Part 3, Apostolic Shepherd Function
“Shepherd” function within an apostolic team, or a ministry team with apostles and prophets as a foundation for leadership follows the blueprint of the assignment in providing and protecting God’s people when and while they require shepherds.
The Flock as Kingdom and Ecclesia
Jesus makes clear to Simon Peter than his love for Jesus should result in a shepherding function. “Feed My sheep” and “feed My lambs.” [John 21] Here the metaphor Jesus used in discussing His own Messianic assignment, producing a new remnant from among the nations, extends to the apostle to the Jews, Simon Peter. In this passage, many have misunderstood, of course, the intention of Jesus, and the Roman church prescribed to Simon Peter a role nearly equal with Jesus. This discussion, both personal and corporate in scope, we learn some fundamentals of Jesus.
Shepherding always exhibits the highest form of love. Jesus says, “Messiah lays down His life.” He says to Simon, in so many words, “Loving Me means loving as I do. It will cost you.” Jesus speaks about and describes his death (insightful discussion of how God sees the death of His kingdom leaders). Peter refers to the imprint of these words in his letters to the Ecclesia.
First, note that Jesus refers to His sheep and lambs. The flock does not include everyone. The flock is kingdom because it is composed of the born anew who enter the kingdom. Jesus discusses shepherding function in terms of providing for and protecting those that are born anew. The flock is not universal. The flock is identifiable. Shepherds have mercy gifting and they may fall into a diversion of caring for every needy person the same as they would for their assigned sheep.
Shepherds do not treat all sheep or lambs the same as God’s sheep or lambs. The strategies to respond to “all God’s children” (as the phrase is used by people to speak of everyone God creates) are not the same. Many fall into dysfunction, assuming instructions for kingdom leaders to care for kingdom people can be or should be extended to all people, when they cannot and should not. Shepherd is a function that responds to saints, to God’s flock of kingdom people, as they related to their kingdom assignments in Ecclesia. (All people would include wolves if we follow the metaphor.)
Second, wandering sheep represent born anew members of the flock who require someone to go get them and teach them the proper lifestyle by which they share provision and protection. The term “lost sheep” does not represent an unsaved person or a backslider. The “lost sheep” wanders away because of the inherent issues the metaphor of sheep, shepherd, and flock assumes: namely, innocence, ignorance, lack of strength of will, and spiritual vulnerability.
We do not respond to children in the same way we respond to sheep because “child of God” is not a metaphor. “Sheep” is a metaphor. “Child” is a reality. We may treat God’s children like sheep when they exhibit sheep-like behaviors, characteristics, and needs.
Third, shepherds know their sheep. Although shepherds have no ownership of the sheep, the do have responsibility and authority for sheep as defined by the sheep metaphor. They have a “flock” they can number and name. They know how many. They know each sheep by name. They know the condition, behavior, and needs of sheep so they fulfill their assignments as shepherds of sheep. They have a “sheep responsibility list.” They know instantly that a sheep is not one of theirs, exhibits non-sheep characteristics, or wanders off.
Fourth, shepherds recognize and discern the behaviors of sheep including sheep-on-sheep relationships. Dealing with cranky or vulnerable sheep, the relationships among sheep become a part of the shepherd’s responsibilities. Since sheep are vulnerable, ignorant, and immature, by definition, their relationships reflect their spiritual state, and a shepherd must be interested, involved, and intimate in terms of how these relationships affect sheep in order to provide for and protect sheep and lambs.
Fifth, while comfort is not a measurement of success for apostle, prophets, or teachers, comfort is a consideration for shepherds and evangels. In this case, talking of shepherds, we know that sheep require a comfort level before they eat, drink, rest, and mature. That level of comfort remains a focus for shepherds who recognize discomfort and respond to that signal with shepherding leadership.
Sixth, the fivefold ministry shepherd prepares and positions shepherds so the sheep learn to serve, connect, receive and release, while remaining fully integrated with the Body of Christ, experiencing love, acceptance, and life. The fivefold leader will have leaders in training at all times but remain fully responsible for the sheep responsibility list as assigned.
Seventh, the fivefold ministry shepherd does not attempt to blueprint sheep or deal directly with the other four aspects of fivefold ministry. Shepherds do not attempt to prophesy outside the “encourage, exhort, and comfort” mode of the gift of prophecy. Shepherds do not specify a destiny strategy. Shepherds do not assign themselves sheep or acquire a flock on their own because their evangelism brought them into the kingdom. Shepherds function on assignment from other blueprint leaders. Shepherds may pour themselves into sheep that move into another flock or move out of “sheep” mode altogether. Shepherds do not measure the “strength” of their flock by comparing it with another shepherding flock. Shepherds concern themselves directly, daily, and deliberately with sheep and lambs.