When Jesus, the Good Shepherd, sees you and me in a crowd, he doesn’t see the crowd. He sees every one of “his sheep” as individuals and knows each one of us by name. He knows our joys, our sorrows, our gains, our losses, our successes, our failures—and he loves each one of us devotedly. We are not a crowd to him. We are his individual children.
God’s design for the church is a “pasture based” church, as opposed to the “feedlot style” church found in most church building based churches today. The Bible often refers to us as the sheep of God’s pasture (Psalm 23, Psalm 79:13, Psalm 100:3). In John 21:15-17 when Jesus commanded Peter to feed His sheep, the Greek word Jesus used that is translated “feed” means “to pasture, to graze”. Jesus was commanding Peter to pasture the sheep and let them graze…
The concept of a shepherd feeding the flock by leading them to fresh green pasture is totally different than the way a feedlot owner feeds his livestock. With a conventional factory farm, the buildings and equipment are very important. Large expensive equipment, diesel fuel, and a large amount of time is required to plant and harvest crops for feed. The crops then need to be stored in a silo or storage bin.
Later the feed is mixed using various feed ingredients into a balanced ration and fed to the livestock. With the feedlot, the sheep are totally dependent upon the farmer to choose, grind, mix, and balance the feed ration, and give their feed to them. The feed is all stored, dry, maybe even stale feed. The feedlot owner can feed thousands of sheep but the individual sheep receive little personal attention or care.
On a pasture based farm the buildings are not as important and may not be needed. There is little need for expensive equipment. Some pasture based farms do not even have a tractor. The operating costs are much lower. The livestock harvest (eat) the grass and feed themselves.
The feed is fresh grass, not dry powdery feed. The environment is much healthier, with plenty of fresh air and exercise. It is more relaxing and less stressful for the animals. The young are usually left with their mothers. The animals often live longer than their confinement counterparts.
The role of a shepherd on a pasture based farm is to guide where the sheep graze.
God’s design for the church is that it be based on a pasture based model of a shepherd pastor leading the people to feed themselves on the pasture of God’s Word, rather than the building based feedlot model. God desires a shepherd style pastor who really cares for the needs of the flock…. God’s design for the church is that most of the spiritual food come from the people gathering it themselves and meditating on it and that the pastor’s messages be a significantly smaller portion of their total spiritual food.