With all of the turmoil in the world today, I believe the Lord is shifting the emphasis to the ministry of pastors. I am not saying that the other ministry gifts are not important in this season, just that there is a real need for people to be nurtured and feel connected to the Body of Christ at this time.

Apostolic leaders can thrive in these seasons because they see every challenge as an entrepreneurial opportunity, but nowadays the average person is not looking for entrepreneurial ideas that may be perceived as high-risk; they are looking for stability, safety, and community—and all three are strengths of pastors! The best thing apostolic leaders can do at this time is to use their leadership giftings to strategically make room for the pastors among them to shepherd, comfort, and nurture the sheep.

Furthermore, even apostolic leaders are called to be shepherds. Jesus, the Great Apostle and High Priest of the church, not only focused on developing world-class leaders but He also took time for the lepers, the lame, the blind, and sinful women who were the outcasts of their culture. In John chapter five we even see where Jesus took the time to heal a man who couldn’t even make it into a pool of water unless someone aided him. Thus, our Great Apostle spent time ministering to a person (a non-leader who couldn’t help himself) that some apostolic leaders may bypass!

Furthermore, Scripture teaches that all ministers, whether they be kings, priests, prophets, or apostles, are to have a heart for the sheep and function as shepherds! Jesus calls Himself a shepherd in John 10; Peter calls himself an elder and shepherd in 1 Peter 5:1-4 (as well as giving Jesus that title); also in Ezekiel 34 God seems to lump all of the leaders of Israel into one title: shepherd. In this powerful chapter, God says that He requires the shepherds to go after the lost, weak, lame and sick sheep! He even promises to judge those shepherds who only feed themselves (Ezekiel 34:8-10)!

Everywhere I turn, local churches are struggling, leaders are falling, and the sheep are being scattered! It is great for us to tout our vision and have plans to build and develop large scale facilities for ministries, but when it comes down to it God is going to hold all of us who call ourselves leaders in the church accountable to nurture and minister to the sheep!
I say all of this because, sometimes, I feel as if there is an extreme in the body of Christ regarding the use of time and leadership development.

Many apostolic leaders only want to minister to those with great leadership potential. The problem with this is that, if that is all you do in your local church, then you will not be a model of ministering to all kinds of people; thus those under you will not be trained to function as shepherds. If all we do in a church is minister to those with leadership potential, then only those with a high lid of leadership will get any attention in our churches, and the rest of the people will fall away from neglect !

Part of the way Jesus trained His twelve disciples was by taking time out of His busy schedule to minister to folks that everyone else was shunning! One apostolic leader once told me he knew he had to be released into the ministry of apostle because he was now beginning to “hate the sheep”! As much as I can sympathize with the hell that senior leaders sometimes go through because of the weaknesses and unfaithfulness of the sheep, hating the sheep is hardly a sign that you should be released as an apostle! It may be a sign that you are called to step down from the ministry since you lack a shepherd’s heart, but not a telltale sign of promotion to bigger and better things!

Jesus told Peter that he would prove his love to Him by feeding the sheep (John 21:15-19)!
Using the following extreme examples, I want to contrast a true shepherd with a non-biblical model:

• A true shepherd will go after the flock; a fleshly shepherd will only spend time with gifted people.

• A true shepherd will take time with the lame; a fleshly shepherd will avoid the lame man sitting at the Pool of Bethesda because he is not sufficient to aid himself.

• A true shepherd allows for intrusions on his time to aid the sheep; a fleshly shepherd aids himself and only aids others when it fits conveniently into his highly prioritized schedule.

• A true shepherd will see and attend to the repentant sinful woman with a heart after God; a fleshly shepherd will focus his time on the religious leaders with influence, money, and power.

• A true shepherd exists to wash feet; a fleshly shepherd believes others exist to wash their feet.

• A true shepherd endeavors to serve the flock; a fleshly shepherd lords it over the flock.

• A true shepherd is a minister who happens to preach; a fleshly shepherd is merely a preacher who may happen to serve.

• Primary importance to a true shepherd is the condition of the sheep; primary importance to a fleshly shepherd is the status of programs for developing properties and building large facilities.

• True shepherds want to enhance God’s kingdom; fleshly shepherds want to build their own empires.

• A true shepherd wants to express love; a fleshly shepherd wants to demonstrate power.

In conclusion, read the sobering words of Ezekiel 34:

"And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”

‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.”

 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.  I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD.  “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”

‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?  And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”
‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them— My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken."

Joseph Mattera