The Responsibility of Shepherding God’s Sheep
As we consider the responsibility entrusted to the hands of shepherds, for those of us who are pastors we must approach our post seriously. As a Christian take time to consider the work of pastors in the life of the church and pray earnestly for the men who are called to shepherd you and your family. Pray that they will be able to engage in the work of ministry with joy and that they will remain steadfast without wavering for the glory of God.
Jesus made a very important, yet simple statement to Peter after his resurrection. In effort to restore Peter after his failure to fully obey him in the midst of the heat of controversy—Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”1 What a simple little phrase that is filled with such heavy responsibility.
All throughout the Scripture, we find references to sheep and shepherds. “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) who lays down his life for the sheep. Jesus is also referenced as the Door of the sheepfold (John 10:9) which provides another shepherding analogy. When Jesus references his people as lambs, he is spotlighting their nature as immature and vulnerable and in need of tending and care.
As we consider these words of Jesus to Peter and the many references to sheep farming in the Scripture, we must be reminded of the responsibilities of a pastor in the work of shepherding the sheep.
One of the key principles of pastoral ministry is leadership. Sheep cannot lead themselves. God has designed the church to be led by pastors are literally shepherd-leaders. The elders of the local church are men who must take their leadership responsibility seriously. An elder (ἐπισκοπή) is one who is given responsibility of overseeing the church.
Such oversight is to be carefully measured through the pages of Scripture. There is no room for error when it comes to the spiritual wellbeing of God’s church. If sheep are not led properly, they will wander off and get entangled in all sorts of theological controversies and become vulnerable prey for false teachers who function as wolves.
Leadership is necessary in the church, and God has designed the church to be led by faithful shepherds. This leadership responsibility is not to be solo-shepherding, or as is often the case within evangelicalism—CEO-shepherding. God has designed his church to be led by a plurality of elders in each church which means biblical leadership in the life of the local church is shared leadership. Tom Schreiner observes, “Every piece of evidence we have shows that elders were widespread in the early church. They are mentioned by different authors: Luke, Paul, Peter, and James. They stretch over a wide region of the Greco-Roman world: from Jerusalem, Palestine, the whole of Asia Minor, and Crete. It is also likely that elders functioned as a plurality in the churches since the term is always plural, and Acts 14:23 says elders were appointed ‘for them in each church.’”2
When a faithful group of shepherd-leaders work together to care for God’s church, it spreads out responsibility, provides internal accountability (shepherding), and creates a healthy church culture where God’s people grow strong and pastors are able to maintain a healthy spiritual life and work-life balance. Regarding pastoral ministry—this is the way.
The pastor must be able to teach the Scripture (1 Tim 3:1-7). In other words, the pastor is not an entertainer or comedian. The pastor is a shepherd of sheep not an entertainer for goats. The word for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which means, teaching. The pastor must have healthy teaching. Just because a man stands before a congregation and talks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy.