Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
In Chapter 9, we saw a lengthy confrontation between the religious leaders, often referred to as shepherds in that time, and the healed man, his parents, and Jesus. Jesus observed clearly the heartlessness of the Pharisees toward the “common people,” for whom they had little respect and less personal concern. Their chief goal seems to have been NOT the elevation of God, but their personal elevation in terms of status, authority, and appearances.
With all that in mind, it isn’t surprising that Jesus turns to a message about the importance of the shepherd, the right way to enter service to the people (the sheep), and the importance of the understanding that God has established boundaries for those who would desire to be spiritual leaders of the people.
One cannot choose his own way of becoming a spiritual leader. He must go through the appointed door. Anyone else is a thief and a liar, having no sense of the sacrifice involved in being a true shepherd. In fact, too many have used the position of spiritual leadership for their own gain financially, and also for fame and influence in high places.
So what is this door that is the designated, God-given way of entering the sheepfold? I believe it is through love, calling, care, and sacrificial service.
Love. He who would become a shepherd of the people must truly love God, and love the people to whom he ministers. He cannot consider his people merely as a means to an end. He cannot love only those who are lovable by human standards. He must see them as God sees them. He must care for each one individually. He has the responsibility of the entire flock, and if the flock becomes larger than he can handle personally, then he must find assistants who also love the sheep, and love the Lord. Not one sheep can be neglected.
Calling. A true shepherd has a sense in his spirit of what God is calling him to do. He may try to resist the calling, knowing that he will work hard and not always be appreciated. He will be misunderstood, misquoted, and wrongly accused. Being a shepherd can be a thankless task, but the rewards can be great. Those rewards are not always financial comfort. They come in seeing souls brought to Christ; in seeing spiritual growth and understanding in the flock; in spending his life in service to the One Who has called him.
Care. The shepherd’s life will be one of putting his people ahead of his own needs. It will be one of caring that God’s work is being done with zeal and, sometimes, hardship. It will involve caring for the needs of his own family as well as the church family. Primarily, he must care about the constant study of God’s Word, seeking God in prayer, and lifelong learning of how to best care for those who rely on him.
Sacrificial service. I’ve known a lot of pastors in my lifetime. Most of them were the shepherds of smaller congregations, not megachurches, and most of them labored and passed into eternity without ever seeing their names in the headlines. Most of them were godly, honest, humble men who didn’t concern themselves with financial gain. They were always quick to answer a call from any one of their people. They were friends, comforters, supporters, sources of knowledge for grieving people who needed help in dealing with the details of the loss of a family member.
I could tell stories all day about my own father, who was a pastor, as well as others I have known. Good shepherds. Reliable, honest, earnest men whose primary goal was to please God.
They are the ones who go into the sheepfold through the designated door, and not through some other means.