Out of the Abundance of the Heart: I Love Pastors

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, (John 10:11-14 NLT)

I got stuck in John 10 for the last few days. In one commentary, I read a note that said the word “good” in verse 11 might better be translated “model.” That set me to thinking about what constitutes a “good” shepherd in the church. I talk to lots of pastors, many of whom question their effectiveness, sometimes even their calling. If Jesus is our “model,” what does that mean? First, I believe Jesus had His own death in mind when He said this. His death for the sheep purchased eternal salvation for those who know Him. For the rest of us, the death of the shepherd would be a catastrophe for the flock, leaving them “confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 NLT)

From the New Testament witnesses, what constitutes a “good” shepherd, or pastor. What do sheep need from their Pastor? I have some thoughts:

  • A supernatural commitment to the sheep: Isn’t that what Jesus was exemplifying here? The person who is only in it as a job will run from difficult times (and difficult sheep!) If God called you, you can’t quit without His permission. (1 Peter 5:1-4)
  • Respect for the sheep: They aren’t always pretty or sweet, but they are the purchased property of God. The flock of God is worthy of care because of the price that was paid for them, and the One who paid it. The pastor works for the Chief Shepherd, entrusted with His property. (Acts 20:28 / 1 Peter 5:4 / Hebrews 13:17)
  • Protection from the enemy: Jesus and Paul both warned about wolves that would try to destroy the sheep. (John 10:11-13; Acts 20:28-32) Both imply that the Shepherd is there to protect. Sound Bible teaching serves as an immunization from wolf-bite fever. Fervent prayer for the flock provides a hedge of protection. Direct confrontation of wolves may also be necessary on occasion. In some instances, it may be necessary to address specific erroneous teachings from the pulpit. (Colossians 4:12-13; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 5:2)
  • Leading by example: Jesus was the model for the shepherd. The Pastor is the model for the flock. It matters how a pastor conducts himself, both in the “natural” side of things and in the life of faith. (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3; Philippians 3:17; etc.) Paul encouraged us to observe the life of those whom we allow to lead us. (Hebrews 13:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:12) For those of us who lead, we have to ask, “If they follow my example what will they become?”
  • A sound diet: The key ingredient of spiritual growth is a good diet of spiritual food, the word of God. A good pastor makes sure his flock is fed. He will do some teaching himself, but he may also use other “cooks” to provide a balanced diet. (1 Peter 2:1-3; Isaiah 40:11; etc.)
  • Equipping for service: The Pastor is part of God’s ministry team. The purpose of the 5-fold ministry is to equip believers to do works of godly service. Every person can and should take part in the work of God. (Ephesians 4:12-16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Scripture Reading: And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3:15 NKJV)

Somebody Said: “The role of the pastor is to embody the gospel. And of course to get it embodied, which you can only do with individuals, not in the abstract.” Eugene Peterson

In our day, we sometimes think of pastors as gifted orators, dynamic salesmen, or great administrators. All those things are fine and should be pursued if that is your gift. But you can be a very good shepherd if you simply love the sheep, feed the sheep, pray for the sheep, live an example for the sheep, and stay the course. Bingo: you get a crown!

Pastor Virgil Stokes

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