A Shepherd’s Resume
What is the role of an elder? Pastor Ian highlights the roles of those who are called to shepherd the flock of God.
In 1 Samuel 8, the people whom God asked to live differently among the nations decided that they wanted to be just like the other nations. And so they grieved the Lord, by asking Samuel to give them a king.
It wasn’t just that the people of Israel wanted a king. It was that they specifically asked Samuel to, “appoint for us a king, like the other nations." (1 Sam 8:5) Not only were they rejecting the kingship of their god, they were asking for royal characteristics that are not of God.
And so the Lord gave them Saul, a king who would impress any nation: his family was wealthy, there was no one in Israel who was as handsome as he, and he stood “head and shoulders” above every other man in the land (1 Sam 9:1-3). But when his coronation day arrived, Saul could not be found. And then the Lord spoke, “Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage." (1 Sam 10:22)
Saul had the money and the looks. But he didn’t have the character.
And so when God sought a man to replace him, He specifically warned Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Sam 16:7) God wasn’t looking for status or stature. He was looking for a man after His own heart. And He was looking for a man who had the resume of a shepherd.
In the next several eNews issues, we will be highlighting the character and calling of those God calls to shepherd His people. This assignment, one which Paul calls “noble” includes several components:
- A shepherd guides
He is called, with other elders, to guide the church. In biblical language, shepherding a nation or group means to guide or govern (2 Sam 5:2; Ps 78:71- 72) so elders are called to exercise oversight over the church (Acts 20:28; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 3:1-2; Tit 1:7; 1 Pet 5:2).
But biblical leadership is service patterned after the Lord (Mark 10:42-45; John 13:1-20). Elders lead by example (Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 5:3), using their God-given authority to glorify Christ by caring for His body, the church. An elder does not demand respect, but realises that his position of leadership is a gracious gift from God for the good of His church. He is a humble leader who is teachable, willing to listen and learn from others.
- A shepherd protects
Elders are caring shepherds who protect the sheep (1 Pet 5:2). Their primary task is to care for people’s souls, not to manage an organisation. The elders are to pay close attention to the flock and protect it from wolves that seek to do spiritual harm (Acts 20:28-29; 2 Tim 2:24-26). Furthermore, they are to strengthen and help those who are weak, whether physically or spiritually (1 Thess 5:14; Jas 5:14).
God has charged his under-shepherds with the responsibility of watching over his flock. The sheep have the responsibility to follow their elders, but the elders have to be diligent in keeping watch over the sheep. God will hold them accountable for the well-being of his sheep (Heb 13:17).
- A Shepherd feeds
Elders guide and protect God’s flock according to His word, which is their authority. They are called to feed the sheep—nourishing believers with God’s word and growing them to Christ-like maturity. This demonstrates a love for the Chief Shepherd (John 21:15-17). As Jesus said, the sheep will listen to His voice (John 10:16). Elders have the God-given responsibility of being faithful stewards of the word that the Good Shepherd has spoken for the sake of His sheep. They are to teach Scripture accurately and clearly (Acts 20:20, 27; 2 Tim 4:1-2), to call sinners to Christ, to edify the saints, as well as to protect the church from error and falsehood. Therefore elders should be “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:9b).
- A shepherd equips
Elders teach not just for the health of the church in the present, but also for the growth of the church in the future. They are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). More specifically, elders should intentionally look to develop other men to be fellow leaders in the church. Elders are responsible for deliberately discipling others so that they, in turn, are also able to faithfully pass on the gospel (2 Tim 2:2).
In each of the following weeks—as we move toward the recommendation of new elders—our pastors will seek to prepare our hearts by sharing biblical characteristics that we ought to see reflected in the lives of those the Chief Shepherd would trust to represent His care for His flock. I invite you to read each letter prayerfully, asking God to give us wisdom to seek His pleasure in the affirmation of His men!
- We are grateful to have Rev Dr Wilson Phang preaching on “The Other Two Thirds of the Gospel”.
- Following our service, at 11 am, Dr Phang will be leading a special Equip session on how every ministry leader, CG leader or even Christian friend, can use biblical counseling as a natural part of our corporate body life. You will not want to miss it.