God, Not Man, As Shepherd

psalm-23-1Lacking nothing. I read Ps 23:1 this morning, which resonated with me. God is my Shepherd. I felt deeply that I truly lacked nothing, which is nothing but undeserved grace. I have virtually everything I could possibly ever need or want: Christ, my wife’s love, family, friends, church community, a passion for life, relationships, Scripture and the gospel…and not forgetting my three cats. Because the Lord is my shepherd, life felt so good, despite anything else that is happening.

A charmed life. Recently I told a friend that I feel a little guilty (but not too much!) that I am just so darn happy. I feel content and too blessed by God virtually every day. I live such a charmed (and easy) life in perhaps the greatest country in the world. Being semi-retired from being a doctor, I spend every day doing what I want: preparing for my next sermon, reading books and blogs, writing, commenting and blogging, and these days I am binge-watching the first four seasons of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime! I hardly ever truly suffer, apart from encountering the daily annoyances of life, which is inevitable.

Bitter and angry. My friend seemed surprised when I expressed how happy I was. Perhaps the impression is that I am angry, bitter and discontented because of my dissatisfaction regarding issues I write about on UBFriends. Yes, some issues raised here are exasperating and frustrating. But even such annoyances adds tremendous fun and spice to my life! This is so simply because the Lord is my shepherd, who watches over me as my fortress, my rock, my deliverer, my shield, my salvation and my stronghold (Ps 18:2).

Bad shepherding. Peter says to his fellow elders, “Be shepherds of God’s flock” (1 Pet 5:2). Jesus says to Peter to take care of Jesus’ sheep (Jn 21:15-17). As with everything in life, shepherding people can be done well or poorly; it can be carried out with humility and condescension or with selfishness and elitism. Last year, someone asked me the question: “How may UBF communicate the best practice of shepherding”? My short answer is that good shepherding NEVER violates or imposes upon another person, just as Jesus never imposed himself on others against their will and free choice (Rev 3:20). Also, the father of the prodigal son did not impose himself on his two lost sons (Lk 15:11-32). Shepherding in the church always goes wrong when we impose our wish dream on others, or when we do not give people their freedom (cf. 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1), usually through coercion, intimidation or bullying.

Pastor becomes God. Bad shepherding or pastoring happens when the human shepherd or pastor becomes like God and functionally and practically takes the place of God in the life of the person(s) being shepherded. For instance, this can happen if the shepherd is the one who decides if and when an adult can or cannot date, or if and when they can or cannot marry, to mention but two unquestioned implicit practices in UBF. Yes, many happy marriages have resulted, including mine. But in my opinion, dating and marriage policies should be seriously addressed, discussed and corrected in the church. It is because of the ongoing unhealthy authoritarian abuses, favoritism, discrimination, classism, politicking, control and manipulation that such practices have produced. Countless examples have already be given on this website.

The Lord alone is your shepherd. I am not advocating rebellion, disrespect or anarchy toward your human shepherd. But not all shepherding is Christ-like. Good shepherding should allow for critical thinking, disagreements and for creating a safe place (like UBFriends) where anyone can freely speak up and speak out. Consider some random questions:

  1. Does expressing my happiness come across like bragging?
  2. Are you happy because you sense and know that the Lord alone is your shepherd?
  3. Are you unhappy because you experience your human shepherd trying to control you and tell you how to live?


  1. Mark Mederich

    history has reached this point: individual responsibility can no longer be expected until systemic/corporate responsibility has occurred, whether church or state (anything less is abuse of the weak to benefit the strong, which God does not tolerate forever-the day does come when righteous systemic consequences occur & the individual is vindicated)

    • Exactly Mark! If someone thinks I am simply reacting out of a personal vendetta, they are deeply mistaken and do not understand me at all. Corporate repentance is what I seek, just as all the r-group people sought in 1976, 1989, 2001 and in 2011. This is not about individuals primarily but about the entity, the organization, the top 20 leaders in control of the organization and most of all, for me, the issues are with they system called KOPAHN.

  2. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… a ubf shepherd.

    Does expressing my happiness come across like bragging?
    > No it does not Ben. You are expressing the contentment that comes only from the Spirit of God.

    Are you happy because you sense and know that the Lord alone is your shepherd?
    > Yes!

    Are you unhappy because you experience your human shepherd trying to control you and tell you how to live?
    > I was unhappy most of the 24 years when I did experience that, yes. But the bigger problem is not the people but the ideology. Broken people will always be around, as we are all broken in some way. But when broken theology like KOPAHN theology is exposed, such theology must be abandoned.