Recently, the Lord drew my attention to John 10.
You might already know it. In verses 1 through 5, Jesus presents this analogy:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
The analogy might seem pretty obvious to us, Jesus is the good shepherd. But it wasn’t that clear to the people listening, so Jesus explained it.
Except when He explained it, He didn’t say He was the shepherd (He gets there later), but instead He says, “I am the door of the sheep.”
Did you just say you’re the door of the sheep?
How can Jesus be the door of the sheep? What the heck is that supposed to mean?
Jesus had an interesting technique of talking sometimes to the crowd, and sometimes to His disciples. Sometimes He would talk to the crowd first and then explain it to His disciples. Other times He would talk to His disciples first and then open it up to the crowd.
I’m speculating here, but as I prayed through this and asked God for clarity, I think Jesus was talking to His disciples first here. He was telling them, “You enter into your ministry through me.”
As ministers (including writers), we serve out of a foundational intimacy with Jesus. He is the door by which we enter the sheep pen, and the true sheep hear us and respond.
If we do not enter by him, the sheep will not hear us, or they will even flee from us.
Re-read the first couple verses with this idea in mind:
“…he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.”
There are other ways into ministry—through academics, networking, tradition, charisma, skills… None of those things are necessarily bad in their own right, but they’re not the door. Jesus is the door. Those things can be tools that we carry through the door, or they can be the tools of a thief, trying to break in through another way.
Many thieves, I suspect, have good intentions. They truly wish to care for the sheep. But if they do not enter by the door (Jesus), then they are robbers still.
This is why spiritual development is such a key component of what we do as writers and what we do here at The Company. The difference between a thief and a good shepherd is only whether they enter through the door—only whether the foundation of their vocation is based on knowing God and being known by God.
In Jesus’s analogy, the shepherd isn’t defined as good or bad based on his intentions, qualifications, or history, he’s defined as good or bad only by whether he enters by the door.
Ironically, when we do that, we don’t have to try so hard to make our work feel Christian. We just get to be Christians, we just get to be in love with Jesus, and let our work flow from that place.
When we live from that place of intimacy, we can talk about anything and the sheep will hear the voice of Jesus through us.
C.S. Lewis claimed that he wasn’t writing an allegory when he wrote Narnia. It’s really not a “Christian” book by any regular metric. But the sheep hear the voice of Jesus through it nonetheless. We see the gospel story effortlessly overflow onto the pages.
I believe that when Jesus said He is the door, He’s talking to us. This is one of the most critical lessons for Christian ministry that is recorded in the Bible.
Developing skills and tools is really important. They will make you a better shepherd. But the only way to be a good shepherd is to enter through the door.
Find the door. Prioritize it above everything else. When we live out our love for Jesus, God will graciously provide the rest.
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