Jeremiah writes in the context of God’s people being under bad shepherds. Biblically speaking, the root of the word shepherd is related to ruling: to shepherd is to rule. Though God here is speaking of bad kings, the principles are soundly applied to pastors as well.
A shepherd’s job is to care for his sheep that they might live in peace. Sheep can sleep at night because they know the shepherd looks after them. If they wander off, he finds them. When hungry, he leads them to graze. If the shepherd is not doing these things, he’s a bad shepherd. He is not marked by his status or staff, but by his work. How can you tell someone is a shepherd? By seeing how he cares for his sheep. A person may look like a pastor, with a title and robes, but is that enough? No – pastors are marked by their work.
Bad shepherding and pastoring are disastrous. The flock is scattered, the sheep starve, they are devoured by wolves. The mark of a good pastor? He feeds and tends his flock with the word of God. He is faithful and diligent in his duties; you can identify him by what he is doing.
I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:4)
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people; grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead. Amen.