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A Renewed Focus on Shepherding

There is a renewed emphasis on shepherding at UPC. Specifically, the pastors and elders are calling all leaders to seriously reflect on and respond to such biblical directives as:

  • “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
  • “[S]hepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2).

In Ezekiel 34, God takes Israel's prophets and priests to task for failing to shepherd his people with care and compassion. He tells them, “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them" (Ezek 34:4-6).

That is a devastating indictment of the anointed leaders of Israel. Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11), wants leaders to "bind up" and "build up" those under their care. That is the two-fold task of the shepherd.

Consider Psalm 23, the famous psalm about the Lord who is our Shepherd. He both makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. He both restores our souls and guides us in paths of righteousness. He uses both a rod and a staff. In short, he loves us the way we are, yet loves us so much he doesn’t leave us the way we are. Leaders should imitate him as they shepherd his flock. Binding up and building up God’s people contributes to both love and spiritual maturity in the church.   

The Bible's teaching about shepherding shows that it is multifacted. There are many things involved in shepherding the flock, including:

  • Leading, guiding
  • Protecting
  • Teaching
  • Helping
  • Knowing
  • Providing
  • Modeling
  • Restoring, correcting
  • Keeping watch
  • Visiting
  • Meeting needs

The common denominator in shepherding is love. God, who from all eternity has been a tri-relational God, has stamped his image upon human beings. We glorify God, and we reflect his glory, as we care for and nourish those under our charge.

Shepherding is an aspect of every leader's job, from the teacher of the four-year olds' Sunday School class to the Life Group leader to the deacon to the pastor. If every leader will faithfully carry out the calling to both bind up and build up, God's people will grow.

We created the Flock system so shepherding can exist at UPC. Each Life Group has a leader. Each Life Group leader has a coach and a deacon. Each coach and deacon has an elder. Each elder has a pastor. All these shepherds work together for the spiritual good of the congregation. “They keep watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17).