Three Types of Pastors Who Help the Church

Three Types of Pastors Who Help the Church

As I’ve noted through this series, the church is God’s will for us in the journey of faith. We were never designed to be people who journey alone. However, as we consider the context of the local church, each with its own personality and membership diversity—there is never a perfect church this side of heaven. Anytime we assemble with people we assemble with sinners and there will be both blessings and challenges as it pertains to how the church functions as a body of believers.

Not only do we have members who help and hinder the local church, we too have leaders who help and hurt. Today, we focus on the positive—specifically those types of pastors who labor to build up the body of Christ for the glory of God.

The Expositor

Preaching is not something that comes after the singing. Preaching is not something that comes after worship. Preaching is worship. If worship doesn’t happen during preaching – biblical preaching is not taking place. Historically, a church that was doing many things right, but overlooking the proper means of preaching the Word was not considered to be a true church at all. In fact, biblical preaching is the first mark of an authentic church. For many years, what constituted a true church was the right preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the ordinances, and biblical church discipline.

What does biblical preaching involve? To be clear, biblical preaching is expository preaching. The most accurate way to preach the Word of God is through a verse-by-verse approach to the text. The expositor, exposits the text. The expositor digs into the text within the proper framework and without violating the historical, grammatical, theological, and contextual aspects of the passage. The expository preacher labors in the Word in order to define, explain, apply, and illustrate the Scriptures to the congregation. The Scottish preacher James Stewart said the purpose of genuine preaching is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” [1]

The way the expositor helps the church is by instilling sound theology and setting up the church for true spiritual growth. The expositor, whether in the pulpit on Sunday morning or with young people in the discipleship ministries of the church—he labors to preach and teach the Scriptures rather than majoring on gimmicks or games. Rather than picking through the Bible and hopping from passage to passage randomly each week, the expositor allows the people to gain a solid understanding of the books of the Bible, the authors of the books, the original purpose of the writing, and how to apply that to our present situations today. Rather than teaching moralisms from the Old Testament and allegorizing the passages—the expositor rightly handles the Word and points to Jesus Christ without changing the single meaning of each text of Scripture. This not only teaches the Word properly, but it teaches people how to rightly study the Bible in their own homes too.

The Shepherd

The shepherd is the role of a pastor, but unfortunately many pastors are designated “talking heads” in the pulpit with little emphasis upon shepherding souls through the week. The shepherd is the pastor who looks after God’s flock with a serious minded approach to spiritual health and a pursuit of holiness. When we read the New Testament, we don’t find entertainers and CEO executives who are interested in growing a campus. We see pastors who understood what it meant to shepherd the flock of God among them.

In certain countries where they use the meat and wool of sheep, they create a plan to lead the sheep to slaughter. They train one sheep to walk into a specific door which is the pathway straight to the slaughter. Just before the end, another doorway opens up and the lead sheep is led into a safe zone. After the sheep is trained sufficiently, it will lead the other sheep down this pathway. At the end—the lead sheep will be led into the safe zone, but as soon as it passes, the door shuts and the rest of the sheep walk straight into the slaughter room. In many cases, this sheep is known as the Judas sheep.

Sheep are not known for their intelligence. Therefore, the work of pastoring involves shepherding hearts—leading them in the proper manner so that they will not injure themselves spiritually. Many sheep are known for walking off cliffs or into the mouths of predators, so when God calls pastors to be shepherds he is referencing the intentional and difficult work of leading obstinate and rebellious people. Walk with me back in time to the days of Jesus when the shepherds would lead their flocks. Let’s examine some basic characteristics of a shepherd to his sheep:

  1. Food – Leads his sheep from pasture to pasture to sound biblical theology.
  2. Protection – Labors to protect his sheep from the wolves or other predators.
  3. Discipline – Committed to correcting sheep that continue to wander astray.
  4. Love – The shepherd enjoys spending time with his sheep.

This is difficult work, but the church blessed with pastors who understand their role as shepherds will greatly benefit from a serious minded approach to shepherding. More than numerical growth will be emphasized, and genuine fruit of spiritual growth will take place in the life of the congregation.

The Elder

While many people are accustomed to the title of pastor, in many evangelical circles the title of elder is a foreign concept. What many people fail to realize is that the office of pastor is referred to as elder far more times in the Bible than pastor. There are several key terms used to describe the office of pastor, including elder and overseer (or Bishop). Each of these titles can be found In 1 Peter 5:1-5 where we see a grand picture of the responsibility of the elders within the life of the church.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

The elder understands his office is that of spiritual leadership. He takes it seriously, and labors in the Scriptures to lead and care for God’s people. The elder may not be on staff as a paid pastor, but he holds the office of pastor just as any other pastor in the life of the local church. It takes a multiple group of pastors to faithfully shepherd God’s flock. Faithful elders who are unpaid often work behind the scenes in order to pray for, lead, and disciple the church family. The church with a plurality of elders will be a church that is properly cared for so long as these elders are serving in the capacity that God has designed from the beginning. In his book on leadership, john MacArthur properly observes:

Ministry as depicted in the New Testament was never a one-man show. That does not preclude the role of a dominant leader on each team. Within the framework of plurality, there will invariably be those who have more influence. The diversity of our gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4) means all people are differently equipped. Therefore a plurality of leaders does not necessitate an absolute equality in every function. In even the most godly group of leaders, some will naturally be more influential than others. Some will have teaching gifts that outshine the rest. Others will be more gifted as administrators. Each can fulfill a different role, and there is no need to try to enforce absolute equality of function. [2]

The church with a plurality of elders not only oversees the church with a proper aim toward spiritual growth, buy they also look after one another as pastors—preventing the leaders from wandering off into sin and abandoning the flock. A true body of elders will result in a growing and happy church for God’s glory.

  1. James Stewart, Hearlds of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1972), 73. Quote found in The Supremacy of Preaching by John Piper.
  2. John MacArthur, The Book on Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 168.


Three Types of Pastors Who Hinder the Church

Three Types of Pastors Who Hinder the Church

Over the last two weeks, I have been writing a short series on different types of people who help and hinder the local church. Today, I want to focus on the leaders. While the local church is absolutely necessary for the journey of faith, it’s not exactly designed to be a religious social club. In fact, we see Paul writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:15) and discussing the way the household of God was to behave. If the Scriptures contain all that’s necessary for faith and life, we must govern the church and worship according to God’s Word—rather than man’s opinion.

Just as there are people who help and hinder the local church, the same principle is true with pastors. Today, we will focus first on the negative and then move next Tuesday to the positive. Although this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, today we look at three types of pastors who are a hindrance to the local church’s sanctification and growth in grace?

The Entertainer

The entertainer is really a pragmatist at heart. Whatever the people want, they will get it under the leadership of an entertainer. This type of leader will often poll the community before planting a church to see what type of music the community enjoys as he works with his team to design the right kind of service to reach his culture. Far too many men who stand in the pulpit on Sunday are classified as entertainers. They strive to use the right phrases that please the ears of people—often spending more time on the crafting of jokes as opposed to digging into the theology of the text in preparation to preach. The entertainer labors diligently to make people feel positive, and such men avoid church discipline and the call for holiness for fear that it will not grow their church.

Today it’s not at all uncommon to have pastors dressing up in costumes to “perform” their sermon rather than preaching the text. This approach to ministry will often be very successful, but it’s not spiritually profitable. People often leave excited about the sermon, but do they really know God in a better way? The congregation often erupts in laughter, but when was the last time they wept? The church often applauds the preacher, but when was the last time they exulted in God causing their hearts to swell with joy based on their knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ that was presented in a sermon?

Entertainers are man pleasers—serving them exactly what they desire. The entertainer is pragmatically driven and has an insatiable desire for church growth at any cost. The entertainer could come in the form of a senior pastor who jokes around in the pulpit or the youth pastor who disciples children in games rather than God’s Word. In most cases, the entertainer is paralyzed by the need to be liked by his congregation, and sadly he places more emphasis on pleasing people rather than pleasing God. Paul warned Timothy that his people would soon leave him for such preachers who would tickle the ears of the immature causing them to wander off into myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Unbalanced Teacher

The unbalanced teacher is one who typically camps out in one theme and cannot seem to allow his ministry to be text driven. Such a teacher is often consumed with a specific topic such as eschatology. In such cases, the unbalanced teacher finds a way to get to eschatology from the strangest texts in the Bible—or he never leaves Daniel or Revelation in fear that he will focus on something other than end times prophecy.

However, it’s not just eschatology junkies that the church often suffers from, it could be a pastor who spends all of his time evangelizing the saints on Sunday rather than feeding the sheep. Sure, the gospel should be preached every week and made clear—for the children, the unbelieving guests, and the church as a whole as a means of building up the flock—but the church needs more than a call to repent and believe the gospel. The church needs the whole counsel of God’s Word—both the easy and more difficult passages. Remember what Paul said to his fellow elders from Ephesus as he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Following that exhortation, he warned them of the wolves who would enter the church following his departure.

The unbalanced teacher often camps on eschatology, the doctrines of grace, evangelism, or whatever he is passionate or knowledgeable about while there is much remaining in God’s Word that needs to be expounded. If you move to a new city, you will want to be sure that you are not joining a church where the pastor will be unbalanced in his handling of God’s Word. The pastor is called to teach and preach the Scriptures—rightly dividing the Word—in order that the church will be well fed and cared for spiritually (2 Tim. 2:15).

The Lover of this World

The pastor who loves this present world is not qualified to lead a local church—or God’s Word for that matter. Pastors should love people in the world and point them to their hope and joy in Christ, but the preacher who loves the world demonstrates that his heart is mastered by money and materialism rather than by Christ. Far too many leaders fit this category. They preach a message of health, wealth, and prosperity—demanding that people have enough faith in God and he will provide them with riches and material possessions. The lover of this world is self condemned and self deceived. The god of this world has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). The lover of this world spends most of their time emphasizing how it’s possible to have your best life now—rather than focusing on the eternal reward (Heb. 11:10).

John the apostle warned about those who loved the world. He said, “Do not love the world or the things in the worldIf anyone loves the worldthe love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). In like manner, Paul provided the qualifications for the office of elder (pastor or overseer) as he wrote to Timothy. According to 1 Timothy 3:3, the overseer is not to be gripped by the love of money. Once again, money itself is not evil, but as Paul would later write, it’s the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Therefore, for a pastor to have an insatiable desire for the things of this world proves that his heart is fixed on temporal things rather than eternal. As Jesus once warned, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). J.C. Ryle warned about the love of money as he wrote:

Let us all be on our guard against the love of money. The world is full of it in our days. The plague is abroad. Thousands who would abhor the idea of worshiping Juggernaut, are not ashamed to make an idol of gold. We are all liable to the infection, from the least to the greatest. We may love money without having it, just as we may have money without loving it. It is an evil that works very deceitfully. It carries us captives before we are aware of our chains. Once let it get the mastery, and it will harden, paralyze, scorch, freeze, blight, and wither our souls. It overthrew an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not overthrow us. One leak may sink a ship. One unmortified sin may ruin a soul. [1]

  1. J.C. Ryle, Matthew, 26.
Why Discipleship Works with a Plurality of Elders

Why Discipleship Works with a Plurality of Elders

In Acts 6:2, Jesus’ inner circles was known as “the twelve.”  They were serving as the pastors for the early church as it was growing rapidly.  However, when a problem arose among the church, servants were established to wait on the tables in order to free up these men to give their full attention to the Word of God and prayer.

The pattern of ministry all throughout the New Testament is clearly established upon a plurality of elders leading and a plurality of deacons serving.  Although this is not a blemish-free ministry pattern, it does provide for the most healthy scenario for discipleship in the local church.

Deacons, Elders, and Discipleship

When pastors are free to give themselves to the Word of God, the church will benefit drastically.  The pastors who put more priority on pragmatics and less priority upon the study of God’s Word cannot expect their church to rise above their leaders.  Interestingly enough, in Acts 6, the early church became united through the deacon ministry and this allowed the pastors to immerse themselves in God’s Word.  As the Word of God increased, souls were saved in the community.  Consider this pattern over against today’s church growth pragmatism that typically downplays doctrine.

Behind every great group of pastors is a great group of deacons.  When deacons serve to the glory of God in the local church, the pastors can spend necessary time in prayer for their people.  A church that places little emphasis upon prayer is often a direct reflection of their leaders.  Such a church marches on in the power of pragmatism rather than the power of the Holy Spirit.  No matter how much technology increases and how efficient we become with modern ministry tools—nothing can stand in the place of the power of prayer.  Pastors who pray well often lead well.  Pastors who spend time praying for disciples and teaching new disciples how to pray will go forward in the power of God.  Prayer is essential.

Discipleship as an Intentional Goal of Ministry

Beyond the need for pastors to work in tandem with deacons for the work of discipleship, pastors must likewise plan and work with intentionality to disciple the church.  It is the goal and responsibility of pastors to equip the church for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12).  Pastors are not entertainers or leaders of ministry events—pastors are shepherds who oversee and equip believers to live the Christian life faithfully.

One single pastor who tries with all of his heart and soul to equip the entire church on his own will fail.  If the church is larger than a small group, help is required to faithfully shepherd and equip the saints.  This is why God designed the church to be led by a plurality of elders who would share the burden, responsibility, and work together in the effort of equipping the church to stand strong, love passionately, and reach their community with the gospel.  Intentionality in the area of teaching, conversations, and being an intentional example to the church is vitally important (1 Pet. 5:3).

The greatest single pastor will not be nearly as strong as the wisdom of a collective body of pastors who put their minds together and serve as a single unit to lead the church.  The weaknesses of one pastor is strengthened by the strengths of another pastor who works alongside him in the life of the church.  This provides the pastors the ability to make well rounded disciples who become strong and vibrant disciple makers who multiply year after year.

Why does a football team have multiple coaches?  Why does a business have multiple layers of team members who work to make the company successful?  Although we never build theology on logic alone, such logic stands firm upon the foundation of God’s Word that points out the pattern of a plurality of elders who serve in each local church throughout the Scriptures.  A plural group of men investing their time and energy in making disciples will always lead to a more healthy and robust church.  Mark Dever writes:

The Bible clearly models a plurality of elders in each local church. Though it never suggests a specific number of elders for a particular congregation, the New Testament refers to “elders” in the plural in local churches (e.g., Acts 14:23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; Titus 1:5; James 5:14). When you read through Acts and the Epistles, there is always more than one elder being talked about. [1]

While a plurality of elders does not serve as a bullet proof defense against all church related errors, it does create a natural culture for disciple making.  Be grateful for your pastors.  Often a local church has a diverse group of men who lead, and this is a healthy pattern that often compliments the elders and strengthens the entire church.  How is your church doing in the area of discipleship?  How could you pray for your pastors as they lead in this upcoming year?

  1. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 215-216.


The Work of a Pastor

The Work of a Pastor

Every job has its good and bad side.  Every job has its own unique challenges.  The work of a pastor is hard work.  I’m not referring to just the act of delivering a sermon, for to do the work of a pastor involves much more than preaching.  I recall overhearing a man say, “Being a pastor must be an easy job because you only work a few hours each week.”

Don’t Become a Pastor

I never met my paternal grandfather.  He died when my father was a boy.  What I came to know about my grandfather was only what I heard through the quivering lips of my grandmother, the childhood memories of my father, and the testimony that he left behind which has been delivered to my on multiple occasions throughout my lifetime.  My father can remember his father saying, “If you can do anything else in life other than the work of a pastor, do it.”  The point was clear – you should not become a pastor because some said that you memorized more Bible verses than any other child in your church in that given year.  The work of a pastor can be encouraging and discouraging – sometimes only minutes apart.

The Positive Work of a Pastor

Pastoral ministry can be very encouraging labor.  To visit the hospitals of new mothers and fathers as you celebrate with them on the birth of their new born baby is always a delight.  To watch people profess faith in Jesus Christ and literally turn their back on the world and cling to the finished work of Christ on the cross will melt the heart of a pastor.  To baptize new believers in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit as they announce to the world that they are followers of Jesus Christ is a special privilege and joy.  The joys of pastoral ministry continue as you get to disciple them in the Scriptures each week and help them grow in their faith.  The encouragements range from wedding celebrations, new babies, new Christians, the observance of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching and teaching work through the year.  However, this is only the positive work, and there is certainly a negative side to pastoral ministry that must be considered.

The Negative Work of a Pastor

Pastors, if worth their weight in salt, will give much to their church behind the scenes that will never be known.  The long hours spent away from home, the sacrifice the family gives to the work, and the “fish bowl” life of a pastor’s family can often be challenging if not prepared for the work of pastoral ministry.

We live in a world where the general public doesn’t appreciate being told they’re wrong.  American individualism and isolationism can often hamper the growth of a church.  The pastor is called to confront this sin, not only from the pulpit, but in person to those who persist in sin.  Dealing with obstinate people is a difficult challenge in pastoral ministry, one that far too many pastors could not handle, so they walked away from their post.

Receiving a phone call in the early hours of the morning to inform you that a person in your church has suddenly died is depressing.  As a pastor, your mind goes immediately to the last time you interacted with them.  You search your mind to see if they were gathered with the church for worship on the previous Lord’s Day.  Were they at the mid-week prayer meeting?  What was the last conversation you had with them?  These thoughts are racing through your mind as you get out of bed and make your way to comfort the family.

Preparing the people to live in holiness and to cast off the works of darkness is the central heartbeat of a pastor’s ministry.  The work of church discipline must be done faithfully and continuously to build up holiness within the church and cause people to flee from sin.  In the midst of preaching and private discipleship behind the scenes, a pastor must learn to deal with the critics that arise to hinder the work.  The criticism is that you are too serious, too negative, too holy, too strict, and the list goes on and on.  All of this happens while praying and laboring for their soul.

As Paul warned Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, the negative continues as some people discover that they no longer want to hear sound doctrine.  They would rather hear a different style of preaching that’s more modern and so they move their membership to another church without counseling with you and the other pastors within the church concerning their decision.  It’s announced as they leave through a simple passing conversation or it appears in letter form on your desk when you arrive at the office on Tuesday morning.

Alexander Grossart, in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, quotes a Scottish pastor by the name of John Brown, who wrote a letter to one of his pupils newly ordained over a small congregation.  The counsel he provides to this young pastor is as follows:

I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ, at His judgment-seat, you will think you have had enough.

The joys and struggles of pastoral ministry are real.  The joys are delightful and the negatives are painful.  However, the man who is called to labor for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls wouldn’t trade the work of a pastor for anything else in the world.  When people say to their pastor, “You really stepped on my toes today” they probably don’t realize that the same text that mashed their toes for an hour has been sitting on the pastor’s toes for at least a week.  The same sword that cuts and pierces the hearts of people is handled all week long by the pastor.  He comes to the pulpit with scared hands from handling the sword all week.  To be a preacher is one thing, but to be a pastor is quite different.  We work with the church for their joy in Christ Jesus.

How to Accuse Your Pastor of Sin

How to Accuse Your Pastor of Sin

Over six years ago, I penned an article titled, “Private Accusations Against Your Pastor Is a Sin.”  As you can tell by the title, the article is about the dangers of receiving private accusations against a pastor that wasn’t based on the biblical model of Matthew 18 and substantiated on the basis of two or three witnesses.  The fact is, many people are constantly looking to discredit the ministry of a pastor perhaps on the basis of evil intent or jealousy.  John Calvin writes:

As soon as any charge is made against ministers of the Word, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved.  This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because Satan makes most people, in fact nearly everyone, overcredulous so that without investigation, they eagerly condemn their pastors whose good name they ought to be defending. [1]

Over these six years, I’ve received countless heartbreaking letters from people who are confused about what to do in very difficult circumstances related to pastors who are living in sin.  Likewise, my article sits on top of the first page on Google for the search phrase, “How to accuse your pastor of sin.”  After receiving another letter yesterday about this very subject, I thought it would be good to revisit this article.  As we consider the importance of protecting the office of an elder, we must likewise consider the importance of confronting the elder who persists in sin.  Faithfulness on both sides of the equation is necessary.

Read the full article here – “Private Accusations Against Your Pastor Is a Sin

1.  Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 10, 263.

Becoming a Good Shepherd

Becoming a Good Shepherd

We have a Good Shepherd in Jesus.  He is the fulfillment of Psalm 23 as He made that definitive statement in John 10:11.  As I think about standing in the pulpit this Sunday on the fifth anniversary of my ministry within my local church, my mind is occupied with what it means to be a good shepherd to the flock entrusted to my care.  I know it’s far more than being a good preacher.  There are many good preachers who are poor pastors.  It’s precisely that trap that I want to avoid in ministry.  As I read the New Testament and examine the words of Jesus and the responsibilities of elders, I think two primary things must be present in the life of an elder to make him a good shepherd.

A Love for God’s Word and a Commitment to Feed the Sheep

The preacher who cannot preach the Word but can tell really good stories and funny jokes proves himself to have a love for talking, but a lack of love for the Word.  Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).  The repetition of these words signified importance.  It was Jesus who rebuked Satan by saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  Under divine apostolic authority, the aged apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  It’s obvious that a love for God’s Word is essential.  Like the Psalmist loved the Word more than the drippings from the honeycomb, so should the pastor love the Word.

That love should compel the pastor to feed the people with the Word – not with the opinions of man.  The role of a good shepherd is to minimize self and maximize God.  Since no pastor has personal authority worthy of submission, it’s the Word that is authoritative.  While the church is called to submit to the authority of their pastors (Hebrews 13:17), this is always as it flows through the Word – not personal agendas and opinions.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible…This is true of every evangelical. He is a man of one book; he starts with it; he submits himself to it; this is his authority.” [1]

It is my conviction that the best way to feed the flock entrusted to my care is by a careful method of verse by verse exposition.  If I’m not careful, as a pastor, I can use the pulpit to further my agenda, spotlight people and issues in the church out of sin rather than a careful pastoral love and care for the church, and even preach easy texts to make my week easy.  The best way for a church to come to a good understanding of the Word is by a verse by verse approach – otherwise known as expository preaching.  Although a need occasionally arises where we need to learn through a topical series, the main diet of the church is focused on a verse by verse approach in order to fulfill the demand of Christ upon the office of elder – “feed my sheep.”

A Love for God’s Sheep and a Commitment to Shepherd Them

Have you met a pastor who seemed to love preaching but he didn’t really care too much for the people in the church?  To love preaching and to be a good preacher is not enough to fulfill the office of an elder.  As Timothy Z. Witmer, in his excellent book, The Shepherd Leader, points out, “‘I SHALL NOT WANT’ (Ps. 23:1b) is the exclamation of a sheep contented in his divine Shepherd.” [2]  As we read the 23rd Psalm, we see the sheep and shepherd imagery clearly taught and embraced among the Israelites and the first century church.  As Phillip Keller states in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, “Green pastures are essential to success with sheep.” [3]

What does this success look like in the ministry of the Word?  As we examine the New Testament, it seems to be both public proclamation and personal guidance (feeding and leading).  In other words, the idea that the pastor is merely a prophet in the pulpit and absent through the week is not the biblical idea of shepherding.  God intends for sheep to know their shepherd leaders and for the shepherd to know the sheep.  As a pastor, I’m called to feed the sheep, pray for the sheep, care for the sheep, warn the sheep, guide the sheep, and the list goes on.  The responsibilities for careful shepherding are lengthy.

How must this process be carried out in the life of a church?  First of all, through shared shepherding.  Not only should there be a plurality of deacons serving, but likewise a plurality of elders leading.  In other words, the work of shepherding is not carried out by one pastor in the church.  All of the pastors (elders) in the church are called to care for the sheep and this is both public, private, and a joint effort.  No single pastor can care for an entire church body alone unless the church is the size of his family.

This process must likewise be carried out in the Word and prayer through visits to the home and private interaction with the people.  Richard Baxter had an approach that was focused on using the catechism and visiting homes of the members and walking them through the catechism in order to care for their souls.  This is not the only method, but for Baxter, it served as a means of organizing his efforts.

For me, I know that I desire to be more than a prophet in the pulpit on Sunday.  As a man who takes his calling seriously and has a love for the Word, I desire to be more than a “talking head” on Sunday while remaining distant from the sheep beyond the benediction.  This requires both a love for God and a love for God’s sheep.  It should be the desire of all pastors to have their church say – “I SHALL NOT WANT.”  The more we love the sheep and seek to lead them with the Word of God – their focus will be fixated upon God rather than pastors and the personalities of leaders – and the less they will be attracted to the world.  At this point their wants and needs will be unified and they will find satisfaction in God.

I long to be a better shepherd….as I await the return of the Great Shepherd to claim His flock (Hebrews 13:20).

[1] What is an Evangelical?  The Banner of Truth Trust, 1992, p. 42.

[2] The Shepherd Leader P&R Publishing, 2010, p. 139.

[3] A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23  Zondervan Publishing, 1970, p. 45.