Irresistible Grace & Shepherding

Irresistible Grace & Shepherding

We use different terms to describe the Christian minister: pastor, teacher, ambassador, evangelist, preacher, steward of the mysteries of God. In fulfillment of these various but related roles, ministers confidently hold forth the truth of Christ, assured that God is effectually calling and irresistibly drawing His wayward sheep into His fold. 

Front office and back office, cast and crew, sales and operations, business development and customer care: what do each of these pairs have in common? Typically, members of the first group in each couplet will have very little—if anything—to do with working in the second group. Such separation may be necessary for large businesses or entertainment productions, but what about for the church? Are evangelism and pastoral care two mutually exclusive functions in which pastors may, or must, choose to specialize? The doctrine of God’s irresistible grace—or, effectual calling—clarifies the answer as we continue our study through shepherding and the doctrines of grace.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines effectual calling as “the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” It is the Holy Spirit’s work of giving us a new spiritual vitality such that we recognize the horror of our sin and respond in faith to Christ’s call to “repent and believe” on Him alone for salvation. What does this have to do with relating evangelism and pastoral care to one another?

In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Christ Jesus identifies Himself as the “Good Shepherd” (vv. 11, 14). In connection with this self-designation, Christ asserts that He lays down His life for His sheep (v. 11), and that He knows His sheep who in turn know Him (v. 14). These are indispensable features of faithful pastoral care in the church. However, Christ continues in verse 16, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” For His immediate hearers, Christ expanded the definition of His flock to include those outside the nation of Israel. What’s more, He has expanded the nature of His shepherding to include bringing foreign sheep into His fold, and He does so by means of calling out with His voice.

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