I spent last month talking about one of the functions of a pastor/shepherd/elder, feeding the sheep, and I want to take some time this month talking about another: leading the sheep. This function is found in Jeremiah 3:15 where God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
Although pastors/shepherds lead in multiple ways, this is primarily done by the following. First, pastors/shepherds lead by setting the vision, mission, and policies of the church. However, it is important to note that elders/shepherds do not have absolute autonomy in casting this vision. Ultimately, every local church belongs to God, and He is the one who has plans for it. Therefore, the challenge of every pastor/elder/shepherd is to spend time in the Word, spend time in prayer, and spend time visiting with members of the congregation to discern where the Spirit is leading the local church. Here at First Baptist, we are currently praying and seeking the Lord as to His clear vision for the church, but we know it will have something to do with making disciples for God’s glory, as that is the main task given to churches in Matthew 28:19-20.
Secondly, pastors lead through example. Paul encourages the Corinthians to, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The takeaway being that pastors are to consistently live a godly life by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit, so that Christ, his character, and his commands are modeled to the congregation. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that no pastor is perfect (Paul elsewhere still calls himself the chief of sinners). However, in these times the pastor is to model humility and repentance, as opposed to pridefully pretending he is without sin.
Thirdly, pastors are to lead stray sheep back to the rest of the flock. We see this in the parable of the 100 sheep in Luke 15, as well as Jesus pursuing the disciples who had strayed after the crucifixion. The idea is that pastors/shepherds are consistently following up with members who have not attended church in while to see if there are any concerns, as well as exhorting those who have fallen into sin, in a loving attempt to lead them all back to Christ. God desires that all of His people would live godly lives, in community, growing in Christ’s character. Therefore, pastors are those who watch over the flock to see if any have wandered from the path, so they might lead them back to pursuing to the Lord with the rest of the church.