A shepherd once described sheep as "dumb, obstinate, directionless and unable to survive on their own." In the Bible, sheep are referred to more than 400 times and are a common metaphor used to describe Christians. What could be God trying to communicate to us? Are we dumb? Are we obstinate? Directionless? Unable to survive on our own? The answer is a resounding yes. We are all of the above and then some and we have lots of history to back that up. In His love for us, God wants the word to know that we have a profound need for shepherding by Him and by one another. As you read through Scripture, God's heart for sheep and His desire that they be shepherded and shepherded well is clear.
We need more shepherds
In Ezekiel 34, God is very upset with the shepherds in Israel for their lack of shepherding. In Matthew 9:36, after delivering great teaching and healing every disease and affliction, Jesus doesn't call them blessed as you might imagine, but He had compassion on them. Why would Jesus have compassion on a group of people who just heard Jesus teach and have all their diseases healed? The Bible tells us He had compassion because they were sheep without a shepherd. His solution? Pray for more laborers (more shepherds).
Shepherding for the mission
There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the importance of being missional and there's no doubt that's true. Tragically, the church in recent years has become inward and self-serving. Our desire to reach the world must be done with a shepherds heart and not just the ambition to grow churches. Jesus described His mission as one who was sent to go after lost sheep. Jesus described Himself not as the good evangelist, the good prophet, the good teacher or the good missiologists, but the Good Shepherd.
After His resurrection, He asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Each time after Peter affirmed that he did, Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep." I often hear pastors say, "It's not my job to feed the sheep. They need to feed themselves." That's not what Jesus said. It's true our job as pastors is to see our sheep mature and even shepherd themselves. The great commission is to make disciples who make disciples, who make disciples. In other words, shepherds find lost sheep, bring them into the fold and teach them to be shepherds who also go out and find lost sheep. But if sheep are dumb, obstinate, directionless and can't survive on their own, how can they feed themselves until we show them how?
Our world is full of lost sheep and it breaks God's heart they don't have a shepherd. God is looking for more shepherds to love and care for His sheep.