Shepherding God’s Flock (20)
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock… 1 Peter 5.2, 3
The men in a Bible study group I led gave me a plaque which I cherish. It was a needle-work piece featuring a mother duck leading three of her ducklings along the way. The caption read: Your walk walks, and your talk talks; but your walk talks more than your talk talks.
Or as my old offensive line coach put it to us, as we whined about our place on the depth chart, “Boys, what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
A shepherd possesses three tools, given by the Lord, to do the work appointed for him: prayer, the Word of God, and his personal example. All three are essential. But if we fail in the last, we will fail in it all.
Gregory the Great understood this, as he wrote to the shepherds who were in his care, “But in the midst of these things we are brought back by the desire of charity to what we have already said above; that every preacher should give forth a sound more by his deeds than by his words, and rather by good living imprint footsteps for men to follow than by speaking shew them the way to walk in” (The Book of Pastoral Rule).
The Word of God, prayer, and our personal example: these are the tools pastors have for shepherding the flock of God. These are the resources we bring to bear on the task of equipping the saints for the work of ministry unto the building-up of the Body of Christ. We must wield them all consistently and effectively. Yet if we do not excel in the use of our own example, our use of prayer and Scripture will not have as much power as they otherwise might.
Resources for Shepherds
How do these tools work together to help us in the work of shepherding? That’s part of the subject of our book, Fan into Flame, which provides an overview and assessment tools to help you improve your work as a shepherd. Learn more and order your free copy by clicking here.
Looking for a resource to help in training the shepherds in your church? Our course, Shepherding God’s Flock, could be just the ticket. Click here to watch an overview of this free course, which is available at The Ailbe Seminary.
As a shepherd, you have an important role in equipping those who have been entrusted with teaching the Word of God to your flock. Elders, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers—all will benefit from whatever help you can give them. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, is a basic handbook for improving our use of the Bible, both for our own lives and for those we teach. Order free copies for your Bible teachers by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Colum Cille, 6th-century founder of the Iona community, was a scholar, shepherd, evangelist, disciple-maker, and a poet. His poem, “Exalted First Sower”, sets up a worldview framework for knowing, loving, and serving the Lord Jesus. The opening stanzas make clear that our focus in this world must always be beyond this world to the world’s Creator and sovereign Lord:
The High Creator, Ancient of Days, and Unbegotten
was without origin of beginning and without end;
He is and shall be to infinite ages of ages
with Whom is Christ the only begotten and the Holy Spirit,
coeternal in the everlasting glory of the Godhead.
We set forth not three gods, but we say there is One God,
saving our faith in three most glorious Persons.
He created good Angels, and Archangels, the orders
of Principalities and Thrones, of Authorities and Powers,
that the Goodness and Majesty of the Trinity
might not be inactive in all offices of bounty,
but might have creatures in which it might richly display
heavenly privileges by a word of power.
- Colum Cille, “Exalted First Sower”
We’ll be wrapping up our brief study of “Exalted First Sower” this week in our Crosfigell teaching letter. We hope you’ll join us for a look at the worldview and heartset of this great shepherd of God’s flock.
Crosfigell is posted and mailed every Tuesday and Thursday and offers insights and meditations on writings from the period of the Celtic Revival (ca. 430-800). You can add Crosfigell to your subscriptions by clicking here.
For another look at some of the leaders of the Celtic Revival, order our book, Lives of Irish Saints, which is available free in PDF by clicking here.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 This text is taken from the English translation of Colum’s original Hiberno-Latin in J.H. Bernard and R. Atkinson, eds., The Irish Liber Hymnorum, 2 vols., Vol. 2 (London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1898), pp. 150ff.