To be a Shepherd …

Lately I’ve been reading the manuals, disciplines, articles, etc. of various Protestant church organizations. It’s interesting how much is in “black & white” vs. how much the average attendee or member knows, acknowledges, or adheres to. Admittedly, I haven’t done extensive surveying of attendees or members—so my opinions are based on exposure and experience. Regardless, I’ve been rather interested in how the role of pastor is understood along with other ministerial roles and, correspondingly, what the processes and requirements are for these roles. Each of these documents has its own feel—one carries the weight of many years of litigious adjustments; another reads more like a draft or 1st edition of a corporate governance document; others flow naturally and feel more sincerely developed, theologically sound, and spiritually authentic. It goes without saying that the history (i.e. origins, influences, mergers, etc.) of these organizations and whether they function as denominations, associations, fellowships, etc. influence the content and structure of these documents as well.

This all led me back to rediscovering a New Testament portrait of the pastor/shepherd. Although I still believe my work to be unrefined and less than complete, it awakened in me a new regard and burden for how prayerfully dependent I must be upon Him Who has called me. Rightfully so, it strikes me with a deep sense of unworthiness and inadequacy. What follows is that portrait—or better, a sketch—with all the indulgence and influence of the heart and hand and mind that set forth to create it

Pastoral Ministry: Role & Purpose

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ carries tremendous responsibility and requires the willful choice to be continually dying to self so as to live unto Christ alone. However, there are those disciples that are called by God to a more specific role and purpose. As such, pastoral ministry shares its designation and purpose with the other roles identified in Scripture as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. It begins with equipping (i.e. preparing/training to be fully qualified) the saints (i.e. those who are holy, pure, dedicated, consecrated) for the work (i.e. deeds, activities) of ministry (i.e. service, contribution). It continues with building up (i.e. making more able, edifying, strengthening) the Body of Christ. The measures and objectives of the equipping and building up are identified as the unity of the faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, spiritual maturity, and measuring up to the example of Christ, all so that we—for we are all the Body of Christ—are thoroughly grounded in our faith and able to defend it against worldly doctrines, human cunning, and deceitful schemes.

Whether the circumstance or timing is opportune and favorable or otherwise, the pastor must be prepared and persistent. He must refute, rebuke, correct, expose, disapprove, encourage, plead, warn, command, denounce, and urge his flock with all patience, humility, calmness, and kindness. He cannot fall prey to the temptation to water-down the Truth of the Gospel so as to mollify or placate regardless of who the dissenters or opposition may be. He must unwaveringly accomplish completely his service and ministry.

In exercising the oversight that the Holy Spirit has called him to do, it is necessary to lead by direct involvement, demonstrating eager willingness without being domineering or seeking selfish gain. When the irreverent, profane, and godless banter arises, he is to reject and not associate with it. Rather, he should discipline and train himself to be devout, pious, and godly—making that a much greater priority than physical/bodily discipline or training which is only temporal rather than eternal.

Whether older or younger, he must confidently set an exemplary model of behavior (i.e. speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity/morality) for other believers whether they respect his age or not. The pastor must be devoted to publicly reading the Scriptures, exhortation, encouragement, and teaching. Any spiritual gifts he has received must not be neglected. He must practice, meditate on, and immerse himself in all these things making his progress publicly notable. Both he himself and others will be saved, healed, and rescued from danger, if he persists in all this—guarding himself and this teaching carefully.


John 21:15-17 (ESV)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Feed: cause to eat, herd, graze
Tend: guide, help, rule via direct involvement

Acts 20:28
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

attention: be alert, watch out, be on guard
overseers: guardian, supervisor, keeper

Ephesians 4:11-14
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

apostles: special messengers, envoys; understood to be a restricted/select group
prophets: proclaimer of God’s utterances
evangelists: proclaimers the Gospel
shepherds: pastors, ministers
teachers: instructors
equip: prepare/train to be fully qualified
saints: those who are holy, pure, dedicated, consecrated
work: deed, activity
ministry: service, role, contribution
building up: making more able, edification, strengthening

1 Timothy 4:7-9
7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

nothing: reject, not pay attention to, not associate with
irreverent: profane, godless, irreligious
silly: of old women
train: discipline
godliness: religion, piety, devout practice

1 Timothy 4:11-16
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

despise: scorn, look down on
example: image, model, pattern
purity: moral virtue
exhortation: encouragement, comfort, consolation
Practice: meditate on, keep thinking about, plot/plan
immerse: be, exist
save: rescue from danger, heal

2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

preach: announce in an official capacity
ready: prepared, persistent
season: opportune/favorable time
reprove: refute, expose the fault
rebuke: denounce, express strong disapproval, command, give warning
exhort: ask earnestly, plead, urge, encourage
complete: utmost, great
patience: forbearance, calm
teaching: instruction
sober-minded: self-controlled, clear-headed, not drunk
endure suffering: endure hardship, withstand trouble
work: deed, activity
evangelist: proclaim the Gospel
fulfill: accomplish completely
ministry: service, role, contribution

1 Peter 5:1-3
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: 2 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; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

elders: old man, community leader
shepherd: guide, help, rule via direct involvement
oversight: take care of, guard against, exercise oversight


Everyone is seeking something.  It’s what we do.  Let’s think of this perhaps in synonymous terms: seeking, pursuing, desiring, longing, hungering, chasing, wanting.  These all require an investment of who we are—our resources—our time and money—our energy—even our very breath.  Whether in the material/physical or emotional sense, these efforts can range from the bare essentials of life to the most extravagant expenditures.  Yet, we all have a need for something that is much, much deeper—much more essential than any physical or emotional need—that of the spirit.  Ever since Adam and Eve broke the perfect relationship, fellowship, and communion that they had in worshiping and enjoying the Creator, the human race has been plagued with what A.W. Tozer terms “spiritual amnesia”.  We don’t know the who or what or why or how or where or when of our existence.  Unless and until this need is recognized and responded to, we are nothing more than the living dead.  In Matt 6:25-34, we see Jesus present in simple terms the anxiety that arises from being misguided in that which we seek.  We are not to be anxious about what we’ll eat or drink or wear.  Rather, we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” … but, what does that mean?  What does that look like in real life?

First of all, Jesus identifies the audience herein whom He knows can receive this truth—“your heavenly Father knows”.  If you’re still among the living dead, this teaching won’t resonate with you.  Remember Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who came to learn from Jesus in secret.  Nicodemus seems to speak to Jesus with a sort of consternation—recognizing Jesus mighty works, yet unable to understand Who Jesus is.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
(John 3:3–7)

In the new birth, the re-birth of our spirit, we enter back into a right relationship with the Divine—the relationship Adam and Eve broke.  Paul describes this to the Romans:
you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
(Rom 8:15-16)

If you have not been born-again …  If your heart doesn’t cry out, “Abba! Father!” … please, don’t hesitate to confess and repent of your sin and be born-again into the life of Jesus today.

And that is only the beginning!  Now, “seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness” is personal.  It begins to make sense in the light of Who my Father is.  Yet, within me there is often a lingering conflict.  The Spirit of God within me that bears witness to my adoption can feel like a foreign invader.  The ambassador of kingdom of God is within me.  He is Holy!  Yet everything within me is so much less than Holy and so much a part of my very nature.  Paul cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24)  The agony of knowing that Love Who has found us, redeemed us, and begun a good work in us, at the same time—by His presence indwelling us—reveals everything in us that is not of love.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)  Can we ever be free or are we left to live out our days on earth in this awkward bondage with an ever increasing knowledge of Holiness that increasingly exposes our unholiness?

Mildred Wynkoop [a theologian and evangelist to Japan in the 1960’s] has illustrated this by asking [us] to imagine [ourselves] as suffering from defective kidneys and the only hope of surviving is to go to kidney dialysis several times a week. If your kidneys don’t work, there is no hope in yourself; your blood supply is self-polluting. The only hope lies outside yourself. You must be attached periodically to a machine to cleanse your blood. But suppose you could avoid the tiresome trip several times a week for dialysis. Suppose you could be attached somehow to a healthy friend, so that your friend’s kidneys could cleanse your own self-polluting blood. Suppose that this friend was willing to be connected to you. As long as you stayed connected to this friend and walked step by step, your friend would insure a continuing perfection of your blood supply. Would you do this if it were your only hope in living? If you did, you’d have to develop an entirely different lifestyle wouldn’t you? You’d have to go everywhere your friend went.
(Drury, Keith (2009-05-01). Holiness for Ordinary People 25th Anniversary Edition (Kindle Locations 1815-1823). Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

You see the picture that begins to appear.  We have an active role to take in decisively choosing holiness and purity of heart.  Paul exhorts the Corinthians to consider that they, as temples of the living God, must seek purity.  “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 7:1)  You ask, but how am I to cleanse myself?

The sanctification of God’s people, the Body of Christ, is imperative–and essential to that process is God’s Word.  In Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians on marriage (5:25-27)  he draws the parallel of the profound mystery of our marriage to Christ.  Just as a bride would go through a prenuptial ritual of washing which became known in Judaism as her sanctification, so we, as the Bride of Christ, are “cleansed … with the washing of water by the word” as Jesus, by His Spirit, makes us ready for His great wedding feast!

We must immerse ourselves continually in the living Word.  We must read and search and study and meditate upon the written Word.  Not only did we receive the Holy Spirit at our new birth, we must seek and receive the Holy Spirit of the living Word again and again in new and fresh fullness and anointing.  “When asked why he constantly spoke about being filled with the Spirit, Dwight L. Moody responded succinctly, “I leak.” We all leak.”
(Drury, Keith (2009-05-01). Holiness for Ordinary People 25th Anniversary Edition (Kindle Locations 1800-1801). Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition.)

But my brothers and sisters, be assured and comforted—we are not abandoned to our own feeble resources.  The same Spirit Who indwells, empowers.  For He is the Spirit of the living God Who seeks and desires that we be restored to that for which we were created.  Jesus said, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)  If we doubt in any way our Father’s willingness and desire, hear the words of Paul to the Thessalonians.  23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thess. 5:23-24)