Do You Link Your Shepherding With Your Salvation?

What is the real source of your happiness? We Christians are rightfully so happy when someone accepts Christ through our shepherding and Bible teaching. I love going to Manila every year because I am elated beyond words that many young students are openly responding to the gospel I share with them. Jesus’ disciples were too. When Jesus sent out the 72 to proclaim the kingdom of God (Lk 10:9), they were overjoyed at the success of their evangelism. They said excitedly, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Lk 10:16). Jesus was happy about the defeat of Satan (Lk 10:18). Yet he said seriously to his disciples and to us, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20). It meant, “Do not link your ministry success with your salvation.”

Do I tether my shepherding to my salvation? Do I connect the results or fruitfulness of my ministry to my relationship with Jesus? I can boldly and confidently say “NO!” because I know I should say No. I also know that the correct Bible answer is that I love and serve others, because Jesus loved and served me first at the cost of his life.

But honestly … I know that I do functionally link my shepherding, my (perceived) success and my salvation together? Every Sun I am happy when and if I preach well. But if I am not moved by the grace of Jesus through my own sermon (and if my wife is not happy with it!), I become depressed for the rest of the day, sometimes for the rest of the week…until I get to do better and prove myself the following Sun! I know I should not be like this. I know, “Jesus is all I want, and Jesus is all I need.” Yet that is not how I often am. It seems that I need some other validation in addition to Jesus. Why do I connect my sense of my own self-worth and my accomplishments (or lack of it!) to my salvation? Functionally and practically, it is because Jesus alone is not enough for me.

Why do we feel defensive and angry if someone criticizes our church or ministry? The “official biblical reason” is, “You must not complain. You must be thankful.” But is the real reason not something deeper?

We all default to idolatry. Before becoming a Christian, our idols are obvious: sex, drugs, rock and roll, and money. But after becoming Christians, we know that we should repent of such sins. But does stopping our morally reprehensible behavior necessarily change our inner heart’s inclinations? Even if it is to a miniscule degree, do we not replace:

  • Sex with prayer meetings?
  • Drugs with singing hymns?
  • Rock and roll with Christian fellowship?
  • Money with being fruitful by having our church grow in number with many Christian disciples under our stewardship?

Is the strongest religious idolatry our sense of our fruitfulness and accomplishment as a Christian and as a church? I want to be happy in Christ regardless of anything else. But the reality is that if many are coming to me and to church, I am happy. But if few are coming I am forced to make plastic smiles, which I am not too good at doing! If I am appreciated I feel good. But if I am not, I feel bad. In the words of Paul we exclaim, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24) All Christians know what the simple and exact answer is (Rom 7:25). And yet…

Does this sound bizarre or far fetched? Are our hearts that deceptively and persistently idolatrous?


  1. Thanks for sharing, Ben. You just made my day, and perhaps my whole week.

  2. Is shepherding linked with salvation? I used to think so, yes. I used to act like the two are linked as well.

    Most ubf shepherds/directors/missionaries also link shepherding with salvation. After much thought, I’ve uncovered two main reasons why this is so: 1) ubf replaces Jesus as master and 2) ubf makes all shepherd-sheep relationships permanent.