Visionary shepherds are to feed the flock. Sheep rely on the shepherd for healthy food. Jesus speaks with Peter in John 21:15, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’”
Shepherds must understand that sheep cannot find pastures on their own. Sheep have a very difficult time discerning the difference between healthy food and poisonous weeds. Therefore, sheep need a shepherd to help them find healthy food to nourish them. In this way, God’s people need visionary shepherds who will teach them rightly, feeding them and helping them find nourishment for their souls from God’s word. It is for this reason that visionary shepherds must be committed to feeding the flock through faithful preaching that aims to glorify God through God-centered, Christ-focused, Spirit-empowered, pastorally applied, evangelistic biblical exposition for the purpose of converting the lost and edifying the found.
Why is it so vital for visionary shepherds to joyfully and boldly teach and preach God’s word? Because God’s people need knowledge and understanding of God’s word. They need to be transformed by the renewing of their minds that only comes through power of God’s inspired, authoritative word faithfully preached and taught.
Again, in Jeremiah 3:15 the Lord declares, “…I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” A visionary shepherd must have knowledge and understanding of God’s word to teach to those in need of direction. When those being led are without knowledge and understanding of God’s word, their spiritual lives will suffer great harm.
In Hosea 4:5-6 we read, "You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother— my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children."
When the priests did not teach the Law of God to the people of Israel, the people were “destroyed.” This is a judgment against the priests and prophets. God’s people must be taught. They must be fed the truth of Scripture for their salvation and sanctification. The reality is that if the sheep are not living obediently to God’s word, they will obey something or someone else. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3). Therefore, visionary shepherds must continually teach the truth! Sound teaching is the diet that will revive the dying congregation and will also keep sheep spiritually healthy, able to live their lives for God and his glory.
Put it into practice:
It is vital as visionary shepherds to feed each individual sheep under our care, well. This includes both the 9 month old and the 90 year old. Along with encouraging our people to be part of the corporate worship gathering on a weekly basis, shepherds must seek to feed the sheep by:
#1: Connecting individuals to appropriate Bible studies, Sunday School classes, and other educational and discipleship opportunities.
#2: Helping individuals identify and get plugged into a home community group or other fellowship group on a weekly basis for study, prayer, encouragement, and accountability.
#3: Teaming up an individual with a spiritual mentor who can teach them, care for them, and help them grow and mature as fully devoted disciples of Jesus.
As visionary shepherds seek to feed their sheep through these three means, along with the preaching of God’s word, the hope and prayer is that each individual sheep will be enabled and encouraged to grow into Christ-like maturity in a healthy way.