Christian Community Leaders are key to Virtuous Society
By Dr. Douglas Levesque
With America’s affluence, proven institutions, and great heritage, why is our society so broken today? Are we more moral or less moral? Has racism increased or decreased? Is there less corruption? Less confusion? Less chaos? Are we headed in the right direction at all? If society was a flock of sheep, or even multiple flocks of sheep, the actions of its shepherds would be behind its failures and successes. We shepherds should take responsibility.
Could an examination of societal shepherds – their roles, motivations, mistakes, and misperceptions – reveal a deeper understanding of our national ills than is posited on the surface? The answer is a resounding YES. Do media sound-bites and political finger-pointing move past rudimentary problem solving to the crux of the matter? Unfortunately, they do not. Will shepherds themselves delve into the root causes of why they cannot turn the tide of societal decay? Let us hope so. There are answers, and there is a path to which shepherds can return. Scripture should be our guide. Shepherds are a large part of the problem today. We may take ownership of that fact. Properly confident Shepherds are the answer to the corrupted culture and death spiral of society. We may take ownership of that fact as well.
The Voice of God
The voice of God is alive through scripture and reveals the Shepherd’s path. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and is our clear example.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
King David sang the timeless truth of God’s own shepherding skills. He tried to mirror these skills as a shepherd king himself.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)
Shepherds take care of sheep. Sheep need to be taken care of. Sheep without a shepherd get fearful, scattered, sick and lost. Without a true and properly confident shepherd, the flock gets targeted by predators, stolen, and even killed. Shepherds are important to the general welfare and direction of society’s flocks. When the shepherds become phony, disillusioned, self-deceived, neglectful, and even downright corrupt, the “green pastures” referenced in the 23rd Psalm, become blood red fields of slaughter. The “still waters” become turbulent, spook the flock, and lead to the societal discord and failure we face today. However, it is possible to be a faithful shepherd. Multiple shepherds practicing the same skill set as the LORD Himself can turn society around. Shepherds know that salvation is an individual matter, and they excel at dealing with individuals. However, shepherding society is also our responsibility. It is a lost art that is both individual in commitment and corporate in execution. The properly confident shepherd can be potent. A community full of properly confident shepherds can be unstoppable.
Are you a shepherd? Consider the following partial list of societal shepherds, their flocks and their personal dilemmas:
The multiple crises in society today seem to be overwhelming these shepherds’ best efforts. Why? Does redefining our roles or lessening the bar of our expectations help the situation? Any honest evaluation would say no. The real problem is, at the core, a shepherd problem. We have turned inward instead of upward. We have polished our outward reputations, striven to be more efficient, invested in innovation, and, in some cases, just worked harder. But the results remain mixed. Society continues to race to its death. It is a suicide of immensely selfish proportions. This author has struggled with these issues for twenty-five years and prayerfully offers up a Scriptural diagnosis and spiritual treatment plan for shepherds of every stripe. The disease is ugly to observe, and the medicine is hard to swallow, but for the earnest shepherd they must be considered.
We Are Not Hirelings
Hirelings are pretend shepherds. They want the benefits without the work. They take the wages without the labor. Most are aware of their insufficient status. Some are willfully ignorant of their charlatan ways. The sheep mistakenly follow these hirelings because sheep want and need a shepherd. When society does not offer the real thing, hirelings apply for the job.
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” (John 10:12-13)
Hirelings are in it for themselves. They love a paycheck. They are not good at shepherding and do not truly care for the sheep. They abuse sheep, lose sheep, and use the flock for their own self-interest. They pretend to be serving the master and can be recognized by true shepherds. They take credit for the work of others, run from real threats, and neglect to watch or discern. Not exposing or opposing these pseudo-shepherds is also part of the problem.
“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.” (Ezekiel 34:1-6)
Hirelings are not shepherds. They are false shepherds. They have a false confidence in themselves, and they are the main reason for societal failure.
Keep Your Flocks By Night
Of course, the scriptures are filled with great shepherd ideals and heroic examples. God loves and uses truly confident shepherds! Take, for instance, Adam and Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph and David. The best proof of this is the fact that the shepherds of Bethlehem were given a glorious angelic proclamation about our God. They were given privileged information concerning the incarnate, virgin-born, manger-laid, infant Jesus’ birth. They were given the very timing, and location! “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:17) Oh how confident they became! They boldly moved society such that, “all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them concerning this child.” (v. 18) This is possible today. Society will go the way of the truly confident shepherds!
Dear shepherd, let us re-evaluate ourselves and our lack of societal effect. Let us own our errors and reinvigorate each other. This was the encouragement from the apostle Paul,
“Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:1-11)
Please share the following treatise on verse six, and the unique confidence Paul both had and exemplified for shepherds to exercise in the difficult day in which we live. Pastors and shepherds of every stripe…get confident!