The assembly of God’s people is comprised of regenerated souls baptized into communal membership in the body of Christ. God is a God of order. In the order of God’s assembly, He has assigned offices, spiritual oversight to elders and physical oversight to deacons. The men who occupy these offices best carry the title, “servant minister,” for they serve the Good Shepherd. Elder/shepherds must give an account of their dispensing of Gospel mysteries. Pastoring is a spiritual gift (Eph 4) and a practical function (1 Pet 5:1–5) required of elders in the church. It demands spiritual discipline by the one who desires and who is called to the office.
To shepherd the flock of God, a man must be mighty in the Scriptures because of the nature of the work. Sheep are notoriously ornery if conditions are not conducive to safety and sufficiency in the field. The pastor must feed the people with the sufficient sustenance of the Word of God. The sheep of His pasture will taste and see this is good. This is why the Bible distinguishes the elder/shepherd as one with the aptitude to teach the Scriptures to those entrusted to him. The Spirit-filled pastor is the key provider of nourishment for those genuinely seeking refreshment and refuge in the local congregation.
The Word of God preached, simultaneously feeds Christians while rebuking predators working deception for the destruction of the flock. The truth sets God’s people free from bondage to the enemy, but sheep need to be led to still waters to lie down and rest. There are dangers in the field that require skillful use of the staff and rod — metaphors for the statutes of God, the Bible. The rod comforts the sheep as a device for chasing savage wolves from the grazing assembly.
Sheep are comfortable in the presence of the shepherd while wolves are obviously not inclined toward fellowship. The pastor grows increasingly aware of the spiritual threat posed by principalities and powers set against the local church, for whom the pastor must pray for strength and deliverance. It is the Spirit who has prepared the man of God to be a warrior against spiritual darkness and depravity, even as David fought the lion and the bear while learning that the battle belongs to the Lord. This truth served him well in his later work.
Creating a climate within the community is an ongoing task for the pastor. He must show the flock the exemplary life of Christ through Word and deed. The faith of the pastor must be cross-shaped, showing the sacrifice and sufferings of Christ through self-emptying discipleship.
True pastors are not akin to self-preservation; instead, they will lay down their lives for the sheep. The pastor’s passion is the transformation of the community to which God called Him. The pastor labors until Christ is formed in the congregation so to present every man complete and blameless in Christ on the day of the Lord.
The world hates pastors because a true pastor preaches a counter-cultural message, exposing evil done in sinful flesh. The world is in rebellion against Christ, and it wants no part in His invading kingdom rule. The pastor convinces some to change allegiance, and he baptizes them into a new life of obedience to King Jesus. The disciplines within the perimeter of the new kingdom are initially foreign to the new believer, but it is God’s imperative that His people grow in strength and health. The pastor feeds the milk of the Word to the little lamb until he can handle meatier things. Sheep grow with the aid of the pastor and in the company of other sheep. With maturity comes reproduction and sustainable numerical growth for the assembly.
The congregation has a history and a future. God gives the pastor to the congregation to lead them toward the ultimate end. He gives them hope for a glorified future. He must show them the Way to that End. The enemy of the pastor is the author of confusion. His devilish schemes scatter the sheep and cause them to doubt the calling, capacity, and care the pastor has for them. Here the pastor must be resilient in resisting the devil and standing firm in the faith given to his fathers and to him.
Sheep are easily led astray to “greener pastures.” Upwardly mobile sheep must be excused from the flock and incoming offenders must be sent back to their shepherds in hope of restorative discipline. Sheep were not designed to be migratory animals; but if they wait patiently for their pastor, in season, he will lead them to green pastures where they will not want. Pastors must know their sheep. They are the ones who hear the pastor’s voice when He speaks Christ to them. They will follow the shepherd because He is appointed for their care.
Woe to the flock who endures a hireling, or worse, is left without a shepherd. Many are the wolves in shepherd’s clothing, who lead the flock to places of spiritual danger. They deny the Scriptures or delete portions of them. They leave the sheep sick in their inattentive liberalism. The sheep are lulled to the place sublime slaughter. “Every sheep has a right to do what is right in his own eyes,” but the wolf does not grieve the ruin of Joseph.
Pastoring is a pragmatic calling demanding the most spiritual of men. It is a dirty and dangerous work often done alone on the back side of the desert. To care for the defenseless is a permanent occupation, for sheep never grow horns of offense. Instead, they wander and get lost. No better image of pastoring was ever drafted than Jesus with a rescued sheep laying across the back of His neck and shoulders. There might be a tiger in the woods, but the inscription on the door of the pastor’s Buick says it all, “To feed and defend.”
July 17, 2021