This is a very important subject that I want to cover throroughly. Therefore, this page will be developed over a period of time. After you read what has been written please e-mail me with further questions or comments. This will help me continue to develop this page into a valuable asset to the body of Christ.
When I was a young Christian in 1980 I got involved in a church that was part of what was called the shepherding movement. Like many things that come to the church it had good points and bad. At the time I was reading one of Pastor Cho's books on prayer and I prayed for a girlfriend. The next day a woman asked me out who fit the description of the woman that I had prayed for.
At the time I was a long haired hippie and I think the elders of the church got worried that their girl was going out with someone like me. One day four of these elders took me into a room and put a phone in front of me. They told me that I had to break up with this girl or I would be in rebellion to my covering and could suffer dire consequences.
I was very upset because I really wanted to serve God with all my heart but I didn't feel like they had a right to demand that I break up with this woman. They made a number of threats but I would not give in. After a while they gave up. I was very upset and went to the associate pastor of the church. This was an older and vastly wiser man.
He explained to me that the shepherding movement came out of a time in the 1950's and 1960's when people did not have much respect for their pastors. The church focused so much on freedom that the people were missing the value of honoring their leaders. However, he explained, that they had overcompensated like a pendulum which gathers so much energy swinging in one direction that it cannot stop in the middle but swings all the way to other side which was this shepherding movement where leaders expected church members to obey all sorts of commands.
Certainly, in scripture we see that we are to respect our elders and hold them in high esteem. The question is, how far does that go?
"Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the
Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.
Live in peace with each other."
I Thessalonians 5: 12,13
Jesus Washed the Disciples Feet
In Matthew chapter 20 we read that the Mother of Zebedee's sons wanted Jesus to promote her sons to sit on the right and left side of Jesus. Jesus responded this way:
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Through this message we learn that leaders are to be honored but they are to follow the example of Jesus and be servants. Remember how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to show them how they are to act towards one another. Leaders must be humble and ready to lead by serving.
"So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:12-17
There is no doubt in Scripture that there is a need for Overseers [Pastors] to take care of and protect God's children. As always, there is to be a balance between protecting and giving freedom. There could be a time when you feel that your overseer is being too protective but yet you are really being taken care of. There may another time when an overseer, being human, oversteps his or her bounds. This is why we are to pray for those over us.
“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Cowboys and Shepherds
John 10:4-6 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.
When I was a young man I worked on helicopter crews in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. The land was filled with cattle and sheep. When cattle were around I noticed that they scattered out on their own to forage. When they heard a cowboy coming they would do their best to escape and run into the thick brush. The Cowboy would have to coerce the cattle out of the brush and into a heard so they could be gathered to their next destination. It was all about the cowboys controlling the cows to make them do what they wanted them to.
On the other hand there were many flocks of sheep tended by Basque shephers. When we flew over these flocks of sheep I would notice that the sheep were all gathered together in a tight flock. Usually, the shepherd was right in the middle of this and the sheep all wanted to be near the shepherd. When the shepherd wanted to move the sheep he simply took off walking and the sheep would follow. There was no coercion going on at all.
The Word of God compares God to a shepherd and Jesus to a Shepherd.
11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. Isaiah 40:11
The prophet Jeremiah shares the following word of the Lord for Israel: "And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:15 The Jewish person understood the analogy of God's people to sheep and God's overseers to shepherds.
When Jesus saw the people weary he said "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." Matthew 9:36 He later compares the children of God destined for heaven with sheep in Matthew chapter 25.
In the book of Acts 20:28 Paul writes: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Here it is clear that pastors are to shepherd their flocks of sheep.
How does a pastor shepherd his flock you might ask? For starters, they do not act like cowboys chasing people around and trying to get them to do things they don't want to do. A shepherd has a relationship with his flock and they follow him because they want to. Secondly, a pastor is to protect his flock just like a shepherd protects his sheep. If you see your pastor doing something that you might no understand you might ask God if they are doing something to protect you. That is there job.
Therefore, if you think of spiritual covering like a shepherd then your job as a sheep is to stay as close to the middle of the flock as possible. Remember, it's the cattle that roam as far away from others as they can. Sheep do their best to stay together. Also, it's always the sheep you are at the edge of the flock that are in danger of being eaten by the wolves so stay in close. Work on developing a relationship with your shepherd.
When the wolf or bear does attack the shepherd may seem a bit scary as he fights off the danger for you. You may want to run and hide but remember it's best to stay close and not worry about all the comotion. Someday, you may be a shepherd yourself with your own flock of sheep so make sure to be a good sheep and then you will make a great shepherd.
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."
1 Peter 5:1-4
Keep checking back for more on Spiritual Covering
"Jesus is my Spiritual Covering"
I have gotten quite a bit of e-mail about my articles on spiritual covering. Probably one of the most interesting ones was the one sentence e-mail that I received stating emphatically that "Jesus is my covering." This e-mail was interesting to me because while it is true, it also makes one wonder if the writer misses the whole point of Spiritual covering.
First off, I think we can all agree that Jesus is our high priest and that He is ultimately our spiritual covering. You can read the Book of Hebrews to get the full story on this. Spiritual Covering is an interesting concept in that, like Sunday School, it really does not appear in the Bible yet most Christians accept the concept. The one place that "covering" is discussed in the Scriptures is in 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul discusses the covering that a husband has over his wife. This is a great passage and one that all women should really meditate and ponder before getting married to anyone. However, this does not discuss the concept of spiritual covering in the sense of how we align ourselves with other believers.
Last week I wrote on Shepherds and Cowboys to discuss one way of looking at spiritual covering. Jesus spoke in parables because He had to describe spiritual truth in a way that the everyday man could understand. One problem that most Westerners have in understanding the Bible comes from lack of understanding of the Eastern mindset and a loss of touch with the agrarian culture. A lot of the truth about shepherds is lost to us because we don't hang out with sheep and shepherds in the natural. One person told me "a shepherd smells like his sheep." Now I thought that was pretty introspective in understanding the parable at a deeper level while pointing out how most of us would have trouble not only with the spiritual concept of the shepherd but also in even understanding the parable since we have little contact with sheep and shepherds.
Here is the point. Certainly, we can all say that "Jesus is my covering." However, in holding on to that truth we could miss another truth which is that God provides us with spiritual leaders to teach us, protect us, and love us. These are all things that a shepherd does. As our covering, Jesus wants us to have earthly men who spiritually "cover" us. In Jeremiah 3:15 we see God appointing Shepherds over his people to teach them.
"Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding."
In John 10 we see that the shepherd leads the sheep, provides and abundant life for them, and spends quality time with them. God is clear in Scripture that He provides leaders for His people in the form of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelist, Pastors, and Teachers"to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:12). In Acts 20 the Apostle Paul writes to church leaders "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."
It is clear that God does appoint men to shepherd God's church. These men are to lead with knowledge and understanding, love, care for, protect, and keep watch over God's people. In the story of Elijah and Elisha we see that the spiritual portion that Elijah had was passed on to Elisha. As believers we are entitled to the privilege of having shepherds to take care of us and to pass down spiritual portions to us. Therefore, know that while it is true that Jesus is our spiritual covering we all should desire the opportunity of serving Jesus in right relationship under a man of God who can be a loving, caring, spiritual shepherd to us providing protection, knowledge, and wisdom.
"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?" Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." 2 Kings 2:9