Spiritual Shepherds

Spiritual Shepherds

Let me ask you a very pointed question: who knows the true condition of your soul right now? Would I be correct if I guessed no one?

That’s got to change. It’s rare to find people who finally got rid of the gorilla who didn’t also grant someone else access to the interior parts of their souls and allow themselves to be guided to hope and healing. If you struggle with an unforgiving heart and you are ever going to find your way, you need to step out, take a risk, and find a spiritual shepherd to help you learn how to forgive.

In the Bible God makes it clear that people in churches are to be led by those who have the proven ability to lead their congregation into Christ like spiritual maturity. The Bible uses a number of words synonymously to describe these spiritual leaders: elder, pastor,overseer, and shepherd. While the exact titles vary from book to book of the Bible, the purpose of the role always stays the same: to provide spiritual oversight for everyone in the congregation (1 Peter 5:2).

In the early church, each congregation was charged with installing multiple spiritual shepherds (Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5). Some were paid while most were not (1 Timothy 5:17, 18). Only those who had first distinguished themselves as having learned how to obey Jesus’ teachings were placed into these strenuous but rewarding roles (1 Timothy 3:1-10). These shepherds were meant to be examples to the flock and ultimately held accountable by God for how they spiritually nurtured those entrusted to their care (1 Peter 5:1-4). Shepherds were tasked with protecting the flock from harmful spiritual leaders and influences (Acts 20:28-31) and gently teaching each person in the church how to be formed into a maturing follower of Jesus (Ephesians 4:11-16).

One of the most important things you can do to get rid of the gorilla is place yourself under the care of a spiritual shepherd. God has placed some in your church body for this very purpose. Your shepherd doesn’t have to be the senior pastor of a church or even a paid staff member. In fact, because of the level of intimacy that must be developed and the time involved, there are probably far better choices. Any spiritually mature Christ follower could help you in this task. Just look for someone you trust, someone you know will take your secrets to the grave.

In his spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales asked men who desired to enter the monastic life, “Do you seriously wish to travel the road to devotion? If so, look for a good man to guide and lead you. This is the most important of all words of advice.”1 (I would encourage women to look for a good woman to guide you.) This is what disciples have done for the past two thousand years.


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