Jesus is the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Pet 5:4), and the "Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:1f). It is his flock because he purchased it with his blood. Since Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and the Good Shepherd, he is also the model shepherd as well. As the model shepherd, he employs what we might call "under-shepherds" to engage in the ministry of shepherding the flock of God.
The Bible reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit that sets people apart for the ministry of shepherding (Acts 20:28). The Spirit's primary tool is the word, which is the "Sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17). The word is sharper than any two edged sword (Heb 4:12). It can reach the inner self in a way that no physical sword can. Through the word, prayer, discernment, and meditation, the Spirit reaches inward and shapes us for ministry. Paul refers to this as the Spirit gracing us with "gifts" in order to serve (1 Cor 12; Rom 14). Thus, the ministry of shepherding is a "calling." It is not merely a "job." It is the hireling that has a "job," with no sense of calling for this ministry of shepherding. However, those who have been shaped, gifted, called, etc. for this ministry cannot help but carry out this ministry; it is clearly what God wants them to do. So it is not merely a man thing, a practical thing, or a job thing. It goes much deeper. The Spirit sets apart for ministry. It is a God thing.
When there are those in the congregation that are led to be shepherds of the flock of God, what should you do? Following the example of Preachers such as Paul (Acts 14:23), Timothy (1 Tim 3:1, 5:22), and Titus (Tit 1:5) appointing shepherds, ministers ought to take the lead in appointing shepherds, especially when a congregation does not have shepherds at the current time. If there are already shepherds in place, they can take the lead in laying out a suitable process for appointment of shepherds.
So, after a minister or shepherds initially affirms these men as potential shepherds, here is a possible plan for appointment.
- 1) PRAY for these men, for the congregation, and for each person to humbly be led by God and to bless the leaders of the congregation and the process of appointment.
- 2) Congregational Meeting - Have an all congregation meeting to present these men to the congregation and to communicate the process of appointment.
- 3) Other Possible Candidates - If there are others who have that sense of calling for the ministry of shepherding, then they are encouraged to let the minister know so they can be added to the list of men for consideration and also be presented to the congregation.
- 4) Feedback - During the two weeks after the congregational meeting, encourage these men. Offer them your feedback, blessing, and prayers. If you have any questions or concerns, first talk with the one you have a question or concern about (Mt 18:15). Many times simply asking a few questions will clear things up. The fact that these men have been affirmed as candidates for shepherding means that they have demonstrated spiritual maturity and commitment to God. If it is found that the candidate is not biblically qualified, ideally the brother would withdraw himself from consideration. If he refuses, then the matter should be brought to the minister's or current shepherds' attention in order to resolve it.
- 5) Appointment - In two weeks after the congregational meeting, have a special service to appoint these men as shepherds and acknowledge that the Holy Spirit has indeed set these men apart for the ministry of shepherding. (NOTE: Here is a suggested order of service)