“I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pet. 5:1-4)
The purpose of all Christian leadership (whether the gifting be apostolic, prophetic, pastoral, teaching, or evangelism) is to lead the body of Christ toward eternal life. Though we may debate what eternal life entails (i.e. heavenly destiny vs. New Earth), the main point is that we are called to forsake this life, take up our Cross, and seek first eternal life. Of course, this calling is perfectly counter to the spirit of this age, which continually calls us to raise up in the flesh and seek the perfection of happiness in this life. Unfortunately, we cannot serve two masters (Mt. 6:24), and Jesus tells us that if we live for this life, we will actually lose eternal life: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn. 12:25).
Recently, a pastor was lamenting to me the lack of real shepherding in the church today. This he traced largely to the Shepherding Movement, which did such damage in the mid-70’s and early 80’s that the church is now fearful of engaging in authentic pastoral ministry. I told him that the real problem with the Shepherding Movement was that it shepherded people toward the wrong prize. Instead of sheep-herding the flock toward the Day of Christ and eternal life, it drove people toward platform ministries and a kingdom now (i.e. a strong realized eschatology). Unfortunately, such teaching is rampant in the church today, and multitudes are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt. 9:36) Let us not heed the voice of the world. Let us seek the unfading crown of glory and shepherd the flock toward eternal life.