By Dr Phil Osagie
When we think of the word or the concept of a shepherd, the elders come to mind. We have a strong tendency to ascribe that responsibility primarily to the elders of a church or to the main leader of a group. Whilst this is not a misplaced expectation, the role of shepherding, encompasses a wider circle if we understand the true meaning.
The dictionary defines a shepherd as “a person who protects, guides or watches over a person or a group of people”. Another definition states that, “a shepherd is a person whose job is to take care of sheep and move them from one place to the other”.
A study of Ezekiel34.1-16 outlines clearly the expectations and functions of a good shepherd. One can summarise them into Seven Habits of Highly Effective Shepherds.
Takes Care of the Sheep or the People, and Not Only Themselves. Care takes time, efforts, diligence and a sense of responsibility as well as keeping a close watch on what the needs are. In this passage, the shepherds were listed as bad leaders- “Woe to you shepherds who only take care of yourselves. Should not shepherds take care of the flock?”
Strengthens the Heak- there will always be weak individuals in the group, due to one reason or the other. First a shepherd must learn to identify the weak, and then strengthen them.
Heal and Pray for the Sick- the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. A shepherd should spend a great deal of time in prayer for the sick. Sickness in the flock could be physical, material or spiritual.
Bind the Injured- an effective shepherd then makes a great deal of effort to bandage the wound of an injured shepherd. And in this world, we will suffer many bruises.
Bring Back the Strays- a sheep that has strayed away is still in sight. It just happens to be far away and not within close range. A shepherd brings the sheep that has strayed away. An effective shepherd however in addition puts strategies and protection in place that will make it difficult or unattractive for the sheep to stray away. “My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.” ( Ezekiel 34.5 )
Searches for the Lost- this is a deliberate and sustained effort to look for the sheep that are not outside the pen, so they can be added to the fold. Surely then, an effective effort has a strong desire to increase the size of his flock
Feeds and Pastures the Flock- the sheep will be mal nourished if not well fed. An effective shepherd offers both physical foods to the sheep as well as spiritual food, making the meal complete. “I will tend them in a good pasture…There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture”. (Ezekiel 34.14 )