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Sheep, Goats, & Shepherds

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.


I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

-Matt. 25:32-34, 1 Peter 5:1-5

After spending the evening with friends who are shepherds, I thought of two more points to add to my list on preparing for the harvest:

21. God will provide help for you, with your unexpected harvest, from hidden people near you whose hearts are already prepared to offer help to you.

22. Beware of people with agendas who are not followers, whose antics will disrupt your community.  Call them out, and if they do not repent, invite them to leave.

God gives some people shepherd's hearts  

A shepherd can be a man or a woman.  A true shepherd cares for sheep.  

That caring is both loving and stern.  I enjoyed the book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, by Philip Keller.  In it, he talks about the characteristics of sheep and what they need from their shepherds.

Many Christians have shepherd's hearts, while few become professional pastors who run a church and preach on Sundays.  In the coming harvest, all the believers who have been in the audience (congregants), who have shepherd's hearts, will be called by God 'into the ministry' of shepherding.  Pastor means shepherd and pastoral care means shepherding.

Something that has been largely untouched by the Protestant Reformation, is this notion of the solo pastor or the clergy/laity dichotomy.  This is an idea that was abolished by Jesus, in the New Covenant, but then reinstated by the church, as it became institutionalized after the death of the Apostles and their protegees, and into the time of Constantine and Christendom.

Many people in the body of Christ have the gift of pastor or pastoring.  It might be their main gift, or part of their gift-mix cluster.  The solo pastor or the duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octet, nonet, or dectet of 'pastors on staff', is not the Biblical blueprint.  It is something we place on the Bible and assume they did it like we do: Episcopalian, for instance.

You might turn to Ephesians 4 and say that these are the ones that run the show of the church.  But what those ministries are for is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  It's strange when we talk about 'going into ministry', when Ephesians 4 says that all the saints do the ministry.

Many people have shepherd's hearts (they are natural, gifted pastors).  Some of them have already gone where their hearts have led them, to help people in a thousand ways other than preaching sermons and officiating weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

When your sudden harvest of people come into your life and you feel overwhelmed, God will send people with shepherds hearts to help you.  You of course need to discern that they are not a wolf person or a goat person; but are genuine.

Some people, who will come to your group, your church; are goats

That leads me to the second point, which is the issue of sheep and goats.  Both look somewhat alike, but are different.  Sheep are believers and goats are not believers.

Goats can get mixed in with sheep, but they are not sheep.  Goats can try to join a flock of sheep, but they are different and recognizable not only visually, but behaviorally.


"Sheep are gentle, quiet, and easily led; but goats are pushy, self-sufficient and headstrong."  

"Goats are naturally quarrelsome and have short tempers. They rear and butt in order to establish dominance. Rather than being a passive animal like the sheep, they have more aggressive tendencies.

Goats do not require as much supervision or care as sheep. Perhaps this is because they are a more independent animal. Unlike sheep, goats will easily revert back to their wild conditions if given the chance. Goats do not graze like sheep do, but instead browse. They nibble here and there, sampling a variety of bushes and leaves. Because they are browsers and do not graze, they tend to wander when they eat.

Goats also like the high places, often heading upward. They are not herded as well as sheep because they would rather lead than follow. Two striking differences between sheep and goats are that goats have an excessively bad odor and their tails are short and held high.

How do these goat characteristics relate spiritually to the shepherd or leader? If a “goat” is part of a fold, you may see some of these characteristics displayed. Goats are often pushy and can cause undercurrents and dissension. Turmoil and agitation are part of their nature. I believe this is because the goat has a dominating and controlling temperament, rather than a passive and submissive one.

Goats tend to be more self-sufficient than sheep, choosing to browse rather than graze in the pasture. They don’t enjoy the green pastures in the same way as the sheep. They are not always satisfied with what the shepherd (leader) gives them. They will nibble on the Word of God, a little here and a little there, yet they love to be seen in the high places. The goats walk with their tails held high, spiritually indicating pride, and they emit an offensive odor. There is something distinguishing about the goat, and that is the odor, or “air” about them.


All this said, it is important to note that goats are not wolves. They will not eat the sheep because they are not the meat eaters that the wolves are. They may be agitators and cause some turmoil for the shepherd, but they are not seriously harmful to the sheep. Perhaps that is why Jesus waits until His return to separate the sheep from the goats. The real danger and threat to our flocks and herds is the wolf."

And some more on goats, from Rob McNutt:

"Typically, a shepherd in Palestine allowed sheep and goats to mingle together during the day. But at night, he separated the sheep from the goats through his unique call. The sheep would sleep in the open air, while the goats needed the heat of close quarters.

Why did Matthew use the images of sheep (for the righteous) and goats (for the evil)?  Ancient people drew moral analogies from the habits of sheep and goats.  Sheep were intelligent, yet quiet animals, submissive, yet persistent. Male sheep fiercely protected their harems from challengers.  Sheep arrange themselves in a herd. In the face of danger, the adult males would surround the females and the young.

In a culture that encouraged loud debate and social one-upmanship, contemporaries of Jesus admired sheep for their loyalty and silent strength.

Goats, however, were stubborn, destructive animals if left unattended. Male goats did not protect their mates from other males. The name "goat" became a derogatory term for a man shamed by the adultery of his wife.

In the folklore of the general Greek culture, the goat symbolized the loose morals of the lesser gods, Pan, Bacchus, and Aphrodite. So, Jews hated the symbol of the goat, for it represented a disobedient, undisciplined lifestyle."

Some people you will encounter in Christian communities are goats.  Are they there to take over, cause trouble, buck the system, or are they genuinely on the road to salvation?  Shepherds must discern.  Do we call them out and kick them out?  Or do we let them stay, but keep them from hurting others?

I think that your community or church is like your house with 'house rules'.  People who come over to our house have to abide by certain rules.  This goes with children and adults.

We can say, "you can't do that here".  If they can not or will not stop it, we can warn then again, and then they will have to leave.  It is that simple.

And what 'they can not do' simply boils down to that they can not do things that harm others or undermine the community.  There is plenty of hurt and offense that could happen, but harm is a whole other matter.

When people are confronted, they usually leave, if they are ingenuine.  We might misunderstand a person and confront them incorrectly too.  They may stay or leave after that.

Being assertive (to confront someone) is actually loving.  To passively let someone get away with violating house rules is bad shepherding.

Bottom line: be aware of goats.

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