A Job Description of a Shepherd
INTRODUCTION: In I Peter 4:17, we read, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” If judgment is to begin at God’s house then that house better be in order, or it will fall apart!
This brings us to our text in I Peter 5:1-4 as this Apostle addresses the leaders of the church, to encourage them to do their work faithfully. I am rather humbled by this passage, as it is an examination of me, your Pastor.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
As I prepared this message, I was led to take one of those self-evaluations of who I am.
For 50 years I have filled the office of Pastor, 42 of those years as Senior Pastor. I have never gotten used to it. To me it's the greatest position in the world. Yet on the other hand, it is also the most humbling. God called me into the gospel ministry during the summer of 1955, and re-confirmed that call in January of 1962. Over these many years, He has given me a unique privilege to serve.as Pastor, an under- shepherd of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is sad that in many churches the pastor just cannot do anything right. Even though he is doing his best to shepherd the flock faithfully, longing for the rich blessing of the Lord upon his ministry, and making an earnest effort to gain the approval of the congregation, there is always some group or individual who is fault-finding, picking him apart or opposing his efforts.
I have watched as congregations responded in kindness and treated their Pastor with respect, and I have watched as people of those same churches treated the man of God very, very rudely and shamefully.
Someone said, and wisely so, “It is not the work of preaching, visiting, and the administrative duties that TAX the energies and endurance of a pastor. Rather it is the strained relationship that he has to deal with in the church. I do not mind working 16 hours a day 6-7 days a week. That does not tire me out. Rather what tires me out, is the interpersonal relationships that become strained, the misunderstanding, the differences of opinion that cause conflicts. These are the pressures the Pastor feels the most.”
Someone said, "The INABILITY TO PLEASE THE VERY ONES he LOVES the MOST, and the DISAPPOINTMENT of being OPPOSED by those he was depending upon for MORAL and PRAYER support, these are the ones that prompt him to throw up his hands in despair."
One of the secrets of a long-term pastorate is clear thinking realism on the part of both the pastor and the congregation. The importance of two-way tolerance is extremely significant. A pastor needs to be very tolerant of the people he is serving. And the people who are being served by the pastor need to be very tolerant of him. As someone said, “we need to give each other a lot of wobble room.”
Please understand, I’m not saying anyone should live a lie, nor am I prompting an unaccountable, sinful lifestyle. I’m simply encouraging grace here, giving room for others to be who they really are.
All of us have quirks.
All of us are unique in our own way.
If we’re going to live together comfortably over a long period of time, we have to accept one another’s idiosyncrasies and styles.
In the Bible the church is spoken of as the sheep, which is the congregation and the Shepherd which is the Pastor. In I Peter 5:2 Peter expressed it this way, “Feed (the word here is shepherd) the flock (referring to the sheep of the congregation).” Shepherd the congregation! And again in verse 3 he uses the word “flock.” Concerning this in our contemporary scene, Warren & David Wiersbe said in their book, 10 Powerful Principles for Christian Service, (This is rather lengthy, so please listen carefully.)
“Perhaps one reason some churches are in trouble today is their loss of the biblical concept of what they really are. In our noble attempt to be “relevant” in a changing world, we’ve thoughtlessly abandoned the pastoral image of the shepherd and sheep, and have blindly adopted the corporate image of the pastor as the CEO, and the deacons as a Board of Directors, and the church family as customers to be served. In so doing, we’ve quietly changed our expectations of what a Pastor and a church ought to be and do, which has often led to conflict and pain in churches.
It wasn’t an accident that Jesus called himself the “Good Shepherd” or that He compared His people to a flock of sheep. Call it a rural image if you wish, but the image carries with it some practical truths that are desperately needed today. If the title “shepherd-pastor” was good enough for Jesus and Paul, it ought to be good enough for us. .Shepherds serve their sheep.
Shepherds know their sheep and can call them by name.
They lead their sheep to places where they can find food, water and shelter.
They protect the sheep from enemies, and they apply healing oil when they are hurt.
When any of the sheep go astray, the shepherd goes after them and seeks to bring them back.
It doesn’t take much imagination to apply this to the local church and the ministry of the pastor.
They lead the sheep into the Word of God for spiritual nourishment and refreshment.
They keep alert lest Satan’s wolves invade the flock, Acts 20:28-31.
They equip the sheep to become useful in the kingdom of God. Ephesians 4:11-12
If the sheep stray, shepherds lovingly go after them, James 5:19-20.
When they hurt, the shepherds apply the healing.
Shepherding is a personal ministry, a sacrificial ministry, and a demanding ministry, but it’s a rewarding ministry.”
Perhaps you are asking, “Why should I hear a message about the Pastor?” Good question!
Number 1: You need to hear such a message in order to know him better, his work and WHO and WHAT he should be. Doing so will enable you to pray for him and look upon him in a different light.
Number 2: Thank the Lord for long-term pastorates. However, there are times when a congregation needs to look for another pastor to shepherd them. Knowing biblically WHO and WHAT a pastor is supposed to be will go a long way in praying for such a man and recognizing when you have such a man. Or even to avoid the choice of the wrong man.
I’ve expressed my concern about all this because we have come to a section in Peter’s letter that sort of stands on its own as it deals with the pastor and the flock among whom he ministers.
Let me call your attention to several OBSERVATIONS from I Peter 5: 1-2.
First: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder…” Allow me to remind you the New Testament churches were organized under the leadership of the “Pastor’s and Deacons.” In the New Testament, the words “Elder, Bishop and Pastor” all refer to the same office.
The word “Bishop” sometimes translated “overseer,” refers to the responsibility of that office. He is the Superintendent of the ministry. This is referred to in verse 3 as “taking the oversight.”
The word “Elder” refers to the maturity of the office.
The word “Pastor” refers to the shepherd-like care required of the office.
Second: It is interesting to read I Peter 5 in the light of Peter’s personal experiences with Christ.
Verse 1 “a witness of the suffering of Christ” takes us to Gethsemane and Calvary. The “glory that shall be revealed” reminds us of Peter’s experience with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Verse 2 the emphasis on the shepherd and the sheep certainly brings to mind John 10 and our Lord’s admonition to Peter in John 21:15-17 of “Feed my sheep.”
Verse 3 brings a warning about “lording it over” the saints, reminding us of Christ’s lesson about true greatness that comes from humility and service in Luke 22:24-30.
Verse 5 talking about being “clothed with humility” takes us back to the Upper Room where Jesus in John 13:1-17 took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet.
Verse 8 is a warning about Satan that parallels our Lord’s warning to Peter that Satan was going to “sift” him, Luke 22:31.
Verse 10, “make you perfect” is the same word in Matthew 4:21 where it is translated “mending their nets.” The account tells us of the call of the four fisherman into the Lord’s service.
In other words, Peter wrote these words, inspired by the Spirit of God, out of his own personal experience with Jesus Christ. Perhaps you ask “What does this have to do with the Pastor?”
Well, the pastor of the local assembly must be a man who walks with God and who is growing in his spiritual life.
Likewise, Paul in I Timothy 4:15 tells Timothy “Meditate upon these things (that is reading, exhortation, and doctrine) give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” The word “profiting” means “pioneer advance.” The Pastor must ever be moving into new territories of study and ministry or the church will just be standing still.
Let me call your attention to several PRINCIPLES found in I Peter 5: 1-2.
First: “Pride of position must be absent,” that’s the number 1 principle for a Pastor. Notice how Peter calls himself, “a fellow elder, a witness of the suffering of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed.” I consider these very humble words.
He says nothing about his authority as an Apostle.
He says nothing about the importance of the recipients of this letter being obedient to his advice.
He simply identifies himself with the elders as a “fellow Elder.”
The ministry is an easy place to secretly construct a proud spirit and life. Stop and think about why and then pause and pray for your Pastor.
Pastors speak for God, as they stand regularly before groups of people large and small.
Those in the ministry can live virtually unaccountable to anyone.
Pastors are respected and trusted by most, and, rarely are they questioned. When they are, their answers are seldom challenged.
Pastors do their preparation away from the public eye, as they work alone in their study.
These activities are like a mine field of perils and dangers. Before you know it, pastors can begin to fall into the trap of believing only what they say, and feeling that sense of pride that swells their mind. That is why you need to earnestly pray for those in the ministry as there are many temptations. Just to name a few:
PRIDE, lack of study,
JEALOUSY, wasting time,
MONEY, neglect of family for the ministry,
PURITY, and neglect of personal devotions.
If Peter, one of the original twelve, the earliest spokesman for the church, would not mention his obvious role of importance, I think we should follow his lead and be humble.
Second: “The heart of a shepherd must be present” is another principle for a Pastor. Notice again the opening statement to verse 2, “Feed the flock of God which is among you…” The word “Feed” is your word for “shepherd” the idea of a pastor. As your Pastor, I am to tend to the sheep of this congregation.
And don’t miss the phrase, “the flock of God.” It is wrong for me to refer to you as “my people.” You are “God’s people.”
You ultimately answer to Him.
You live your lives before Him.
You are to obey Him.
Here are two rather thought-provoking descriptions of a Shepherd-Pastor.
1. “By definition, the true pastor is the shepherd of the flock in which God has placed him…who bears them on his heart, seeks them when they stray, defends them from harm, comforts them in their pains, and feeds them with the truth.”
2. “A Shepherd’s heart certainly includes evangelism, teaching and exhortation, but it must also include love and tolerance, servant-hearted patience and understanding, and a lot of room for those lambs and sheep who don’t quite measure up.”
You will notice in verse 1 the Elder is “among the flock” and in verse 2 he is “over the flock.” and this can create problems if the congregation doesn’t understand.
Because the Pastor is also one of the sheep, he is “among” the members of the church.
Because he is called to be a leader, the pastor is also “over” the flock.
To be an effective pastor he needs to be both.
He must be “among” God’s people so that he can get to know them, their needs and problems.
He needs to be “over” God’s people so he can lead them and help them solve their problems.
There must be no conflict between pastoring and preaching, because they are both ministries of a Shepherd-Pastor.
It is for this reason that I visit with you and at times pull you aside to talk with you, so I can know you. It is for this reason I ask that you communicate with me, so I can know what you are feeling and what your needs are.
Religion speaks in terms of hiring qualified professionals to fulfill certain responsibilities. A true pastor is not for hire. You can call him to be over you and among you for that is where his heart is, but you can’t hire me. This is not a job to me. Being your pastor is a privilege, calling deep within my heart.
It is not an easy thing to be a shepherd-pastor to God’s people. We pastors must be careful how we minister to God’s sheep, because one day we will have to give an account of our ministry.
But I remind you, the sheep will also one day give an account of how they have obeyed their spiritual leaders as Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Yes, both pastor and people have a great responsibility to each other.
Let me now point out several ATTITUDES that Pastors must have. There are three of them found in I Peter 5: 2-3. Each attitude begins with a negative, followed by a positive side.
First: Pastors must exhibit an attitude of willingness, as the verse reads, “not by constraint, but willingly.” “Constraint” means compelled by force. This reminds me of a story.
A young man was sleeping soundly one Sunday morning when his mother came, shook him, and said, “Wake up, son. You have got to get up right now.” He groaned and complained. “Give me three good reasons why I have to get up this morning.” Without hesitation his mother said, “Well, first of all, it’s Sunday morning, and you need to be in church. Second, because it’s only 40 minutes until church starts, so we don’t have much time. Third, you’re the pastor!”
Paul writes to Timothy in II Timothy 4:2 that God’s messengers are to be “ready in season and out of season.” We are to be ready when we feel like it, and when we don’t feel like it. When the church is doing well and when the church is not doing so well.
A pastor’s ministry is not a job that has to be performed. He should willingly give of his talents from the heart. The pastorate is no place for a lazy person.
Let me add one more comment here on the flip side, for the flock of God to consider. Be tolerant of your pastor. Perhaps a better word is patient.
Try not to be too demanding or set your expectations too high. Multiply your own request by however many there are in your church, and you will have some idea of what your pastor must live with. Remember, if you write a letter that will bring his spirit down, it could wound him for weeks. On the other hand, if you send him a note of thanks, he will carry it around for years!
A confirmation sometimes is necessary. But even here be kind and tactful. Pray for Him! Encourage Him! When you do, believe me I know first-hand, he will be all the more willing to serve the Lord among you.
Second: Pastors must exhibit an attitude of eagerness, as the verse reads, “…not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” In other words, “Make certain your ministry is not motivated by the money, or the external perks.” Religious circles make a big deal out of money. Pastors must have a certain up-scale house, and up-scale car, etc., etc. Peter is saying guard against that.
The question in the ministry is not how much is it going to pay, but “WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVE?” That is the question every pastor needs to ask on a weekly basis. “Motives must forever be examined.” Is it for the money or is there an eager passion for the unsaved to be won to Christ, and the people of God to be built up in the faith.
Again there is a big difference between a hireling and a true shepherd-pastor: A hireling works because he is paid for it, but a pastor works because he loves the sheep and has a heart for them.
Third: Pastors must exhibit an attitude of meekness, as verse 3 reads, “neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” Make no mistake about it. The Pastorate brings an enormous amount of power and authority to the pulpit on Sunday. To avoid this:
I need to give you room to disagree.
I need to give you room to make a mistake.
I need to serve you rather than demand of you.
I hope by the grace of God I never get to the place where I think I have arrived and that you worship the ground that I walk upon.
I need to walk with Christ so that you will walk with Christ.
I need to teach you, preach to you and ministry to you so that you may grow in grace and not in disgrace.
I need to pastor you so that you will be equipped not only to do the work of the ministry but also to be ready to go out and live in that sincursed world with a testimony that will light up that area where you work and live so that others may see the Living Christ in you.
There is a reward for all this. I Peter 5: 4 tells about the “Chef Shepherd” the Lord Jesus Christ one day handing out “crowns of glory” to those who serve in this privileged position. I am glad that the Holy Spirit allowed Peter to put this verse here. Not because it says there is a reward for your Pastor. But it says to me, if a pastor ministers to please himself, or to please other people, he will have a disappointing and difficult ministry.
One day a visitor asks the pastor at the door, “It must be hard to keep all these people happy.” The Pastor answered by saying, “I try to please the Lord, and I let Him take care of the rest.”
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon "A Description of a Shepherd” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, would you let me know? Please send an e-mail to, pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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