Imagine several groups of sheep gathered around their shepherd, pulling at him from all directions. “This way is best!” cries one group, while another group, pulling in the opposite direction, insistently cries out, “No, this way is better!” Or picture this–a group of shepherds pulling, pushing, pleading, and/or dragging a flock of ungrateful, grumbling sheep.
In the real relationship between shepherds and sheep, events like those described above never happen. Yet, in the church, these images are all too commonplace. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jam 3:10).
The Bible gives specific qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 for men who would serve in the capacity of an elder (shepherd). An eldership that actively shepherds the flock that is among them, and truly takes the oversight thereof (1 Pet 5:2), is worthy to be followed and ought to be greatly appreciated. “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thes 5:12-13). This passage clearly teaches we are to love and appreciate our elders (i.e., them which are over us in the Lord) for the sake of the work they have undertaken.
The Bible also speaks of our responsibly as sheep to be submissive and follow our shepherds. In Hebrews 13:7, we are commanded to “remember (be mindful of) them who have the rule over you. . .” The word “rule” has two basic meanings, both of which apply to the eldership. First, the eldership has authority in matters of judgment in the local flock. Second, the eldership is to lead or take the lead so the flock may follow. This meaning is expressed in the latter part of the verse, “whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (NKJV).
Lest anyone think the eldership has no authority other than that of example, look to Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them who rule over you, and be submissive. . .” Again, the reason for this imperative is found immediately following, “for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.” The verse closes with this charge, “Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable to you.” I would not want to face my Lord in the judgment having been a thorn in the flesh to the men who gave of themselves to watch for my soul. Every Christian has the responsibility to make the task of oversight a joy for them who shall give an account. What kind of account will be given regarding your conduct toward your elders? Think about it!