I draw your attention to the passage in Ezekiel 34:1-6
Eze 34:1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Eze 34:2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Eze 34:3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.
Eze 34:4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.
Eze 34:5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.
Eze 34:6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”
God is speaking to the leaders of His people Israel. God likens leaders to “shepherds”, and people to “sheep”. Folks, people are like sheep. Most of the time people just follow the crowd and seek security in numbers, just like sheep. Sheep are also easy prey for wolves and wild beasts. So are God’s people unless they are close to a true shepherd. Obviously if you are truly close to the Good Shepherd you will be OK, even if you can’t find a godly pastor where you live. But God’s plan is for His people to have godly “shepherds” to care for them. The functions and responsbilities of such shepherds are laid out in the above passage.
1. Shepherds need to “feed the sheep”. This means, shepherds need to teach the true Word of God. Not “New Age motivational talks”, not mere “life coaching”. True shepherds need to hear God about what to teach from the Scriptures and how to teach it. This will provide helpful nutrition for God’s people to help them believe the right way and act the right way. And God says “WOE!” to those pastors who do not do this.
2. “The weak you have not strengthened“. There are going to be weak Christians for whatever reasons. Many people have been damaged through life and need strengthening and encouragement. Some pastors only want to give time to the “strong”, to the ones they are planning to “fleece”. They say, “Eagles hang out with eagles and turkeys with turkeys”. God’s weak sheep are not “turkeys”. Pastors are responsible to strengthen them. Consider this: at the time of writing, my baby girl Christina is weak. I am doing what I can to help her grow.
3. “Nor have you healed those who were sick”. Churches are now filled with physically, emotionally and mentally sick people in many places. Pastors are responsible before God to care and heal the mentally, emotionally and even physically sick congregation members. Pastors are supposed to know the Spirit of God, and what is required to help a person come out of these things. All the provision of God for healing of the entire person is there in God. But people need help to receive it. This is where a pastor should teach and minister. “The elders of the church” (i.e. the pastors) are supposed to be people who can “pray the prayer of faith” so that the sick are made whole (see James 5:14,15).
But what do many pastors do today, instead of healing the sick? (I speak primarily of the western church pastors). They say they are “not skilled”, “not qualified”, (their professional indemnity insurance does not cover them) and they send them off to psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and other therapists who can charge the sick sheep by the hour for their various remedies. We now have so many Christians who profess JOY but actually depend on anti-depressants for emotional survival. “The sick you have not healed“. But “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings“. In other words, you know how to take up tithes and offerings. That much you do know.
“Nor bound up the broken“. We have some chronically broken people in churches who are somewhat of an embarrassment to a church which wants to maintain a slick and highly marketable image. The popular solution here is to make these broken ones feel so “out of place”, so “rejected”, that they won’t come back and scare off “healthy, rich sheep”. “We only have nice people in this church because we only have nice people” I heard one church growth author say in his church overseas. This principle “works” but it shows that the true power of God for radical transformation is lacking in such churches.
Former pastors, former missionaries and others are left to limp around spiritually. No one has time to hear their story and help them move on again, and be fruitful in God’s Kingdom. “Nor bound up the broken“.
“Nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost.” We talk about “the back door” in the church. The way people leave. But who has time amidst all the busy programming, administration and all that to actually go visiting these ones that have left, for whatever reason. Now some people leave for wrong reasons and you cannot always stop them from doing so. You cannot always win them back. But rather than “churning” the people God sends, it is important to have “pastoral care” that actually goes looking for people that have forsaken the fellowship and find out what is bugging them, hopefully so it can be dealt with in a righteous manner.
All these responsibilities of the shepherd take time and effort. For this reason, if you are in a church of any kind and the spiritual leaders ARE doing these things, make sure you DO contribute to their material and financial well-being through offerings or whatever you can do. Don’t starve the good pastors so you can sponsor your local “wolf”. But pastors, make sure you do not become like these “shepherds of Israel” that God condemned. And do not do as they did: “with force and cruelty you have ruled them.“
When sheep are scattered, it is the result of poor pastoring. “Sheep” that are in good shape become productive, fruitful and a glory to the Father and to Christ who redeemed them. They are willing to love one another and work in unity for God’s purposes. Let us therefore do what we can to bind up the wounds of wounded sheep everywhere, and may God bless all the true shepherds who are working to gather God’s people to Christ.