Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Shepherding the Flock

The Bible’s favorite metaphor for pastoral ministry is shepherding. Like shepherds, pastors watch over the flock of God entrusted to them. In fact, the word translated pastor in our English Bibles (Eph 4:6) is the Greek word for shepherd. So the Apostle Paul charged the Ephesian elders, “Pay careful attention . . . to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28). And Peter exhorted the elders of the churches of Asia Minor to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). Pastors lead, feed and guard the flock under the authority of Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4).
  • The pastor leads the flock, not in a domineering way but by setting an example of godliness (1 Tim 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3) and by serving, just as Christ did (Luke 22:26-27). He says with Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). While governing authority rests with the congregation as a whole, pastors have authority to lead because of their special responsibility to watch over the souls of the flock, for which they will answer to God: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb 13:17).
  • The pastor feeds the flock on the Word of God, for the gospel alone “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). The pastor is not free to feed the flock on his own opinions or on worldly wisdom, but must nourish them with the very words of God (1 Peter 4:11).
  • The pastor guards the flock from the enemies of their souls, just as Paul warned the Ephesian elders: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). Thus the pastor must keep alert and persist in plainly declaring the word of God’s grace, just as Charles Spurgeon urged the pastors of his day:
"Cleverness and eloquence – away with them forever! If it is not the truth of God, the more cleverly and eloquently it is preached the more damnable it is. We must have the truth and nothing but the truth, and I charge the fathers in Christ all over England and America to see to this. Get ye to your watchtower and guard the flock, lest the sheep be destroyed while they are asleep."
How, exactly, does a pastor go about shepherding the flock? What tasks are involved? That will be the subject of my next post.

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