One of the ongoing themes of the Bible is the importance of those who shepherd God’s people. In Ezekiel God speaks powerfully against those who don’t shepherd his people well, “The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” (Ezekiel 34:1–6 ESV). In John 10 Jesus points out that he is the good shepherd and that those who hear his voice follow him. In 1 Peter 5, Peter calls on elders to “shepherd the flock of God” by “being examples to the flock”.
All of this is old hat to many of us, but there seems to be a movement afoot that would deny at some level the importance of shepherds and the body of Christ which shepherds are called to oversee. I won’t name names or organizations, you probably know who they are already, but there is a dual trend happening. The first trend is the call for people to be “self-feeders” when it comes to growing in faith. Certainly we want people to study the scriptures, but the self-feeding movement points to a people who do solo scriptura, rather than sola scriptura. Self-feeders can also be self-interpreters, rather than listening to the wisdom of the community (a community that extends back 2000 years). Self-feeders can quickly believe in our individualistic culture that they are the measure of truth and so they see no need for the “shepherds of the flock”. The second trend is to step away from the body of Christ, believing it has little to offer since I have grown beyond it as I have matured in my faith. Since I can now feed myself and join others through whatever organization in doing some good in the world, why would I bother with heading off to join the body of Christ for worship, for service, or anything else?
So how is your new church or established church working to call people to study the word, be people of the book and still be those who live under the care of shepherds? Or does the idea of shepherds that oversee the flock need to be rethought? Do we need to redefine how people grow in faith and are cared for in a less communal and more individualistic society?