The Great Shepherd #11 FOR THE UNDER SHEPHERDS Shepherd the flock among you

Many receiving this devotion come from a background where the eldership is a matter of emphasis. Rarely does such an environment address this appointed function from the standpoint of responsibility and accountability. That is, however, the point of the text before us. "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5:1-4) Just as Jesus cares for those about Him, feeding and nurturing them, so under-shepherds are to be mindful of the flock in which they find themselves. That is their "Jerusalem," and they are to care for "the flock of God." The body of Christ is very large, but leaders are responsible for only the part of that body that is "among them." It is tragic that a movement noted for emphasizing elders has so very little of this type of activity. The "chief Shepherd" requires the under-shepherds to view the flock as He does. Jesus shepherds those who are near Him--blessed thought!

Exercise oversight without compulsion

Oversight is not lordship. It has more to do with responsibility than authority. Jesus does not lord it over His church, and elders are not allowed to lord it over them either. Exercising oversight is keeping alert, maintaining a high level of care for the people of God. If they are going to overcome the world and obtain glory, they will need to be fed. This cannot be done by "compulsion," or because it is ones duty to do so. Either a person has a heart for this ministry, or he is excluded from the responsibility. Recall how Jesus volunteered to do the Father's will, laying down His life for the sheep (Hebrews 10:5-10). He now shepherds them from the Throne, joyfully and effectively. When it comes to shepherding, no other posture is acceptable. If the "chief Shepherd" functions willingly in the care of God's people, what must He think of those that have no heart for the work, yet occupy the position. The truth is that unwillingness is out of order in every facet of kingdom activity. Peter admonishes under-shepherds to emulate their Lord. The work of God cannot be brought to maturity without the involvement of the heart.

Serve Him with eagerness

Here again, we have a trait of the "chief Shepherd." From the beginning, Jesus was noted for zeal, which consumed Him. When the disciples witnessed the energy with which He served the Father, they recalled Scripture. "And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (John 2:17). Those who lead the people of God are to be characterized by zeal--spiritual energy and vitality. An eager spirit in the Kingdom opens opportunities to glorify God and feed His people. Nothing about salvation, initially or in advance, allows for a slothful spirit. All of heaven is zealous in the matter of salvation. It is unreasonable for any other spirit to be found in those functioning under the "great Shepherd of the sheep."

Prove yourselves an example

In Christ Jesus, the leader is an example, not an authoritarian. He leads the people where he himself has gone. How refreshingly true this is of the "chief Shepherd." As the "Breaker," He has gone before us, preparing the way in which He now leads us (Micah 2:13). This is the manner of the Kingdom! Under-shepherds that walk with Jesus conduct themselves as He does.

The Shepherd of Shepherds

Peter admonishes under-shepherds to remember they are under the "chief Shepherd." I have heard many learned disquisitions concerning "the eldership." Few, if any, of these dissertations emphasized the accountability of the "shepherds" to the "chief Shepherd." Generally the stress was upon "qualifications" and administrative duties. Peter does not shine the light on these things. Lovingly reminding the under-shepherds of the "chief Shepherd," Peter provides the greatest incentive for faithfulness and productivity -- a recollection of the Lord Jesus.