“Some of God’s men are slack in their affection and action. They may have started well, but somewhere along the way they have grown distracted, weary, beaten-up, despondent, indifferent, or lazy. The temporal result of their ministerial failings is the sheep are not discipled well; the divine result is the Great Shepherd is displeased.”
In the Bible, God presents himself as the Great Shepherd of his sheep. He purchases his sheep with his own blood. Then, with all his wisdom, power, and affection, he daily watches, guides, nurtures, feeds, disciples, disciplines, and loves each of his members. No one can escape his watchful eye. No one can wander or run farther than his arm can reach. No enemy can pluck his beloved from his almighty hand. With his goodness and mercy he leads and follows his flock all the days of their life until they eventually dwell in the house of the Lord with him forever. Oh, what a delight it is to be a wicked and foolish sheep, purchased by the Shepherd, and permanently attached to his loving heart.
According to his affection and wisdom, the Great Shepherd chooses to utilize under-shepherds to improve his flock. These men go by several names: pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, minister, servant, shepherd, bishop, and presbyter. In God’s name, according to God’s will, and through God’s power these individuals are to busy themselves with watching, guiding, nurturing, feeding, discipling, disciplining, and loving God’s children placed under their care. Like a good babysitter, they are to play the role of a temporary mother, looking after the precious children until their real mother returns. Friends, this is the marvelous plan of God. Oh, what comfort it should bring to know one is selflessly loved by God and by God’s men! What an awesome privilege and blessing it is to be a part of the well-functioning and overly-attentive body of Christ.
Well, from the throne above, God keeps his eye on all his under-shepherds, and with some of them he is well-pleased. Oh, he sees their weaknesses. These sinful leaders can hardly shepherd themselves; they are always dissatisfied with their own affections for Christ; they are always heralding, “O wretched men that we are.” In addition, God sees their personal failings in shepherding their own wives and children. However, despite their personal and familial struggles, these sinful men find themselves internally called by God and externally called by their congregation. Therefore, with dependent humility and faithful determination, they go forth to do the seemingly impossible — shepherding the hearts of God’s sinful children entrusted to their care. These men serve God and wear themselves out for his flock. These individuals see “pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, minister, servant, shepherd, bishop, and presbyter,” not as nouns or titles, but as verbs or job descriptions. They see themselves, not as figure heads, but as faithful servants. Despite their weaknesses, they shepherd the flock of God entrust to them, and with these servants God is well-pleased.
However, some of God’s men are slack in their affection and action. They may have started well, but somewhere along the way they have grown distracted, weary, beaten-up, despondent, indifferent, or lazy. The temporal result of their ministerial failings is the sheep are not discipled well; the divine result is the Great Shepherd is displeased.
All elders would do well to hear again the instruction of God from Ezekiel 34:
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? … You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost … So they were scattered because there was no shepherd … and no one searched or looked for them.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd … and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD … I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.
For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered … I will pasture them … I will tend them in a good pasture … I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak …I will shepherd the flock with justice …
I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd (Jesus Christ), and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd …
I will make a covenant of peace with them … I will bless them … I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing … They will know that I am the LORD… They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid … Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD.
You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, minister, servant, shepherd, bishop, presbyter, “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” We have been given a great honor and charge by God and our congregation. So here are some questions for all of us to consider:
- Do we look at ourselves as men with titles or as men with job descriptions?
- Do we look at ourselves as figure heads with authority or as faithful servants with leadership?
- Have we replaced personal shepherding with programatic administration?
- Do we shepherd with interest or with passion?
- Are we passionate about shepherding those who are not easy, not pretty, not moldable, and inconvenient?
- Do we really think we can shepherd from a distance?
- Do we really think we can shepherd occasionally?
- Do we really think we can add our flock to our schedule? (No, they are our schedule!)
- Do we expect our flock to be faithful in worship, prayer, fellowship, education, mercy ministry, and evangelism when we are dispassionately sporadic?
- Do we find ourselves to be the hardest working sheep in the flock?
- Do we participate and lead, less like a team owner or head coach, and more like a team captain?
- Are we ready be like Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, who gave his life for his flock?
- Should we reassess our calling; should we recommit or resign?
Let us as broken and humbled elders repent, recommit, and worship him well. Yes, let us fall to our knees, but then let us get back up and experience, enjoy, and express the grace of God. Jesus Christ died for all the sins of those in our flock; he died as well for all the sins of the under-shepherd. He has not cast us aside. He comes to us as he came to Peter saying, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Therefore, let us not leave this devotional in despair. No, let us walk and worship in victory. Starting today, love Jesus and do your job.
- Make your phone calls
- Send your texts
- Utilize social media
- Schedule some meetings
- Invite friends over
- Drop by their house
- Be faithful in Sunday morning worship
- Be faithful in Sunday evening activities
- Gather with your brothers and sisters to pray
- Gather your flock to serve with you at church work days and fellowship events
Elders, let us honor our calling and benefit Christ’s sheep. Paul had no greater joy than knowing his children were walking in the truth. How are your children? How is your flock? Go get them today.
And you, church of the Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for your elders to shepherd you. Be available. Be attentive. Be teachable. Be submissive. God has ordained that all his flock find their place under his under-shepherds. You are not the exception. You desperately need the teachers, authority figures, and shepherds intended by God. So find a church that takes shepherding seriously. Find and elect elders that take shepherding serious. Then work the plan with us. Blessed are they who are infallibly loved by the Chief Shepherd while being fallibly loved by his under-shepherds.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.