Discerning Good and False Shepherds (Pastors) and Does It Really Matter?

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Five-Fold Ministry Gifts
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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.

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 (Gen. 4:2). Shepherding was the chief occupation of the Israelites in the early days of the patriarchs: Abraham (Gen. 12:16); Rachel (Gen. 29:9); Jacob (Gen. 30:31-40); Moses (Ex. 3:1).

As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings and slaves (compare David in 1 Sam. 16:11-13). Farmers such as those in Egypt even hated shepherds (Gen. 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 (Ps. 23) and protected them from wild animals (1 Sam. 17:34-35). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8) or in sheepfolds (Zeph. 2:6). They counted the sheep as they entered the sheepfold at night (Jer. 33:13). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isa. 40:11).

The word “shepherd” came to designate not only those who herded sheep, but also kings (2 Sam. 5:2) and God Himself (Ps. 23; Isa. 40:11). Later prophets referred to Israel’s leaders as shepherds (Jer. 23; Ezek. 34).

In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food (1 Sam. 14:32), milk to drink (Isa. 7:21-22), wool for clothing (Job 31:20), hides for rough clothing (Matt. 7:15), and leather for tents (Ex. 26:14). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system (Ex. 20:24). They were offered as burnt offerings (Lev. 1:10), sin offerings (Lev. 4:32), guilt offerings (Lev. 5:15), and peace offerings (Lev. 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” (Heb. 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).

Blessings and Disappointments in Good and False Pastors (Shepherds)

Blessings. A good pastor/shepherd in your life is a blessing. That pastor was given to you as a gift from the Great Shepherd, Jesus, and has a role in your life that is vital.

Right up front I want to say that it is my pleasure to report that my wife and I have a couple who pastor us quite well. In fact, I often say to our congregation, “We have the best pastors in the whole world.” That’s our opinion and we are sticking with it. They feed, tend, heal and spiritually lead their flock very well.

The testimony of my wife and me is that we cannot recall ever having a bad or false shepherd. We salute and bless the good shepherds (pastors).

Disappointments. Sadly not all shepherds are good. Even good ones are not always perfect. It saddens me to hear reports of those who have experienced false or abusive pastors and shepherds. Perhaps they were taken advantage of or came to feel they were “used” by their leaders. Stories of such treatment fuel gossip and negative publicity for the present day church.

Understanding Old and New Testament Words for “Shepherd” (Pastor)

Qualities of a Good Shepherd. The job of a shepherd is to feed and defend the sheep. In 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NASB) we read: shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.”

Qualities of A False Shepherd. A person who feeds off the sheep, taking advantage of them and using them for personal advantage is a false shepherd. When a new sheep appears and becomes part of his flock, they immediately seeks ways they can take advantage of assets and talents to their own advantage. Instead of feeding the sheep, they take their food unto themselves.

Discerning Good and False Shepherds. Does it really matter? Let God speak to you through these Old and New Testament references concerning good shepherds and false shepherds: 

John 10:11 (AMP) I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.”

John 10:14 (AMP) I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me.”

1 Peter 2:25 (AMP) For you were going astray like [so many] sheep, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian (the Bishop) of your souls.”

Ezekiel 34:2 (AMP) Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, even to the [spiritual] shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the [spiritual] shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep?”

Ezekiel 34:5 (AMP) And they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild beasts of the field.”

Ezekiel 34:7-8 (AMP) Therefore, you [spiritual] shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:
 As I live, says the Lord God, surely because My sheep became a prey, and My sheep became food for every beast of the field because there was no shepherd—neither did My shepherds search for My sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves and fed not My sheep.”

Ezekiel 34:9-10 (AMP) Therefore, O you [spiritual] shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My sheep at their hand and cause them to cease feeding the sheep, neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more. I will rescue My sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.”

Ezekiel 34:12 (AMP) As a shepherd seeks out his sheep in the day that he is among his flock that are scattered, so will I seek out My sheep; and I will rescue them out of all places where they have been scattered in the day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Ezekiel 34:23-24 (AMP) “And I will raise up over them one Shepherd and He shall feed them, even My Servant David; He shall feed them and He shall be their Shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God and My Servant David a Prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.”

In the next article, we will begin to illuminate Christ’s ascension gifts to the church, which are: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor-Teacher.”

Ras Robinson

Comments
  1. Charles Lee Moore says:

    So were is the Apostle, the Prophet, and the Evangelist in the church of today? Most churches tend to center around a one man one voice one command type of leadership. I also tend not to trust in the “five fold ministry” as it is not Biblical as it is used in the today church.

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  2. Rodrigo Esic says:

    Thank you Dad Ras, This is wonderful messages to make us aware on how to be a good shepherd like Jesus. Today we are building Jesus Kingdom networks in the church and .Many FCM scholars become kingdom builders. Each one should follow the ladder of success, First , PIONEER 2nd Mentor 3rd Exhorter 4rth Deacon 5th Elder. Your messages are a great help to form these networks.
    God bless you and your families – Pastor rudy Esic

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  3. Diane says:

    Would you be willing to allow me to call you to ask for advice and prayer. It is very urgent and critical. Thank you 💕

    >

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  4. Marilyn says:

    Last night, the scripture “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered” came to mind. I kept speaking it. After that, the scripture, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” came to mind. Are the sheep being fed the ‘goodness of God?’ I thought of where Peter cut off the ear of the soldier, but Jesus put his ear back on and healed it. The religious leaders put heavy burdens on people, but Jesus went about healing all who were sick and oppressed of the devil. The priest and the levite walked by on the other side of the road past the dying man, but the Samaritan stopped and helped him. Jesus left the 99 to go and find the one lost sheep.

    I believe God is showing me that as we feed upon the goodness of the Lord – meditate on His goodness in His word, we will have that same heart of compassion for the lost and hurting rather than judging and condemning them. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that through Him they might be saved.

    You said that you are going to start teaching on the ascension gifts. Those gifts are to equip the church for the work of the ministry – going to the lost sheep. In order to do that, we must have the heart of the Head Shepherd, Jesus, who left heaven and came to earth and died for the worst sinner that they might be saved.

    When Michael Jackson died, God gave me three secular songs – Feed the World, Heal the World and We are the World. He then said, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE….” These secular artists were coming into unity and going to Africa and feeding starving children.

    Personally, I have grown weary of going to church service after church service, yet never arriving to the point of what it is all about – going and sharing the love of God with others. If the Good Samaritan would have joined ranks with the priest and the levite, he might have lost the heart of the Master, which is compassion. He might have learned all the right rules, but lost the heart of love. God is love. Without love nothing matters in the end.

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  5. Marilyn says:

    Please forgive me for posting the last comment. I probably shouldn’t have. I’m keeping it for myself. I just read the post before it and saw that you are building kingdom networks with deacons and elders. I don’t fit into that structure. All I want to do is sit at Jesus’ feet and share His love with others. God is bringing me back to that place where I can just simply tell people that God loves them without all of the extras. I’m more like the woman at the well. I can’t try to fit into a structure that isn’t for me.

    I bless you for what you are doing, but I don’t fit in it. Sorry to have bothered you with my comments. Just delete them all. I would if I knew how.

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    • Ras Robinson says:

      My posts are for believers in our Lord Jesus and those who are yet to believe. You are most welcome. Glad to have you back Marilyn.

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      • Marilyn says:

        Thank you. I understand a little more now. Your post on words today related to Peter and Jesus. Peter used the sword to cut off the guard’s ear, but Jesus, the Word, healed the ear. What do our words do – cut or heal.

        You’ve also posted on forgiveness.

        I went to Mass this morning and realized it was the week of Christian unity. God continually shows me that the only place of true unity is at the cross. Communion is our blood covenant with God. We have all been forgiven much and received much grace but are to forgive others in the same way.

        I went to a Protestant five-fold ministry meeting on healing the whole body. During communion, God told me that the body had been healed.

        “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,” (Eph. 2:14-15)

        Paul feared that the church would be deceived in the same way Eve was in leaving the simplicity of Christ. I am trying to get back to that simplicity – where I receive all the blessings of Christ by grace through faith in order to bless others.

        I have heard God’s audible voice one time. On the way to communion, He said, This is the Table of the Lamb. You are the rich man. You are to go to the Lazarus’s. God later told me that there was too much for me to do and I was to teach others to do this. I need to get back focused on what I’m supposed to do and quit trying to fit into other things and/or trying to get others to fit into what God has told me to do.

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