The Dynamics of Pastoral Care

Warren Wiersbe

Clarifying the Call

A Biblical Model

God has a special fondness for shepherds. Abel was an obedient shepherd whose offering was accepted. When God needed a liberator for Israel, he invested forty years training Moses to care for sheep before charging him with the care of his people Israel. When Saul failed as Israel’s king, a shepherd boy was God’s choice to sit on the nation’s throne: “David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Ps. 78:72). The highest title Scripture assigns to a political leader is that of shepherd. The reason for that usage is that God identifies himself as a shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). The shepherd image as applied to God first appears in Jacob’s blessing for his sons. Jacob declared that Joseph’s ability to endure hardship was “because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (Gen. 49:24). Israel learned to address God as shepherd in prayer: “Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel” (Ps. 80:1). The prophet Isaiah also applied the shepherd image to God: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isa. 40:11). In the New Testament, Jesus is called the “great Shepherd” (Heb. 13:20) and “the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). He identifies himself as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), confirming that the work of salvation is that of a shepherd caring for a flock of sheep. In describing heaven, John wrote that “the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd” (Rev. 7:17). In glory, our worship will be directed toward the sinless sacrifice and beautiful Shepherd. In the Old Testament period the title “shepherd” was applied to religious and civil leaders. When David was confirmed as king his task from God was to shepherd Israel (2 Sam 5:2). God makes clear that he cares about his sheep, and that he expects his shepherds to do their job his way. Ezekiel 34 is a polemic against the spiritual and political leaders (shepherds) of Israel who exploited their position and God’s people for personal gain. God promised to judge the pseudoshepherds and tend to his flock himself. Jeremiah repeats similar judgments on those who are called to serve God’s flock as shepherds but have failed to obey the Lord (Jer. 23:1-4; 25:34-38).

a genuine shepherd seeks for it until it is found (Matt. Scripture identifies God’s people as sheep. Peter got the message. sheep. like sheep. Jesus indicated that Peter would be a fisher of men (evangelist) by taking care of the flock (shepherd). He goes on to warn about wolves (v. but all too often they frequent the paths of unrighteousness. Sheep’s tendency to wander is applied is applied by Isaiah to the sinful tendencies of the human heart in 53:6: “We all. have gone astray. 1 Jesus’ challenge to Peter was to care for His sheep (John 21:15-17). Matthew recorded that Jesus felt compassion for the people he ministered to because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt.Paul’s charge to the elders of Ephesus was to “be shepherds of the church of God” (Acts 20:28). an experienced shepherd. Here was a Pharisee and tentmaker by trade encapsulating the pastor’s call and work with the shepherd motif. God’s People as Sheep As well as identifying God and his appointed servants as shepherds. we would expect Peter to tell fishing stories in his letters. I find it significant that Paul deliberately spoke of shepherds. But he doesn’t. flocks and wolves to sophisticated elders from the urban cultural center of Ephesus. Luke 15:1-7). 50:6).” “My people have been lost sheep. 9:36). like sheep. shepherd) twice (1 Peter 2:25. he lifts up the work of a shepherd. Peter was the disciple taken from fishing boats and nets to be a “fisher of men” (Matt. In Psalm 44 the sons of Korah lament that God has given up his people like sheep to be devoured and scattered (vv. sheep will wander off and end up in trouble. flock. 4:19). 18:12-14. and Jesus developed that theme in the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). When a sheep wanders off from the flock.” said the Lord through Jeremiah (Jer. 24:17). 11. 100:3). “The paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3) are where God’s people should go. need someone to guide them. God’s people. In this final recorded challenge to Peter. 5:2-4). In Numbers 27:17 he asks God to replace him with a leader Israel can follow confidently “so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd. 29).” David also referred to the people of Israel as sheep (2 Sam. 79:13. 22). Based on his training and experience before becoming a disciple of Jesus. Without a shepherd. because in his first epistle he invoked shepherd imagery (lamb. The first biblical reference to God’s people as sheep comes from Moses. Asaph referred to the Jewish nation as “the sheep of [God’s] pasture” (Ps. One sheep is so valuable that the shepherd .

God’s people do need a shepherd to care for them. 23:2) so the quick current doesn’t pull them under to drown. While people are smarter than sheep. “Twice now you’ve called my son a ‘case.will invest the time and energy to bring it back to the fold. Sheep are not discriminating diners and will eat noxious weeds as well as good grass. what do you mean?” asked the doctor. The second sheep also jumped over the stick. more serious problems. they need protection. A group of physicians. and the shepherd’s job involves finding good pasture. Sheep need nourishment. Because the sheep are defenseless. This does not mean that pastors (shepherds) are always wiser than sheep – because pastors are sheep too! So how are we. like sheep? 2 I have a number of young friends who raise sheep for the annual 4-H fair. Jesus said that the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name” (John 10:3). “This case arrived with high fever and –“ “His name is Ryan!” said the mother firmly. A real shepherd fights off enemies of the .” responded the mother. “This is an interesting case.” the doctor began. Sheep are not highly intelligent. A spiritual shepherd affirms the value and identity of each person in his or her care. A veterinarian friend once remarked to me that “sheep are as dumb as a box of rocks. The shepherd who seeks the lost is twice used in the gospels to show God’s passion to find these persons who are lost (Matt. watching her sick little boy under the oxygen tent. He is a little boy and he has a name. “Excuse me. Although the farmer removed the stick for the fourth and fifth sheep. They eagerly gorge themselves. they still jumped where the stick had been.’ and he is not a case. and he got the first to jump over a stick he was holding. Jesus said you can tell the hired hand because he runs away from danger (John 10:12). and they always name each sheep. 18:1214. Luke 15:1-7). God’s people. They also need to be led to the quiet waters (Ps. I once sat with an anxious mother in the pediatrics ward. A farmer who raised sheep told me that sheep don’t always know when to quit eating. He had several sheep with him.” I once saw a farmer demonstrate how sheep unthinkingly follow one another. a staff doctor and several students. leading to other. entered the room. as did the third.

a sheep could get injured. Each evening a shepherd in Bible times would examine each ram. 23:5). he would anoint the area with oil. and to nurture healthy relationships to him. the first aid of that era (Ps. Spiritual shepherds are to introduce persons to Jesus.flock. but the deeper wounds of soul and spirit. mind and memory. 17:34-37). David fought off a lion and a bear to defend the sheep (1 Sam. branches. but it is the dominant one. In the course of grazing or traveling. insects. This is not the only image for pastoral work and ministry. He commands His servant-leaders to be shepherds. Not healing physical wounds. pp. God sees the church as His flock and individual people as His sheep. Sheep need a shepherd skilled in the art and practice of healing. When he found a cut or bruise. 19-24 . The Dynamics of Pastoral Care. and lamb. the Good Shepherd. Stones. God is a shepherd. emotion and conscience. How then should we understand the work of a spiritual shepherd? Let’s consider the task. snakes. Jesus laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). _________________ Warren Wiersbe. ewe. or other sheep could inflict a wound.

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