Since to cultivate means to prepare for use, to improve or develop, to promote the development or growth of, I wondered how many pastors spend time cultivating their hearts, i.e. looking inside themselves to search out those things that hinder or help their walk as a shepherd over sheep such as we find in Ezra 7:10 ("Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord")
I see lots of references to God calling for "preparation" for the work, the ministry. Out of the heart flows the issues of life and I'm certain that's why we're instructed to "set our affections on heavenly things and to "think on the things that are lovely, pure, honest, just, of good report...". I suppose if one wants to be effective and grow as a shepherd, there must be cultivating going on on a regular basis we prepare ourselves to think on all those things He tells us to think about and do. Shepherding is really about a relationship with the sheep and it is important that our hearts be right so that we can properly interact and interelate with those we are called to shepherd.
A true Shepherd will love and nurture the sheep and even give their life for the sheep. Not physical death of course, but go to the extent of making sure the sheep are safe from wolves or outside influences that may harm them.
True, I do believe that when the scripture says a hireling will flee it is not speaking of physical death, but rather, giving of your life in a spiritual sense.(Prayer, consecration, fasting) Physical death is commendable but not necessary.