Tucked away in the Philadelphia Museum of Art hangs a beautiful painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It is called “The Unfaithful Shepherd” and depicts an overweight shepherd fleeing the sheep he was called to protect, feed, and lead, offering a half-glance back to the flock as it is running in panic, confusion, and terror while savage wolves come in to destroy and feast on their prey.
This analogy is crystal-clear for church leaders. There will always be men and women who are waiting on the peripheral for the leadership to be distracted or removed so that they can cause division and plunder the people. Their intent is never to build up or increase unity of the Spirit or to preserve the glory of God, but on the contrary to detract and divide. They seek power and prestige and attention and accolades. But ultimately they will not care for or nourish the flock, they will devour them and leave chaos and spiritual death in their wake.
Peter tells us to “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
If anyone knew his job was to feed and tend to the sheep, it was Peter. After all, Jesus reminded him of this in John 21. The hireling flees, but those who are truly called by the Chief Shepherd will love and serve the flock, will lead them beside still waters, into green pasture, and sometimes help them get through the valley of the shadow of death.
Do we follow Jesus and His undershepherds with faith? Are we faithful undershepherds who are keeping watch for the savage wolves? Do we have an eagerness to serve or are we lording over people as bad examples?