““Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy, and say to them: This is what the Lord God says to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock?” (Ezekiel 34:2, HCSB)
God warns against a common trend today in church leadership. He warns against leaders who are more interested in taking care of their own personal interests, than in taking care of the people whom God has given them. To be sure, business organizations take good care of their CEOs and compensate them for their leadership and vision. Yet, they are required to submit to a set of shareholders. However, in a spiritual organization like the church, there should be a different set of motives for the leader of the church.
In the ancient world, the shepherd was a metaphor for a kingly ruler. Many ancient gods were described as shepherds. As one looks through the Bible, the shepherd is associated with all of the great men in the Bible: Abel, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David and Amos were all shepherds. In the New Testament, shepherds come to see the birth of Jesus. Jesus even describes Himself as the “Great Shepherd.” Later in the New Testament, the role of the pastor is associated with a shepherd, especially in Ephesians 4:11-12
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, HCSB)
and 1 Peter 5:1-2:
“Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1–3, HCSB)
The New Testament example of a shepherd is one who is not selfish in their leadership of other people. Leadership includes being an example and building others up. There is a strong temptation to climb the “church” corporate ladder. The temptation to have selfish motives can easily creep into the mind of a pastor. If one is not careful, one could easily start to look at the church to see what one could get out of it, and not what one can give into it.