Don’t be upset at yourself, keep pressing in to God. Maybe he will show you a way to praise him that you have never thought of before.

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