Shepherds in the Headlines – the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Shepherds

One of the most significant roles described in the Bible is the role of shepherd.

But it’s one that can also be abused.

Lately, our present-day news headlines have been filled with accounts of the worst possible abuse by 21st century pastor-shepherds.

For years, many Christians have watched the Roman Catholic church struggle with a tsunami of scandalous charges. Accounts of gross sexual immorality by clergy who have not only neglected to shepherd their congregations, their abuse of the flock has been egregious.

This past week, a protestant denomination has also been in the headlines. The curtain has been torn away to reveal similar charges of sexual immorality that must grieve the heart of God in ways I can only imagine.

Back in the Old Testament, the prophets of God spoke judgment on religious leaders appointed to shepherd God’s people. For example:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?… I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”
(Ezekiel 34:2, 10 NIV).

But God also identified Himself as a shepherd:

“As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them,
so will I look after my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:12 NIV).

And, of course, Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I know my sheep and my sheep know me”
(John 10:11, 14 NIV).

If earthly pastor-shepherds are a picture of God’s care for His people, surely the abuses seen today bring sorrow to His heart.

The Puritan preacher, Thomas Watson, once said, “The sins of the wicked anger God—but the sins of professing Christians grieve him.”

There are shepherds—flawed and sinful.

Then there’s the Good Shepherd—perfect and holy.

The question is, will we allow the flaws of earthly shepherds to turn us away from the Good Shepherd? All too often, that’s exactly what happens. Or we judge all earthly shepherds by the failings of a few.

Sometimes, it’s not about the shepherd at all. Sometimes it’s about the stubbornness of the sheep.

This week I was challenged to let the Good Shepherd shepherd me. To submit to His leading. His prompting. His correction. To listen for His priorities rather than push ahead with my own. To examine my good intentions in the light of God’s intentions.

Will I read Psalm 23 not just as poetic literature, but as an instruction for life?

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (ESV).

I was challenged to surrender to the Good Shepherd in thought, word, and deed. Sometimes this means listening when He tells me to lie down and rest. Sometimes it means following as His Holy Spirit leads, even when I feel too tired to continue. But what will never change is that I—a stubborn sheep—am loved, cared for, and belong to the Good Shepherd who is always at work for my ultimate good and His eternal glory.

Don’t allow corrupt shepherds to tarnish your view of the Good Shepherd. And don’t place human, flawed shepherds—even the best of them—on a pedestal so high that they are set up for failure.

Instead, our pastor-shepherds need our prayers and our encouragement as we all love and serve the Good Shepherd together.

So now I extend this same challenge to you. Regardless of the examples of earthly shepherds—good or bad—will you allow the Good Shepherd to shepherd you?


14 responses to “Shepherds in the Headlines – the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly”

  1. Rebecca Fox says:

    Awesome word!Shepherds have feet of clay and need our prayer and support. It’s true what you said about us stubborn sheep. Heb 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

  2. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. And thanks for that good verse!

  3. Debra Allard says:

    Mercy and grace are key in all our thoughts and deeds. “For all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way,” Isaiah 53:6. It is hard to see priests and pastors fall, but they are merely people—flawed, broken, sinners. It often takes something like this to separate the wheat from the chaff—those walking with Christ from those only talking of Christ. Those walking with Christ will rally and pray for the fallen one. Those who only talk about Christ but haven’t accepted Him with their heart, soul, and mind will use it as an excuse to walk away.

  4. Ava Pennington says:

    Good points, Deb.

  5. Michael Shipp says:

    Your Shepherd gave you a word & my how you ran with it in your spiritual walk. Thank you for sharing. Awesome Pastor & follower of Jesus.

  6. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Michael.

  7. Ava, what in important and timely post. I have been hurt and disappointed by pastors and church leaders many times. I know one thing is, I must not put them on a pedestal for they are fallible humans just like me. However, we must hold them accountable when they go astray. Most of all, we need to put our deepest trust in God alone and then pray for our leaders. Thank you for this encouragement!

  8. Great post for such a hard topic. Thank you for your insight God Bless!!

  9. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Melissa.

  10. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Stephen.

  11. Rita Kurian says:

    A well needed post for a time like this.God bless

  12. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Rita.

  13. So many people turn away from God because of the flaws of church leadership. Thank you for pointing out the difference between shepherds and the Shepherd.

  14. Ava Pennington says:

    Thank you, Linda.

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