Every Wednesday I will post a excerpt from the book The Minister as Shepherd by Charles Jefferson. This book, though written mainly to pastors, has been thoroughly encouraging to me as I continue through seminary, and should be encouraging to church members—sheep, as it were—as well. I hope you enjoy his words as much as I have.
When church leaders began to lose the vision of the good shepherd, they at the same time began to drift away from the New Testament ideal of ministerial serv- ice. Little by little they magnified their office in ways not sanctioned by the good shepherd of the sheep. They became priests offering a bloodless sacrifice, they assumed the functions of rulers, making a specialty of law and discipline. They de- generated into tyrants, setting themselves up as sole custodians of the grace of God, claiming sovereignty not only over the kingdoms of this world, but also over the vast empire of the dead. The church lost the way which leads to life as soon as the envoys of the Son of God forgot that they were shepherds. Darkness fell upon the earth when the shepherd was swallowed up in the priest.
But an ideal, once apprehended, never fades completely from the mind of the world. The church has never surrendered entirely her belief in Jesus as the Shepherd Saviour, and has never given up altogether her feeling that ministers ought to be shep- herds of the sheep. The shepherd idea has something in it which appeals to the universal heart. Even in our western world from which machinery and commerce have driven the shepherd and his flock, the best-loved of all the Psalms remains the Shepherd Psalm. More men and women read and cherish ” The Lord is my shep- herd, I shall not want,” than any other poem in the Psalter. Millions who have had no experience with sheepfolds, and to whom a sheep has been an animal almost unknown, have been strangely moved by the piercing pathos of the story which Jesus told of a shepherd who went out in search of one sheep that was lost.