Quotes to Note 30: Pastors as True Shepherds or Mere “Mutton Farmers”

Recently, I’ve been reading some forums that have been lamenting poor leadership in certain IFBx circles. Some have shared painful testimonies about years of harsh treatment by parents and teachers who ostensibly cared about the children’s welfare, but ultimately just rejected them (literally throwing them out, and disowning them completely) when it became clear that they weren’t keeping in step with the brand of fundamentalism these pastors and church leaders advocated.

Then I stumbled across this quote in studying for my Men’s Bible Study lesson on Mark 6:31-44 where Jesus looks on the crowds with compassion and considers that: “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I almost started weeping when I read these words about what a true shepherd should be. Praise Jesus he is not like some of the “shepherds” I’ve known…

Most contemporary listeners are unfamiliar with the job description of a shepherd. Lena Woltering has pointed out that a shepherd “is needed only when there are no fences. He is someone who stays with his sheep at all cost, guiding, protecting, and walking with them through the fields. He’s not just a person who raises sheep.” They lead sheep to food and water and are ever mindful of the sheep’s condition (Gen. 33:13). They gather lambs that cannot keep up in their arms (Isa. 40:11). They seek out lost sheep, and when they find them, they carry them back to the fold on their sholders (Luke 15:5). They guard against predators and thieves. It is a dirty and hard job. Woltering castigates those bishops who regard themselves as “tenders of the flock” and brands them as little more than “mutton farmers.” “They build fence after fence after fence, keeping the flock within sight so they don’t have to dirty their feet plodding along the open fields.” They turn the difficult role of shepherd into a position of rank and superiority and sequester themselves from the sheep. Ezekiel’s castigation of the self-indulgent and irresponsible shepherds in his day (Ezek. 34) is no less applicable today to those who want to dominate and crush others rather than feed them. — David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, pg. 258-259 [quotes from Woltering were cited in Salt of the Earth 15 (July/August, 1995), 34]

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~ Originally posted at Fundamentally Reformed