Are you a good sheep?
The scriptures help us understand the role of elders through the “shephering model.” They are shepherds over the church, or flock. This is based off of passages like 1 Peter 5:2 which says “shepherd the flock that is among you.”
This means Christians are sheep. Sheep have responsibilities towards their shepherds. A congregation needs elders who act like shepherds and members who act like sheep.
Jesus said He was the “good shepherd.” The question is are you a good sheep? How can you be?
Know the shepherds. In John 10 Jesus used the shepherding model to describe His relationship with His disciples. He says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (Jn.10:14). Sheep must know the shepherds. This would include more than a simple name recognition. It implies a relationship. How much do you know about your elders? Do you know their families? Do you know their vocation? Do you know their background? Do you know them?
Honor the shepherds. In regards to leaders Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “ . . . esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess. 5:13). The sheep should respect the shepherds. They should honor them. The Hebrew writer said it this way: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Heb. 13:17). Sheep honor their shepherds out of a respect because of the work they are doing. They esteem them highly. Do you respect their leadership? Do you honor their work? They will be held accountable. Sheep should cooperate in a way that makes the shepherds’ job easier and even enjoyable.
Listen to the shepherds. If you go back to Jesus’ teaching in John 10 you find this statement: “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (Jn. 10:3–4). Sheep hear the voice of the shepherds. Don’t be like the teenage child who tunes out his or her parents and doesn’t listen. Sheep listen to their shepherds.
Submit to the shepherds. Listening to the voice of the shepherds implies obedience. That is the hardest part of sheephood: obedience. Especially when the sheep believe there is a better way than what the shepherds have chosen. Remember how Hebrews 13:17 started out? “Obey your leaders . . . “ But submission involves more than just obedience. It also involves a desire to have the shepherds lead. In James 5:13–16, James tells his audience to call for the elders. They were to seek the guidance and leadership of the elders. That’s the true spirit of being sheep. It is not only obedience but also a true dependence on their leadership.
It is hard to be sheep. It is hard to humble one’s self and depend on someone else. But that is God’s plan. So what about you? Are you a good sheep?