We can learn a lot about leaders or shepherds from Bible examples (Jeremiah 12:10, 23:1; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 11). The good shepherds are good because they stick with what God says no matter what. Jesus of course is the pattern for all good shepherds everywhere. They care for the flock so much they are willing to forego fame or compensation. They stand up to the bad shepherds; endure beatings and all manner of ill treatment. They deliver God’s Word unadulterated and straight with no bending and no pragmatism. The good shepherd cares for the sheep so much he directs them always to the safe pastures of God’s Word.
Bad shepherds (or prophets) care more for themselves than for the flock. God gave us the method for identifying them in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Isaiah 8:20 and the like. If they tell us to go after other gods, they are false. If they do something that seems right or good (like a prophecy that comes true, a healing or a rising from the dead) but then tell us to go after other gods they are also bad. Going after other gods doesn’t mean just statues in the living room. It means to stop doing what God says and do something else. This is why Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden – they “went after other gods” when they departed from abiding in God’s Word.
Some bad shepherds are so bad they are referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The better the wool suit, the better they are at leading the sheep astray. The more they use terms in teaching that sound as if they come from the Bible the better their disguise. All they need is to mix just a little bit of error in with a lot of truth.
The bad shepherd slips up when he or she tells us in the midst of a convincing monologue or right after an amazing healing not to obey the commands of God. Or they don’t tell us TO obey the commands and instead direct us elsewhere. The better false teachers or shepherds are the ones who appear impeccable in their outward appearance.