In Jeremiah 3:14, 15, the Lord promises saying, "I will take you one from a city and two from a family and I will bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding."
"Zion" represents the true church of the living God. God brings one from a city and two from a family into His "Zion". And when we have come to this Zion - the church that the Lord is building - He promises to give us there "shepherds after His own heart", who will feed us on a knowledge of Himself (and not just a knowledge of the Bible) and on understanding of His ways (and not just an understanding of doctrine).
One primary identifying mark of the true church of God is this: It has shepherds after God's own heart.
God is love - and the primary characteristic of love is that it does not seek its own. So, shepherds after God's own heart are those who do not seek their own. Such shepherds will not seek for anyone's money or honour. They will seek neither to please men nor to impress them. Instead they will seek to build up the believers in order "to present them perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). Wherever God can find a man with such a longing - in any town or village of the world - He will build His church.
On the other hand, we have seen many cases of believers who leave the mainline denominations and who seek to follow "the New Testament pattern", who have their doctrines all correct, but who love money and seek their own, and who yet imagine that they are building the Body of Christ. Confusion and chaos are always the result of their labours and what is finally built through their labours is always Babylon.
Only where God can find a man who does not seek his own, can the Lord build His true church. One man like that, who shares the concern of God's heart for people, is far more valuable to God than a thousand believers who seek their own.
To be a shepherd after God's own heart will involve sacrifice, inconvenience, and suffering. It will mean being willing to suffer misunderstanding, opposition, ridicule and slander joyfully. And if such a shepherd is blessed enough to have a wife who also does not seek her own, so that their home is open for the Lord to do whatever He wants, then there will be no limit to what God can do through their lives.
I am not talking now about gathering many people. Numbers are not a mark of God's blessing. Many of the well-known cults gather more numbers of people than anyone else. That does not prove anything. I am talking now of quality - the building of the Body of Christ, where every individual member comes into a personal knowledge of God.
Without such a development, any group will only be a place where one blind man has led a whole lot of other blind people into the ditch. All their prayer meetings will be in the ditch, their Bible-studies will be in the ditch and their conferences will be in the ditch too!!
In Jesus' time, He looked around and saw that people were like sheep without a shepherd. It is the same today.
The great need everywhere is for shepherds after God's own heart. I am not talking here about just being an elder in a church. No. A large church needs many shepherds - those who have a heart that cares for God's people. Such people may not be elders at all. But they will feed and encourage the sheep - serving them gladly.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon