In judgment of the Nation of Israel, God said this through the prophet Zechariah:
“For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. ‘Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!’” (Zechariah 11:16–17a, ESV)
In this verse-and-a-half, we are giving a list of the qualities of a bad shepherd. This is one who is worthy of judgment because he:
- does not care for those being destroyed
- does not seek the young
- does not heal the maimed
- does not nourish the healthy
- devours the fat sheep.
Those of us who have been identified as church leaders should take note of this list. We have an opportunity to do things differently. Looking at the list above, some questions come to mind.
- Do we care about those in our community that have not yet heard the truth about Jesus Christ?
- Do we actively reach out to those who are outside of our fellowship?
- Do we encourage young people to engage with us over spiritual matters?
- Do we have a vibrant youth ministry or are we just going through the motions?
- Do we monitor our track record for young people remaining in the church after they go off to college?
- Do we effectively minister to those who come to our church hurt by life’s trials? Or do we heal the wound superficially by pressuring them to cover it up?
- Do we nourish the healthy people in our congregation by giving them opportunities to grow in their understanding and ministry?
On the negative side, we must also ask ourselves if we are devouring the fat sheep. Are we using up the strong people in our congregations by giving them more to do without providing a nurturing environment where they can find refreshment? Church burnout is a real thing.
Honesty requires the admission that we don’t do any of these perfectly. Inability to do them perfectly does not relieve us of the responsibility to keep them in mind and humbly seek God for strength and wisdom to improve in these areas.
All of the items in the list above are related to the second great command to love my neighbor. A list like this is helpful because it reminds me that to love my neighbor, I have to get to know him and know what is going on in his life.
To do all of this, I have to get my focus off myself and become increasingly aware of the people around me.