Review of Shepherds, Wake Up! Ancient Training for Modern Shepherds
In the book Shepherds, Wake Up! J. J. Turner addresses the importance of Elder-Shepherds in the local church. He considers the dire need the church has for Elder-Shepherds and how men can faithfully fulfill this work. The author contends that the model of Elder-Shepherds is still essential and needed today. Men must look to the
Biblical record to fully understand this work, instead of modern day models of business or leadership. The material is arranged in 13 lessons to accommodate a church class setting for a quarter.
Although the author contends that the office of an Elder has many descriptions to describe the single office, the prevailing metaphor he emphasizes is that of a Shepherd. He examines a variety of Scriptures, highlighting Jesus as the Chief Shepherd, Old Testament allusions to shepherds, and New Testaments passages relating to the office of Elder-Shepherd. Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, serves as the ultimate model of a servant leader. He was characterized by love and compassion for others, humble service and self-sacrifice for the good of others.
The author then turns his attention to Old Testament statements of Shepherds including Psalm 23 and Ezekiel 34. Psalm 23 shows God as the loving shepherd who cares for his sheep. Sheep are depicted as simple minded animals that have a particular need to receive care and be led. In Ezekiel 34, the shepherds or leaders of Israel are indicted for their failure to properly care for the sheep, allowing them to wander away into danger.
In turning to the New Testament, some of the main texts include Acts 20 and the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These New Testament passages show God’s expectations for the Elder-Shepherds. The author notes that these passages reveal more than mere qualifications to be checked off. He divides each word or phrase of the “qualification” passages into groupings of action, character, skill, knowledge and motivation. All of these concepts speak to the kind of person that should be an Elder-Shepherd.
Having examined several Scriptural references, the point is repeatedly made that whoever serves in this work must realize that it is all about the sheep. A local Shepherd must have a burning desire to help the sheep. Such a desire is necessary in light of the difficulty of the task. If a shepherd’s heart is not into his job, he is nothing more than a hireling and his service will be less than adequate. The sheep are what make this job so
important, yet so difficult.
A couple of the more interesting points made in this book involve shepherding in the 21st century and the need for training. Today, the same basic work and approach is needed in local churches, but there are also many unique challenges today. The
similarities include the same qualifications, authority, core caring and essential duties. This work will need to be carried out in the unique culture of our day where there is a great deal of mobility, wealth, education, global recognition, technology and independence. Elder-Shepherds must know their sheep and the basic makeup of the culture in which they live.
The important function of serving and the unique challenges of today suggest that
training is vital. The author notes that preachers and ministers often receive training, but this is rarely provided, or even considered, for Elder-Shepherds. A wide net of training should be cast before the congregation with lessons. Young men should be encouraged to aspire to this great work. More directed training should be considered for men before they start the work and afterwards.
Overall, the book addressed an important subject in a helpful manner. The choice to use
the shepherd as the dominant metaphor allowed the author to relay many teaching points. Although this role was emphasized to the neglect of many of the other metaphors and descriptions, the heart of the discussion of this work was adequately addressed. The importance of the work was noted, and the Scriptures were used to direct the discussion. The book also provided many suggestions and needed actions for churches and Shepherd-Elders.