Shepherd Sheep Relationship
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 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. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep , and am known of mine.” John 10:11-14
The role of the shepherd is to provide support, education, and nonjudgmental confrontation. The shepherd must establish a good rapport with the sheep. The new believer, a person who has just come to the Lord deserves to feel understood, and that he or she has a mentor or guide. The shepherd wants to convey to the new believer that he or she appreciates the difficulty of this struggle and the need for support through this new journey.
The metaphor of the sheep and the shepherd is useful for conceptualizing the shepherd saint relationship. The pastor guides the saint through at least the early stages of Christianity, but to stand in the faith ultimately belongs to the new believer. It is the believer alone who is responsible and accountable for his or her spiritual growth. The shepherd must emphasize this point to facilitate personal responsibility. Confronting the believer may be useful to emphasize personal responsibility. However, when confrontation is necessary, the shepherd should convey a supportive rather than a punitive attitude.
The shepherd must find a balance between being directive and allowing the believer to be self-directed. This process is facilitated if the shepherd imposes a structure while teaching the new believer sessions that includes allowing the new believer to give feedback on their progress. The shepherd should identify relevant topic for discussion, based on what the believer seems to need, and introduces that topic. At times, the shepherd may directly pressure the believer to change certain behaviours, perhaps, as an example, to start attending church meetings.
However, the believer also is encouraged to be self-directed. For example, within the framework of a particular topic, perhaps coping with “social pressure,” the believer may explore how to manage this problem best and the shepherd will respond to the believer’s direction. If the believer seems unable to change some aspect of behaviour – for example, being around dangerous situations – the shepherd should accept where the new believer is and assist the new believer to explore those perceptions or situations in a way that might allow himself or herself to do it differently, i.e., in a better way, next time.
However, the shepherd should discourage regressive or other movements that lead back toward the past life. A balance needs to be struck so there is respect for the believer and acceptance of where he or she is and continual, ongoing pressure in the direction of abstinence from sin and complete deliverance.