GOALS FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD'S SHEPHERDS
Dear Christian friends,
One of the great gifts that God restored to his Church through the Reformation was the teaching we call “the universal priesthood of believers.” It simply means that the moment a person becomes a Christian he or she is called to serve God and his people. It is not just reserved for the clergy. What a blessing would come to the church if every Christian functioned as priests instead of assuming the pastor or called worker is called to take care of it. A seminary professor once wrote, “How much easier the work of Christian education would be if all parents would exercise their priesthood in the home by teaching the Word to their children! We might not even need schools to the same degree. Or consider the matter of backsliders in our congregations. Whoever would see someone becoming lax in church attendance would admonish him as a brother or sister in Christ and act on it privately, as neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, and concerned relative. Or consider evangelism. Each Christian would concern himself with the unbelievers, the unchurched in his circle of friends and relatives and acquaintances in the area where he lives and works. Each Christian would be alert to opportunities to bring an unbelieving person into contact with the life-giving gospel, to bring that person to worship services, to a Bible information class. He would feel his personal responsibility toward mission work throughout the world.” There are all kinds of other applications. It is not that these things aren’t being done; they are not being done as they could be. We are sinners living in a sinful world. As sinners we don’t see the opportunities or feel comfortable doing them or we are simply lazy.
God has also instituted the public ministry. The scope of ministry is really no different from what we do privately. While all Christians are equal in our status before God, saved by the blood of Jesus, not all are equally qualified to perform publicly the functions of the ministry. Not all are qualified to teach, to divide law and gospel, to provide leadership in the church, to even judge what is true or false.
God calls people through the church to supply those needs, Jeremiah wrote, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” Paul told the called leaders in Ephesus, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”
While that is a lengthy introduction, these thoughts serve to lead us to understand there is a public ministry. Peter speaks to us this morning about the “Goals of the Good Shepherd’s Chosen Shepherds.” 1) To strive to fulfill the titles; 2) To watch the motives.
There are a lot of different terms that refer to someone who leads a congregation. I have been called Pastor; I have been called Reverend; I have been called “Hey You!” People have called me “the right reverend,” but never to my face “the wrong reverend.” Catholic or ex-Catholics have called me “Father.” Someone even called me “Padre.” I miss Ray. Lutherans usually call their pastors “Pastor.” Yet in the NIV, the word “pastor” is only used once. The Greek word is the same word for “shepherd.”
Winston Churchill was known for keeping the spirits of his fellow Englishmen up during World War II. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain in 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people.
The apostle Peter was used by God the Holy Spirit to keep the spirits of his fellow Christians up when they most needed it. While he was in Rome, he wrote to Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. Today we call it Turkey.
I Peter 5: 1-4 addresses the congregational leaders, the pastors who needed to keep up the encouragement. Paul uses three words in these four verses as titles and not one is “pastor.”
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed.”
Peter appeals to the elders and calls himself a fellow elder. The Greek word is “presbyteros.” Yes, that is where the Presbyterians get their name. They have a presbytery of twelve men. One of the twelve is the preaching presbyter and the others serve in other ways. We would say like a Church Council.
The word “presbyteros” comes from a word that means “old.” The noun is translated ‘elder.” We often say to our children, “Respect your elders,” or people who are older. I know many of you are saying, “Well Pastor, you qualify. You are older than I am.” Yet if that is all that means I couldn’t a pastor to Deb Redding or even my wife. To them I am a mere youngster.
In reality the word “presbyteros” is someone who is trained, experienced and respected. When I graduated from the Seminary I had just turned twenty six, how can you go into a congregation and show that you are experienced? Every pastor in our church body goes through a lot of training. I had four years of high school directed toward church work, four years of college and four years of Seminary. One of those years is spent as a vicar or an intern in a congregation. Not all necessarily have the four years of high school but almost all have the four years of college or its equivalent and four years of seminary. That vicar year is so important. All get an understanding what it is like in the church office, in homes of parishioners, and behind a pulpit. Our church supports our synod with 11% of our budget so we can support among other things quality and needed training. That’s a good thing.
Another word that he uses here for the pastoral office is found in verse two. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.” Both words for pastors are found there – “be shepherds” and “those watching over them.” I translated that passage a little differently. I translated, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, as overseers.” The phrase “watching over them” is Greek is a noun most often translated “overseer.” It is used four other places in the Bible. Jesus is called “the shepherd and overseer of your soul.” In the other places means those who watch over God’s church. Some translations translated this word “bishop.”
It means what it says – someone who watches over. Lots of people say what they do is their business. That ought not to sit well with an overseer. When someone puts their soul in danger a faithful overseer will be ready to warn because he loves that person, not because he is a goody two shoes or a busy body.
The church should be a family. The overseer is like a dad. In a home the father is to be the one ultimately responsible for the family. In the church there is one that God holds responsible – the overseer, the pastor.
As overseer he needs to be a good example. In fact the apostle Paul says, “Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” That is a boatload of traits that God’s family should expect from the overseer. While there is no perfect pastor, these are goals he should be striving for and turn to Jesus when he is not.
The third word is the Greek word “poimen” or shepherd. “Be shepherds of God’s flock.” This word could be and is translated “pastor.” For most of us who have only seen sheep in petting zoos the nuances of the shepherd and his sheep are unknown. For those who saw a shepherd and his flock, the illustration is perfect to describe the Good Shepherd and the shepherds he appoints to lead his flock.
A shepherd had the responsibility to feed the sheep, to guide the sheep, to guard the sheep, and heal the sheep.
A shepherd feeds the souls of the flock with the bread of life and the living water of Jesus Christ. That food is found in the Holy Scriptures.
The shepherd was to guide the sheep. Sheep tend to wander away from the flock and get in trouble. Be honest about yourself. We are sinners who like what we do and don’t always ask what the Good Shepherd would want us to do. Have you ever wondered if the Lord came back at that moment, you would be embarrassed by where you were and what you were doing? A “yes” proves we are wondering sheep. We need a shepherd to guide us with this book, the Bible.
Shepherds also guard the sheep. David, as a young man, was a shepherd. To be a shepherd he had to kill a lion and a bear to keep his flock safe. Jesus says that false prophets are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. A shepherd of the Good Shepherd knows that nothing can ever be conceded that is taught in the Scripture. Lies need to be exposed. Lies come from one source – Satan himself. When a shepherd preaches the truth, he guards the sheep. Those are the shepherds goals based on the titles given.
Let’s look at the motives of shepherds of the Good Shepherd. We do this “not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be.”
In the Old Testament the high priesthood came from the family of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. From the moment the sons of Aaron were born they knew what they would be doing for the rest of their lives. Not all the time did they honor God with their faithfulness. Nadab and Abihu died by angering the LORD by their disobedience in offering to God unauthorized fire. While the ministry is desperately needed, it is something that pastors do, not out of guilt, but out of a willingness to sacrifice for the LORD because he sacrificed for us.
We don’t do it for the money, “not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; recently a local preacher says he needs a $65 million Gulfstream jet. If they need to get supplies to a mission field why do they need a luxury jet? Can’t they get a cargo plane? I am familiar with a pastor whose mode of transportation is either a Toyota Corolla or a Chevy Cruze.
While a church owes a decent living to those who preach, the motivation for the preacher is not his paycheck but the price that Jesus paid – not gold or silver but his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death for our forgiveness and freedom.
Peter says, “Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” There is a program on TV called “Intervention. I grew up with one of the founders of the program. His father delivered the mail to our home. Jeff and my brother and I played YMCA basketball in high school and college. When he went to college he abused drugs and alcohol. By God’s grace he has overcome that and now spends his life helping others to quit the abuse that he fell into.
He has written a number of books but he wrote one entitled, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” He talks about godly and ungodly motivation. Ungodly motivation is spiritual abuse, lording it over people. It takes place when the Law of God, God’s do’s and don’ts are used to make people feel guilty and to manipulate people. . People change because God scares the begeebers out of them. Does God want change? Sure! He shows us his love to do so. It is found on the cross and empty grave. He opened up his heart to show us his love. The message of sin is important. It makes us realize we can’t earn the favor of God. But the Good Shepherd earned it for us. He gave his life for the sheep. The preaching and teaching of that love is the goal and trademark of the Good Shepherd’s shepherds.