The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd,” is the opening words of Psalms 23.  But what does that truly mean?  Before we could answer that question, we have to look at what a shepherd is.  A shepherd is a person who guides, provides and protects his flock of sheep.  Therefore, if the Lord is our shepherd, then the Lord’s role is to guide, provide and protect us.

When we scale ourselves to the creator of the universe, we are simple sheep.  We lack relative wisdom, and we require direction.  Most people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior would not argue that God is indeed their shepherd.  However, what role, if any, should the Church play in shepherding God’s flock?

I grew up in the church.  As a youth, I had a personal relationship with my pastors and church elders.  However, with the emergence of the mega-churches, the position of the church has slightly shifted.  The increasing congregation sizes have made it difficult for pastors and church elders to be relational with everyone.  In many of these churches, there has been a push for the development of small groups, which are usually peer-lead.  The problem is, there is no true shepherding.  This is not to say that small groups do not provide a personal and spiritual benefit.  However, for true shepherding to occur, there has to be a leader who is learned in the Word of God.  Most pastors have spent considerable time studying the Bible’s historical, societal and cultural context so that they can effectively relay the correct message.  While I am sure that there are individuals who lead small groups who have done the same, I would argue that they are few and far in between.  Again, it brings me back to the question, “Who is shepherding God’s flock?”  One of the roles of a pastor is to be a shepherd.  Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, there is no escaping that.  Just as doctors are responsible for the care of their patients, pastors and church elders are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their congregation.  If someone is a member of the body of Christ and in spiritual pain, where does that person go for spiritual guidance?  Yes, that person could go turn to a friend or a family member for counsel.  Again, I will draw a parallel using the doctor example.  Imagine that someone was suffering from cancer.  That person’s family and friends could treat them with home remedies, but at some point, the ailing person would need to see a doctor.  The same is true for spiritual sickness and disease.  James 5:14, says that if any of us is sick, we should call to the elders of the church, and they should pray over the sick.  In that passage, the Bible gave a clear directive.  The elders SHOULD, not could, pray over the ailing.  God is simply stating that the elders of the church have a responsibility to their sheep.

2 Timothy 1-5 says:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (The Message).

The Church was created to be a hospital for the spiritually dead and dying.  It is not enough to just get people in the doors of the Church.  We have to nurture them and feed them while they are there.  Salvation is beyond quotas, book deal and television appearances.  It’s about saving God’s flock.