12 Characteristics of a Shepherd in the Bible

Characteristics of a Shepherd in the Bible

The relationship between Christ and the church is like that of a shepherd and his flock.

In the book of John, Jesus made us understand that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him; they hear His voice and follow him.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

– John 10:27 (NIV).

Also, in John 21:15-11, Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and sheep, sharing his office as a shepherd with him.

Today, Jesus and Pastors are metaphorically symbolized as a shepherd, while the church is as sheep.

In this post, we will discuss the characteristics of a shepherd in the Bible in great detail.

Let’s get started.

What does a shepherd symbolize?

According to the Bible, a shepherd is a person who herds sheep or goats. The shepherd is also known as a reaper or a goatherd.

The shepherd’s role in the Bible is protection, security, and care for animals. He is also responsible for feeding his flock and providing them with water.

The shepherd’s job is to protect his flock from wild animals trying to feed off their food supply. He will also protect them from other animals that may want to steal their food or attempt to harm them in any way possible.

Shepherds are often seen as symbols of peace and tranquility because they spend so much time with their flocks, nurturing and keeping them safe from harm.

12 Characteristics Of a Shepherd in the Bible 

A Shepherd Is Compassionate

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

~ Matthew 9:36 (ESV)

A good shepherd is genuinely interested in the well-being of his sheep. He has sympathy and is empathetic towards them.

This trait of compassion in a good shepherd shows how excited he is to be their shepherd and do whatever he can to make their lives better.

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus saw the crowd, and compassion swelled considerably in Him – he badly wanted to be their shepherd.

Pastors as well should have this kind of compassion in them. They should be excited to serve their church and do all in their power to see that their lives become better.

A Shepherd Is Protective

When I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which You have given Me. And I guarded them, and none of them has perished, except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

~ John 17:12

When David was a shepherd, he protected his flock so much that he killed a lion and bear on various occasions (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

Jesus Christ, when praying to God, mentioned that He has protected his followers and kept them safe (John 17:12).

In one instance, when the devil tried to sift Peter like wheat, i.e., destroying his faith, Jesus protected Peter by praying against it (Luke 22:31-32).

As a pastor, you should endeavor to protect your members. Now that we no longer wrestle against the flesh, we should defend our members spiritually through prayers – standing against anything that would weaken their faith.

A Shepherd Is Loving

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinth 13:4-8

No good shepherd will raise a rod and hit it on a sheep or become jealous that a sheep is neater and healthier. That would be abnormal.

Instead, a shepherd showers his flock with love. He is patient, kind, forgiving, and tolerant of them ( 1 Corinth 13:4-8). 

He does not discriminate among the sheep or become irritated by them. 

He does not send them away because they are dirty or smelly. Instead, he brings them closer to him and nurtures them.

Jesus is the same. He came for us while we were yet sinners (Roman 5:8), forgave our sins, and guided us in the ways of God.

He offered salvation to all, white or black, prostitutes or Jews, rich or poor, etc. His love is available to all.

Pastors today should follow suit. They should love their members without condition and demonstrate love to them, as illustrated in 1 Corinth 13.

A Shepherd Is Caring

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.

~ John 4:13-14 (NLT)

Every shepherd cares for their sheep. They take their flocks to drink when they are thirsty, and they take them to greener pastures to feed when they are hungry. He washes their fleece when dirty and is sensitive to their moods.

Jesus is a good shepherd, makes sure to fill us with the spirit when we are thirsty (John 4:13-14), understands the word when we are hungry for it (1 Corinth 2:7-16), and washes us off our sin when we do wrong(1 John 1:9).

Every Pastor must emulate this. 

Be interested in the life of your members, feed them with the word, give them sound advice, work with them as they overcome the sins that easily beset them, and be there when you are needed. 

You should observe when they are down in the spirit and encourage them.

A Shepherd Is Humble

A good shepherd is not so proud that they cannot be in the same place with their flock.

They don’t distance themselves from their sheep or are ashamed of being dirty or laughed at due to being among sheep.

They serve without shame, powered by love.

That’s like Jesus, who left heaven to become human and mingled among them ( John 1:14). He even slept in lowly places with his disciples (Luke 9:58) and washed the feet of his disciples despite being God(John 13:1-17).

This is how pastors should live their life – not in mediocrity but humbleness, thinking of others first and willing to go into the trenches and work for the good of their sheepfold. 

A Shepherd Is Hardworking

The book of psalm:23 talks about many things a shepherd does for his sheep.

Taking him to the greener pastures, making sure they lacked nothing, building a nice sheep pen for them, protecting them from danger, and much more.

The Bible talked of Jesus going about doing good, healing, delivering, preaching, etc. (Acts 10:38). This is hard work, and Jesus did them all, then some more!

Pastors should also work tirelessly, visiting members, preparing epic messages, organizing life-changing programs, being diligent in prayers, and holding the church firmly together.

A Shepherd Is Sacrificial

A good shepherd cares less for his life and would die for his sheep’s sake. 

He is not like a hired shepherd that would take off at the slightest sign of danger, and instead, he stands with his sheep through the thick and thin, even at the expense of his life.

This is what Christ did, and Even when he knew he would die for us, he wilfully make that sacrifice.

He had predicted his death and coming sufferings multiple times (Matt 16:21-23, Mark 8:31-32, Luke 9:21), but was still showing up every day till he was tortured and crucified.

This is what all good shepherds do.

Pastors as well should be willing to pay every sacrifice that comes with pastoring the people of God. It’s not easy, but Christ set the examples first.

A Shepherd Is A Boundary Setter

A shepherd sets the boundaries for his sheep. He creates a pen where he takes care of his sheep, with doors and windows to keep the sheep safe from wolves and strangers.

Jesus, our shepherd, gave us the word of God, which tells us our boundaries – where to go and not where to go, what to do and what not to do, and how to think or not think.

All these guidelines are to keep us safe in the sheepfold, and anyone that moves outside the boundaries God has set does that to his peril.

A Shepherd Is Trustworthy

Because of the relationship between a sheep and his shepherd, they don’t mind following him into an abattoir.

They trust their shepherd so much that they only listen to his voice and follow him.

Jesus is a shepherd we can all trust with our lives because we know he has our best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11) and will never lead us astray (John 14:2).

Pastors should also endeavor to be trustworthy. Let your yes be yes, and your no: No!

Also, be a great student of the word, so that your members will trust the answers and solutions you give.

A Shepherd Is Visionary

A sheep does not know what’s next, but the shepherd always has plans for them.

He knows they need a better sheep pen, and he works towards it; he has plans to increase the sheepfold and bring more sheep to his care and works towards it.

Jesus, as well as visions and plans for us. From seeing us saved to live a spirit-filled life to decreasing the loss and making sure He secures a place for us in heaven.

Jesus has always been a man of vision and is not ambiguous about his plans. He came to save the lost souls!

A Shepherd Sets Examples

When A Shepherd moves, his sheep follow. When he sits to rest, the flocks know it’s time to relax, and settle.

Jesus Christ also set an example for us, his sheep.

He urges us to do as he did ( Matt 4:19), and Apostle Paul, a shepherd to many churches, also told them to do as he does, for he is doing as Christ (1 Corinth 11).

As Pastors, be worthy of emulation by those under you. Make sure to set a good example for your members to follow. That’s a good characteristic of a shepherd.

A Shepherd Is Committed

Good shepherds are committed to their sheepfold 100%. They are there to guide, provide, protect, care, heal, and make their sheep feel at peace.

Even when one of a hundred sheep gets lost, a shepherd commits to finding that one lost sheep (Luke 15:4).

He spends most of his time with the sheep, sometimes weeks or months, ensuring they are safe before leaving for home.

Jesus, the good shepherd, is committed to us in all things.

Bottom Line

A Good Shepherd is a servant, a master, a guide, a provider, a helper, and much more to his sheepfold.

There is no better shepherd for Christians than Christ. Therefore, there is no loss in following Christ’s lead.

He was, is, and forever would be the good shepherd of the church.


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