What does a shepherding pastor look like? In my experience they are altogether too rare; until lately I would not have been able to readily explain what they are like. I don't normally care for allegory, and when I write it out it sounds like a child's contrived composition (especially since the comparison between sheep and people is only so perfect), but I do see the application of the symbolism of the sheep and the shepherd so clearly when I see the shepherding pastor rather than the hireling, and I think it's worth sharing.
You will never hear the shepherding pastor say that he never really wanted to be a pastor but who will resignedly state that it's where God put him--that would be the hireling, who will never really have the passion, love, dedication and patience he needs to watch over a flock of sheep who need such constant guidance, who make frequent and stupid mistakes and who need so much care. A shepherding pastor is one who has truly felt God's call to be a pastor to the point where he actually rejoices in his flock, and delights to draw them in close and care for them. He will look to his Shepherd for guidance in how to best care for his own sheep. He cares for all his sheep with the same care and concern. He doesn't treat a new sheep with distrust because it is new or because it thinks like a sheep, but instead he talks to it and directs it, guiding it away from bitter weeds to sweet places. He doesn't push the sheep away for fear that if they know him they might see reason to reject him. He looks to his guideBook for every detail about how to care for and train his sheep, and explains the Book to them so they know to live according to the truths that are in it. He pours out new, clean, fresh Water for them on a regular basis that he himself has drawn from the Well, and the Water is good and refreshing, so they will want to drink deeply of it, seeing that he drinks deeply from it also.
He communicates with his sheep often. He prays for them. He invites them for walks and gathers them together often. He tells them his plans for the flock, and asks them to pray with him that those plans will be blessed. He knows when one of his flock is hurting and will do what he can to help it get back to health. He also knows when each sheep is happy, when it is eating right and when it has strayed into the wrong field. If any sheep has a question (yes, these sheep ask questions!), he is glad for it and wants to satisfy the sheep with an answer--so he will go to his guideBook to show them what the Chief Shepherd would say. If something has wandered into his flock that is not a sheep, but either a goat or a wolf, he will recognize it quickly so he can protect his flock.
The sheep that belong to a shepherding pastor will be content. They will get along with each other and imitate the shepherd's care for them in caring for one another. They won't fear to come to the shepherd because he might not want to talk to them, or because their questions might sound too dumb or scary, or heaven forbid, because the shepherd might attack them. They are content because they can rely on his providing new fresh water continually, keeping them from bitter weeds, nasty wolves and unsafe trails.
You have been patient to read this far. I just wanted to illustrate this because I was lying awake when I should have been asleep, pondering it. I think we sheep need to know the difference so we can be properly cared for, content, and safe. Baaaaaa.