The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership

Analyse and discuss the on-going relevance of the biblical ‘Shepherd’ motif with regard to pastoral ministry in the largely urban context of the 21st century western Church.

The ‘Shepherd’ motif is one which runs deep and wide through Scripture. Deep in that it permeates all of Scripture, being found often in both the Old and New Testaments. Wide in that it is applied to a diverse range of persons with varying degrees relevance. From patriarchs to kings, prophets to Israel’s leaders, God Himself to the New Testament elders, the motif of ‘Shepherd’ as one in leadership and authority seems to run a course through the heart of God’s Word. Furthermore, the biblical narrative introduces us to a number of ‘real life’ shepherds, rather than simply metaphorical ones, who themselves play significant roles in redemptive history and as such add a certain weight to the overall motif.[1]

Can it be argued however, that a largely urban society such as the one which exists in the 21st century west, needs a new metaphor in order to understand the task of leading a church or pastoral ministry? Can a culture with little or no knowledge of shepherds, let alone the ancient near eastern shepherds associated with the biblical metaphor, garner any insight into church leadership from a metaphor it is almost entirely divorced from? Supposing that the biblical motif of shepherd was chosen because of its relevance to those who first received Scripture, might an example from the world of sports or corporate business or even politics be of more use and relevance to the western Church today?

In order to discuss the on-going relevance of the shepherd motif it must first be analysed and understood. Once it’s depth and breadth and in particular its relevance and application in the embryonic New Testament Church has been understood then an attempt can be made to understand it’s place for describing pastoral ministry in the western Church today.

Old Testament Shepherds

Two figures in Israel’s history who hold more significance than any others are Moses and David. Moses, who led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and oversaw their reception of the law, spent some 40 years shepherding flocks. David, Israel’s king ‘after God’s own heart,’ was out in the fields shepherding when the prophet Samuel came calling to anoint a future King.

It is significant that two such prominent leaders in Israel’s history, who oversaw such important events in the life of Israel as the exodus and the establishment of a kingdom, spent significant periods of time shepherding flocks, in a sense training for the responsibility of leading God’s people. It is thanks, in part, to the backgrounds of these two men that shepherding and leadership came to be so synonymous with one another in the Old Testament. In the second book of Samuel, when God is recorded as commissioning David, He introduces the two tasks as one and the same, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and will become their ruler” (2 Sam 5:2).

Furthermore, when Ezekiel prophecies in chastisement of Israel’s leadership, it is their ‘shepherding skills’ which are attacked.[2] “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (Ezek 34:2).

More notable though than these poor leaders or giants in the history of Israel is the regular reference to God Himself as a Shepherd. The first such instance is found in Genesis when Jacob, a literal shepherd, looks back on his life as he blesses his sons and refers to God as the one, “Who has always been my shepherd, all the days of my life” (Gen 48:15).

Later, in arguably the Old Testaments most famous text, David not only names God as his shepherd, but describes the ways in which He has acted as such, feeding and leading, providing and protecting. The rod and staff which God is described as using are the tools of the shepherd (Ps 23).

Finally, there is the promise of the shepherd to come. The prophecies of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel look forward to this shepherd, God’s shepherd, who would lead God’s people in a way which had thus far eluded the bad shepherds of Israel’s history. In Jeremiah’s prophecy the shepherd is described as feeding Israel, “with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer 3:15).

Ezekiel 34 has more to say on this promised shepherd and in so doing becomes a land mark chapter on the shepherd motif by drawing together the threads of Israel’s leaders being shepherds, albeit very bad ones, God providing a Shepherd and God Himself being that shepherd, “I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezek 34:15).

So it is with anticipation that the shepherd metaphor continues into the New Testament. Expecting God to continue to care for His people as a shepherd cares for his flock and to provide a good shepherd, one to watch over them, protect them and to lead them.

New Testament Shepherds

If Psalm 23 is the Old Testament’s most well-known ‘shepherding passage’, John’s record of Jesus’ teaching in John 10 is the most well-known of the New Testament. “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11; 10:14). Jesus here declares Himself to be the one promised in the Old testament, the fulfilment of the Shepherd motif, the leader of God’s people who, rather than devouring the flock (Ezek 34:10), lays down His own life for their good (John 10:11). Robert R. Monti notes the link in his Short Pastoral Theology, “In contrast to Israel’s past leaders and the shepherds of Jesus’ day, His pastoral activity is marked not by the exploitation of the flocks entrusted to His care, but rather by self-sacrifice, the impartation of life, and protection:”[3]

John continues this metaphor for Jesus as Israel’s leader right through to the end of Scripture, and even history, as he shares his vision of heaven where Jesus, “the lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd” (Rev 7:17).

It is not only John that sees Jesus as God’s promised shepherd leader, but the author of the letter to the Hebrews also writes of Jesus as, “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” (Heb 13:20).

However, the metaphor does not simply find fulfilment in Christ in the New Testament, but finds it’s perpetuation in the leadership of the early church. As Walter C. Wright notes in Relational Leadership, Jude, in much the same vain as Ezekiel, condemns those leaders who care for themselves rather than the church as, “shepherds who feed only themselves” (Jude 12).[4] Paul, in his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church, instructs them to be, “shepherds of the church of God” (Acts 20:28). In these two examples we see that the metaphor is preserved in relation to both good and bad leadership in the new church.

Mary Beth Gladwell summarises this on-going motif, “In the Old Testament God has words of strong rebuke and warning for bad shepherds, and prophecies of a good shepherd that is to come. In the New Testament, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd and we find in the epistles the notion of good shepherding extended to those who would lead in the church.”[5] Thus the shepherd metaphor extends from both human leaders (good and bad) to the divine leader, ultimately in the person of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Shepherd Motif Outside of the use of ‘Shepherd’

Yet the shepherd motif runs deeper still. Two further metaphors continue the idea of leadership as shepherds and highlight the need for this to be so. Firstly, the constant reference to God’s people as His flock or as sheep. Secondly, false teachers and opponents of God’s people often described as wolves.

Acts 20 illustrates how Israel and the Church, being referred to as sheep and a flock, necessitates the application of the shepherd metaphor for her leadership.  Paul reminds the elders at Ephesus to keep watch over themselves and “all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28) before quickly describing their primary duty as shepherding.

Indeed, in some key instances, the use of the shepherd metaphor is in direct response to the state of the sheep. For example in Ezekiel 34, it is in the recognition of Israel being like sheep that are scattered that the need for a better shepherd is identified.

Furthermore, those that would harm the church are regularly referred to as wolves. Ezekiel, again prophesying against the immoral rulers and leaders, describes Israel as having officials that “are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain” (Ezek 22:27). Christ too had words of warning for His followers, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15).

The shepherd motif therefore, is more than just a picture for leadership, but necessarily incorporates an understanding of the entire Church and the opposition that she faces. The shepherd metaphor is one piece in a larger tapestry which describes the leaders, members and enemies of the Church.

What is a Shepherd to be?

Passages such as Ezekiel 34 and the latter half of Jeremiah 10 give weight to the idea that, “The focus of a good shepherd was to be on his flock—their provision, guidance and safety.”[6] That is the focus of a ‘good’ shepherd should be protection from danger and keeping everyone together i.e. not scattered. A Shepherd’s ‘job description’ based on such passages focuses on the needs of the flock and the results within that flock that the shepherd should strive to achieve.

Psalm 23 suggests that God is a shepherd to David in that He brings both provision and protection. The inference then is that leaders in the church, if shepherds, should concern themselves with both providing and protecting those entrusted to their care. A shepherd’s ‘job description’ based on such a passage focuses on the tasks rather than the outcomes but retains the needs of the sheep as a primary motivator.

Philip Carnes summarises the shepherd metaphor in the New Testament by concluding that, “As shepherds of God’s flock, the elders are to be examples to those under their care and oversight, as Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, was an example to them.”[7] If such a ‘job description’ is accepted then the focus would be one of leading by example. The shepherd would have in mind a certain goal or end and this becomes the primary motivator rather than the current situation or needs of the flock.

Finally, Begg and Prime suggest that the primary role of a shepherd is to know their flock well. Therefore the need is seen as getting beside the flock in order to encourage, comfort, urge or warn as suitable.[8] With such a ‘job description’ the emphasis is on the relationship between the sheep and their shepherd, although this relationship is seen in terms of what can be achieved through it.

A holistic understanding of the shepherd will encompass all of these ‘job descriptions’. The shepherd should be keenly aware of, and motivated by, the needs of the sheep. The shepherd must appreciate the tasks which can alleviate these needs and the end to which they are striving. The shepherd must immerse themselves in the relationship context in which this can effectively be done.

Is it Still Relevant?

So, throughout Old and New, in fulfilment in Christ and perpetuation in the early church, by direct reference to elders and overseers as shepherds and indirect reference to Christians as sheep, the church as a flock, and false teachers as wolves, the Shepherd motif for leadership can at least be described as enduring.

Increasingly though, the contemporary church is depending on different metaphors in order to inform and describe church leadership. Many metaphors from the world of business, some from sports and even other biblical motifs seem to have taken the primacy of the ‘Shepherd’. An example of such a shift is the influential church Mars Hill, Seattle, where the emphasis in leadership tends not to be on the shepherd, but the three fold functions of leadership as prophet, priest and king.[9] In contrast, there are those who are convinced of the shepherd motif’s on-going relevance and its place as the primary metaphor for ministry leadership.[10]

Which perspective is correct? Does the shepherd motif have any lasting relevance or is it a metaphor, once profitable to an agricultural society but now utterly bankrupt? Two further passages are worth considering in depth in order to address these questions. Firstly, the reinstatement of Peter by the risen Jesus and secondly, Peter’s instruction to his ‘fellow elders’ in his first epistle.

John 21 recounts the time succeeding Jesus’ resurrection, when He dines with His disciples following a miraculous catch of fish. Jesus questions Peter 3 times regarding his continuing love for Him, “Do you truly love me more than these? Do you truly love me? Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). Each time Peter responds positively, only to be instructed by Jesus to feed and care for His lambs and sheep. If Peter is to feed and care for Jesus’ lambs and sheep then he must be their shepherd. The flock remains Christ’s, as is seen by His calling them ‘my sheep’, yet He is commissioning another (in this case Peter) to perform certain functions while He is bodily absent.

Jesus deliberately continues the metaphor of shepherding by commissioning Peter as a shepherd who will take His place when He ascends. “Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Chief Shepherd and Chief Teacher, but he commissions individuals to fulfil these functions on His behalf (John 21:15-27).”[11]

These words no doubt had a great impact on Peter and it is no surprise that when Peter writes his first epistle, the metaphor of shepherd looms large in his mind. Peter, having received his mandate from the risen Christ, writes to the persecuted church to encourage and equip her.

In chapter 2 he plants in the minds of his readers the notion of Jesus as, “the shepherd and overseer of [their] souls” (1 Pet 2:25). Jesus performs, ultimately, both these functions. With this established he then specifically addresses the elders amongst the churches.[12] His instruction is for them to be primarily, “Shepherds of God’s flock…serving as overseers“(1 Pet 5:2).

There are several points of note in this short passage (1 Pet 5:1-4). Firstly, Peter associates himself with the church leaders, calling himself a ‘fellow elder.’ This is important as it shows that in his leadership role, commissioned by Christ, he is not unique. It suggests that if Jesus’ instruction to Peter was to feed the sheep, Jesus’ instructions to all church leaders is to feed the sheep.

Secondly, Peter encourages the elders to principally be shepherds, not for their own benefit but for the benefit of the sheep. This is in stark contrast to the old shepherds of Israel’s history described in Ezekiel 34. Carnes concludes that, “Peter here suggests that the churches’ leaders are “to be servants, not bosses; ministers, not executives.”[13] Walter Wright agrees as he writes, “Leadership is the use of power to serve the people…They [the Israelite leaders] had grown fat off the flock, but they had not used their power and authority to feed the flock, to care for and nurture the people for whom they were responsible.”[14] Leadership according to Peter, described in terms of shepherding, is principally about service rather than position.

Thirdly, Peter reminds these elders that the flock over which they are to act as shepherds’ remains God’s flock. Furthermore it is a flock whose Chief Shepherd is Christ Himself. Peter is aware that a position of power, such as shepherding a flock, is open to abuse and so emphasises to the elders that their positions beneath Jesus.

What is most striking in this passage however is Peter’s description of the task of church leadership in the exact same terms as he has earlier referred to Christ. The job of shepherding or overseeing, far from being unique to Peter or even to the elders he writes to, is nothing more than a mimicking of the roles Jesus Himself performs. Furthermore in verse 4, Peter reminds them that, as they serve as shepherds and overseers, they wait for the coming of the ‘Chief Shepherd’, Jesus, at which time they will receive an appropriate reward for the level of care they have provided the flock.

What is Peter doing then? Is he simply continuing the old Shepherd metaphor which found it’s fulfilment in Jesus? No, he is beginning a new metaphor, one which basis itself not on the shepherds of the ancient near east or the bad rulers of Israel’s past, but on the Good Shepherd, Christ. Carnes suggests that this new metaphor is present even earlier, “In the good shepherd discourse of [John] chapter 10, Jesus proclaims himself the model, the ideal, of all shepherds.”[15]

Peter’s reminder that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd is of vital importance to the question of whether or not the shepherd motif is still relevant. Peter is here pointing not to the shepherding history of Israel and her neighbours but to Christ, the Good Shepherd. He is encouraging the elders to shepherd not in a metaphorical sense but first and foremost by their imitation of Christ. C.J. Mahaney, in an address to pastors, traced the role of shepherding through Scripture and noted that, “…the elders inherit the shepherding function first assumed by God, then handed over to the Good Shepherd, and now entrusted to elders…”[16]

Furthermore, Rogers sees the link between God as Israel’s shepherd being the template for Israel’s leaders and Christ as good Shepherd as the template for the Church’s leaders, “Through the motif of the shepherd, there are insights into the role and character of pastors as Shepherds under the ‘Chief Shepherd’ (1 Pet 5:1-4). When the image of Shepherd is understood to reveal the nature and character of God, those who would choose to join with God in His ministry may gain insight into pastoral ministry by observing and imitating the work of their God.”[17]

Perhaps to say that this is a ‘new’ metaphor is an over statement. Rodgers rightly concludes from his study of Ezekiel 34, “When the image of Shepherd is understood to reveal the nature and character of God, those who would choose to join with God in His ministry may gain insight into pastoral ministry by observing and imitating the work of their God.”[18] Yet in the person and work of Christ, the attributes and character of a good shepherd are brought into sharper focus than had previously been observable.


Andy Stanley, Pastor at North Point Community Church, articulates why he feels the shepherd metaphor is redundant in response to an interviewer’s suggestion that it could be abandoned by the church:

“Absolutely. That word needs to go away. Jesus talked about shepherds because there was one over there in a pasture he could point to. …It was culturally relevant in the time of Jesus but it’s not culturally relevant any more. Nothing works in our culture with that model except this sense of the gentle, pastoral care. Obviously that is a facet of church ministry, but that’s not leadership.” [19]

The suggestion is that other metaphors can take the place of the shepherd for describing and dictating the pastoral ministry, metaphors that are more familiar to congregations in an urban 21st century church.

The need for appropriate teaching on the subject of pastoral work is urgent. Prime and Begg warn that people have come to understand, “pastoral work [as] little more than a round of afternoon visits to female members of the congregation, drinking tea, and indulging in hours of small talk.”[20] The implication that a more robust understanding of pastoral work is needed is obvious! Stanley argues that rather than providing that robust understanding, the shepherd motif merely reinforces the quaint picture painted by Prime and Begg.

However there are several obvious problems with importing different metaphors. Firstly, Stanley places too much emphasis on the shepherd metaphor being ‘relevant’ when used by Jesus (and other biblical authors). Rather than simply being handy, we see in the lives of Moses and David that it shared a genuine likeness to the task of leadership and as such acted as a training ground for both men. “The shepherd is more than just a familiar metaphor for Israel, but one which corresponds to the care provided.”[21]

Secondly, it is unlikely that another metaphor chosen from popular culture will convey the same breadth of meaning as the shepherd, combining as it does both aspects of leadership and sacrificial service necessary for the role.

Finally, any new metaphor will necessarily bring with it its own cultural baggage. A British example might be comparing a pastor to a football manager who coaches a team and determines tactics. The metaphor would convey the authority associated with the office of pastor as well as the required expertise. However it would also bring the unfortunate association of being fired soon after appointment due to poor performances. The metaphor although culturally relevant and fitting in some respects would be unhelpful.


The cultural irrelevance argument against the shepherd motif is a weak one. In fact, it may even be said to be a benefit to the metaphor. If it is true that little is known about the shepherd then it provides an opportunity to present an ‘untarnished’ metaphor, which conveys nothing more than that which is intended by the person using it.[22] That is, if the metaphor is as poorly understood as opponents suggest, then it presents churches and church leaders with a blank canvas on which to paint an accurate picture of what it means to shepherd the flock of God. In this sense it’s success as a metaphor does not rest on the pre-existing knowledge of those in a church but the clarity with which it is presented to those who previously knew nothing of it.

Furthermore, it seems that much of the rejection of the shepherd metaphor is not on the grounds of cultural relevance, but rather a desire for church leaders to write their own job descriptions as opposed to fulfilling the roles that God has called them to.  “Shepherds are there for the sheep! Shepherds by definition are servants entrusted with the care of the flock…The shepherd was hired because of the sheep.”[23] The shepherd metaphor is not as much about communicating to the congregation the authority that a church leader has, but communicating to the church leader the responsibility they have for the congregation.

The shepherd motif is also highly relevant in the 21st century for the very reason that Stanley dismisses it and Begg and Prime wrote a book seeking to clarify how to do it; pastoral work is at a very low ebb.[24] Because of this it is incredibly timely to address exactly what it means. Rather than dismissing pastoral work in favour of simply ‘leading’ or ‘planning’ or ‘managing’, a fuller understanding of the work should be undertaken, at the heart of which must lie ‘shepherding.’

Moreover, the ‘shepherd as leader’ motif will always be relevant as long as the church is referred to as ‘the flock’ and individual Christians referred to a sheep. Sheep need a shepherd. Without shepherds (and good shepherds at that), sheep tend to stray into dangers land  and are vulnerable to attacks by vicious wolves, wolves that are promised to constantly attack the Church until Christ’s return. If the church needs shepherds there is no sense in giving her motivational speakers. Witmer anticipates the danger of the church today losing her shepherds in much the same way as Jesus observed in Matthew 9:36, becoming as they were, ‘distressed and dispirited.’[25]

Put simply, as long as the church is in need of shepherds then the shepherd motif will be of the utmost relevance and as long as the church is made up of sheep, they will need shepherds. This is one of the most pressing arguments for the continuation of the shepherd motif, as Gladwell states, “It is clear, because of our helplessness and our tendency to wander and get lost we are in need of a Good Shepherd.”[26]

The shepherd metaphor is intimately connected with the flock metaphor for the church and the wolf metaphor for false teachers. If one is replaced then a suitable replacement must also be found for the others. If the shepherd is to become a CEO then the flock must become employees and wolves become a rival firm. None of these though rings true.

However, the imagery of Christians as sheep and false teachers as wolves endures and so to then must that of the shepherd to care for the flock and protect from the wolves. It is this enduring quality that Carnes picks up on, “Many models or structures of leadership change from one era of God’s working through and in his people to the next. Kings may come and go. Judges and Prophets rise and then pass from the scene…One thing remains constant. God names his people as his flock, and commands those who lead his people to do so as shepherds.”[27]

Finally, and most importantly, if the continuation of the metaphor has in mind not the shepherds of the ancient near east but the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ, then it is extremely relevant. No matter how ‘urban’ the 21st century western Church may become she will continue to have taught in her the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep.

Knowledge of literal shepherding practice is what is irrelevant then, perhaps even dangerous, as it shifts the focus of those seeking to understand the task of New Testament church leadership from Christ, into the hills. Rodgers assessment of simply importing ideas about near eastern shepherds seems to be a healthy caution, “the image of Shepherd can be pushed so far as to be downright misleading.”[28]

Therefore Mark Eckel’s insistence on navigating ancient terrain need not be heeded. He is wrong to insist that, “Cultural, historical, and political bridges must be crossed by the twenty-first century interpreter in order to fathom the depths of importance “shepherd” brings to a Christian concept of leadership.”[29] Instead Monti’s encouragement becomes all the more significant as he suggests, “Modern ‘shepherds’ will better take their cue from Jesus than shepherds in the field.”[30]

Indeed as Mark Driscoll observes, Jesus is the first and foremost in all our church offices, “Jesus Christ is the head of the church, the apostle who plants a church, the leader who builds the church, and the senior pastor and Chief Shepherd who rules the church.”[31] He concludes that,“…church leaders must first be good sheep who follow their Chief Shepherd Jesus well before they are fit to be shepherds leading any of His sheep.” Being a good shepherd is imitating Christ’s example as the Good Shepherd well.[32]

Pastoral care then is not based on the functions of the literal shepherds found in the Old Testament, but rather on the understanding that God is ultimately the pastoral carer, who has promised to care for His people, is continuing to care for His people, and invites ministers, as under-shepherds, to join with Him in this ministry. Minister in an urban 21st century church can join with God in His care for His people by following the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

In short, the ‘Shepherd’ motif will remain relevant as long as Christ remains relevant.

[1]Examples of real life shepherds playing major roles in the biblical narrative are the patriarchs, Moses, David and even the shepherds who were present to worship at the birth of Christ.

[2]Timothy Z. Witmer, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2010), 20-21.

[3]Robert R. Monti, “A Short Pastoral Theology,” n.p. [cited 2 April 2011]. Online:

[4]Walter C. Wright, Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Leadership Service (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2000), 3.

[5]Mary Beth Gladwell, “The Shepherd Motif in the Old and New Testament,” n.p. [cited 3 April 2011]. Online:

[6]Gladwell, “Shepherd Motif in the Old and New,” n.p.

[7]Phillip Gene Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd: The Shepherd Metaphor and it’s Primacy for Biblical Leadership,” n.p. [cited 24 March 2011]. Online:

[8]Derek Prime and Alistiar Begg, On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Publishers, 2004), 32.

[9]Leadership is season as fulfilling at least one of these functions. Mark Driscoll, “Prophet, Priest, King,” n.p. [cited 12 January 2011]. Online: (An account with Mars Hill Global is required to access this video. Such accounts are free but require an email address to).

[10]Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd,” n.p.

[11]Prime and Begg, On Being a Pastor, 32.

[12]The term elder and overseer is used interchangeably in the N.T. The 9Marks Handbook dealing with elders uses Acts 20 as an example. 9Marks, “By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life,” n.p. [cited 13 January 2011]. Online:

[13]Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd,” n.p.

[14]Wright, Relational Leadership, 180-181.

[15]Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd,” n.p.

[16]C.J. Mahaney, “The Pastor’s Charge: Part 1 (Sermon Audio),” n.p. [cited 20 March 2011]. Online:

[17]Ben Rodgers, “A Christological Reading of the Shepherd Motif for Pastoral Theology with Special Reference to Ezekiel 34,” n.p. [cited 26 March 2011]. Online:

[18]Rodgers, “A Christological Reading,” n.p.

[19]Quotes by Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd,” n.p.

[20]Prime and Begg, On Being a Pastor, 149.

[21]Witmer, Shepherd Leader, 13.

[22]As opposed to culturally relevant metaphors which bring with them unhelpful cultural baggage as discussed above.

[23]Wright, Relational Leadership, 24.

[24]See Stanley and Begg/Prime’s views on the state of pastoral work in the section, “Alternatives” above.

[25]Witmer, Shepherd Leader, 3.

[26]Gladwell, “Shepherd Motif in the Old and New,” n.p.

[27]Carnes, “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd,” n.p.

[28]Rodgers, “A Christological Reading,” n.p.

[29]Mark Eckel, “Shepherding: A Biblical Motif for Leadership,” n.p. [cited 12th April 2011]. Online:

[30]Monti, “Short Pastoral,” n.p.

[31]Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods (Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 64.

[32]Driscoll and Breshears, Vintage Church, 65.


9Marks. “By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life.” No pages. Cited 13 January 2011. Online:

Carnes, Phillip Gene. “Like Sheep Without a Shepherd: The Shepherd Metaphor and it’s Primacy for Biblical Leadership.” No pages. Cited 24 March 2011. Online:

Driscoll, Mark. “Prophet, Priest, King.” No pages. Cited 12 January 2011. Online:

Driscoll, Mark and Gerry Breshears. Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods. Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008.

Eckel, Mark. “Shepherding: A Biblical Motif for Leadership.” No pages. Cited 12th April 2011. Online:

Gladwell, Mary Beth. “The Shepherd Motif in the Old and New Testament.” No pages. Cited 3 April 2011. Online:

Mahaney, C.J. “The Pastor’s Charge: Part 1 (Sermon Audio).” No pages. Cited 20 March 2011. Online:

Monti, Robert R. “A Short Pastoral Theology.” No pages. Cited 2 April 2011. Online:

Prime, Derek and Alistair Begg. On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work. Chicago, Ill.: Moody Publishers, 2004.

Rodgers, Ben. “A Christological Reading of the Shepherd Motif for Pastoral Theology with Special Reference to Ezekiel 34.” No pages. Cited 26 March 2011. Online:

Witmer, Timothy Z. The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2010.

Wright, Walter C. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Leadership Service. Milton

Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2000.


11 Responses to “The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership”

  1. Andy 18/08/2011 at 9:38 pm #

    A stimulating and edifying read. Thanks Sammy for sharing your hard graft and revealing something of your own heart for pastoral ministry. My mind was exercised and my heart was warmed. However I am now itching to know what you think this looks like in practice!?

    I suspect that most reformed pastors would agree that the shepherd motif is still relevant but what I want to know is whether it is actually being worked out in practice and if so how? I’ve heard people say that 21st C western society is very different to the days of Baxter etc. so we can’t go about pastoral ministry in the way they used to. If that is the case then the question remains, are we being shepherds to the flock under our care? I wonder what the sheep would say?

    • Sammy Davies 19/08/2011 at 9:20 pm #

      I’ll get back to you on this Andy, away at the in-laws at the moment. Although I will say Richard Baxter does not necessarily = shepherding. I’m pretty sure my point was ‘look to Jesus’ rather than go door to door. (And I know your q was more sophisticated than that!)

      As I said, I’ll respond when I’m back at my laptop. God Bless.

      • Andy 22/08/2011 at 12:55 pm #

        Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts. After 12 months of working as an assistant pastor I’m beginning to see first hand both the benefits and the difficulties of “pastoral visits”. While Baxter’s strict catechising may not be appropriate, there is surely no substitute for one-one conversations in the home to find out how someone is doing and where they’re at. If spiritual shepherding is about feeding and protecting people through faithfully and thoughtfully applying the scriptures to their lives then surely we need to get to know them (Jn 10:27). Our knowledge will be imperfect compared to the Chief/Good shepherd but that shouldn’t be an excuse for treating them simply as generic sinners. I get the impression from the gospel accounts that Jesus really knew people and dealt with them in a personal way.

        If we agree on that principle then we have to think through how we go about this in a local church where people have such diverse time commitments, circumstances, personalities etc. The “one-man-ministry” approach we see in some churches is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned as being unbiblical, unhealthy and impractical. OT examples like Moses delegating oversight to others who were capable and trustworthy (Ex 18:13-26) and the NT pattern of elders and deacons is surely crucial when it comes to this area of shepherding. What we can’t do is shrug our shoulders at the busyness of modern life and resign ourselves to “impersonal” shepherding which is surely a contradiction in terms.

  2. Sammy Davies 25/08/2011 at 10:52 am #

    I think my essay was extremely vague in reference to the actual practice of this…probably because I don’t really have a clue.

    One worry I have is equating the shepherding side of being an elder (or pastor) with visiting people. My main point was that it was following Jesus’ example, as the Over Shepherd, which informs our practice. Still, what should that look like?

    1 Peter colours my thinking more than anything when the charge is given to the elders to shepherd, immediately followed by a reference to Jesus as the Over Shepherd. Earlier in the letter Peter uses the phrase, “Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (ch2v25)

    So maybe the heart of shepherding is the keeping watch. I think practically this means a need to know the flock, that’s obvious, but I think it incorporates both a one on one and more overall approach. We guard via the pulpit as much (if not more) as we do on the sofa or in the coffee shop.

    Ultimately mate I think you’re in a better position having been doing this for a year!


  1. The Shepherd as Leader « saintbeagle - 20/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  2. OT Shepherds: Overview « saintbeagle - 23/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  3. The ‘Shepherd Motif’ outside of the use of ‘Shepherd’ « saintbeagle - 25/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  4. New Testament Shepherds (A start) « saintbeagle - 25/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  5. Opposing the ‘Shepherd Motif’ « saintbeagle - 27/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  6. Shepherds, Jesus, Church Leaders and Eternal Relevance « saintbeagle - 27/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

  7. Concluding Thoughts on the ‘Shepherd’ as Church Leader « saintbeagle - 28/05/2011

    […] The Shepherd Motif for Church Leadership […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: