What’s the secret to effective shepherding? I’m not talking about shepherding sheep, I’m talking about shepherding people. If you’ve walked with the Lord for very long, it’s likely that He has put certain people into your life to shepherd. People who need care, guidance, nurture, protection, and occasional redirection. It’s part of being in the Good Shepherd’s flock—He calls us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. To watch over one another with loving care, protecting and keeping each other on course.
But shepherding isn’t easy. Sheep have minds of their own. They wander off. They run away when you try to help them. They get tangled in messes that could have been avoided. How do I know all this? Well, for one thing, I’m one of them. I know personally what it means to go astray and turn to my own way (Isaiah 53:6).
For another, God has called me to shepherd different people, sometimes formally, sometimes informally. Either way, I feel responsible to “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to [me]” (1 Peter 5:2).
There is one little flock in particular that I’ve been fretting about recently. I haven’t felt very effective as a shepherd, and that frustrates me. I’ve talked about it with others who shepherd similar kinds of sheep. We’ve tried lots of different things, but nothing much helps. It seems like we all share the concern and feel kind of helpless about it.
But the Lord gave me a gentle reprimand and a lot of hope through one little verse buried in Jeremiah. It says, “For the shepherds are stupid [senseless, foolish in other translations] and do not inquire of the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered” (10:21).
It’s not that I don’t inquire of the Lord about my flock—I do pray for them. But through that scripture, the Lord helped me to see that faithful, fervent prayer is the primary way this herd of cats (that’s what it feels like sometimes!) is going to be reached. It isn’t going to be leadership techniques or clever gimmicks—it’s going to be His power and love as the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20) that ultimately puts them on course and leads them into the safety of His sheep pen.
This strong and timely reminder from the Lord has re-energized my prayers for this little flock. God released me from some of the pressure I’d been feeling. It’s His flock, ultimately. My job is to love them and pray for them and to reach out to them however He leads me to. But it’s His job, ultimately, to refresh their souls, guide them along right paths, and protect them from enemies (Psalm 23:3, 5). If I get those things backwards, then I have to admit with Jeremiah, that I’m just being stupid.