Are you called to be a shepherd of
God’s people? (The word pastor is just another word for shepherd).
The ministry of being a shepherd to God’s people is an extremely
responsible one. It is actually a very important job and if you are
going to do it YOU JUST CAN’T TAKE IT LIGHTLY.
We are talking about looking after the
people that the SON OF ALMIGHTY GOD suffered for, died for, and
provides everything for. After God has done all this, and given these
people His Holy Spirit too, if these people go to hell because you or
I muck up, or create reasons the devil will use to lure them away
from God, it is a heavy responsibility. Trust me, you don’t want to
be a “serial abuser” of God’s people. The warnings about this in
the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments are there for a reason.
I would encourage you to seriously consider them if you are
considering a “career in the ministry”. (You should know where
these warnings are if you are a Teacher of God’s Word).
Look, I know its a pretty cool deal in
some ways to be a pastor, or it CAN be. Its great if you earn a
living praying, talking to people, studying God’s word, giving your
opinion, delegating tasks and basically enjoying the things of God.
Its great to see people grow up under your ministry and to make
interesting friends. Its nice to enjoy some honor and respect I
suppose also. But those who have done this ministry of pastoring for
any length of time KNOW though that it can be INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING
and tough too – at least if you want to do it RIGHT. As human
beings, we have a tendency to seek ways to make life a bit easy for
ourselves and avoid painful things. But this is a tendency you can’t
always follow if you are going to pastor like God wants you to.
There are particular temptations that
pastors especially are subjected to and we really need to pray for
our pastors so that God will empower them to do and be all God wants.
It really does require God’s grace, God’s empowering and the prayers
of the saints. It is easy to become discouraged as a pastor and God wants all of us to do what we can to bring encouragement and not discouragement to all pastors.
There is a particularly relevant
passage of the Bible touching on the ministry of the pastor and it is
Ezekiel 34. I want to quote some parts of it because its always good
to get it directly from the Word of God. I will not start with the
part where God condemns the pastors because the purpose of this
message is not to condemn pastors but to encourage them to do what
God wants. I want to state that I have been a pastor for about 5
years in the
90’s. I did this as part of my work as a church planter.
So I’m not speaking as someone with no understanding of the
There is a particularly relevant passage of the Bible touching on the ministry of the pastor and it is Ezekiel 34. I want to quote some parts of it because its always good to get it directly from the Word of God. I will not start with the part where God condemns the pastors because the purpose of this message is not to condemn pastors but to encourage them to do what God wants. I want to state that I have been a pastor for about 5 years in the 90’s. I did this as part of my work as a church planter. So I’m not speaking as someone with no understanding of the challenges of the role. I’m very aware that it is not easy to do this work right.
Here’s the passage:
Eze 34:11 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.
Eze 34:12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.
Eze 34:13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.
Eze 34:14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
Eze 34:15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD.
Eze 34:16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
What God says He will do here is an example for all of us, especially those who are called to be pastors.
Pastors Should Search For the Sheep and Seek them Out
Lots of people have been bruised and offended by ambitious church control freaks and have as a result wandered right out of any kind of organised Christian fellowship. Some have even given up on Christ altogether.
God clearly states that He wants us to have fellowship and also to know who our elders are in the Lord, so this kind of response is not according to the will of God. But what we need to do as mature Christians especially is to seek out “scattered sheep”, listen to them, love them, and draw them back into a healthy Christian fellowship somewhere.
Jesus described the good shepherd as one who leaves the 99 safe ones and goes out into wild places to recover one lost sheep.
Pastors Should Feed the Flock
Jesus told Peter to feed the sheep and lambs if he really loved Jesus. Pastors and spiritual leaders have a primary responsibility in God to receive nourishing spiritual food to give to people who come to them for help. You cannot expect people to grow strong and healthy if they don’t receive the right food consistently. Therefore God places a high level of importance on providing healthy (and digestable) food for His people. This requires work, prayer, study, meditation and consideration.
Different sheep have different needs, different stages of development and this means that spiritual leaders need to teach at more than one level to fully help everyone. Its not enough to continually run evangelistic meetings and send people to read their Bibles for themselves.
God said he would lead the sheep into good places where there is rich pasture.
The Sheep need to Lie Down in a Good Fold
“ There they shall lie down in a good fold” vs 44.
Its not only about feeding, fleecing (taking up offerings) or driving the sheep. The sheep need also need a place of security, a place of rest, a place where they can lie down. David said concerning the LORD, “The Lord is my Shepherd … He makes me lie down besides still waters”.
Pastors should not overwork the sheep. Neither should “sheep” be lazy and unfruitful. There is a time for productive activity and also a time for rest, recuperation and reflection. Things need to be kept in balance.
Church pastors should seek to create a helpful and protected spiritual environment for the people. A church building could be a useful part of this, but it is not always essential. It is more about what happens IN church life. It should be healthy for the people.
Part 2 on this huge topic of what God expects from pastors will follow.