We have been taking the last several months discussing the various functions of a biblical shepherd. So far we have seen the a pastor/elder/shepherd is to lead the sheep, feed the sheep, know the sheep, and this month we are going to see that they are to protect the sheep. This function comes from passages such as Psalm 23 and Acts 20:28-29 (shown below):
“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. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.”
Paul warns believers that wolves will ultimately come into every church, seeking to destroy and harm the flock. Throughout history, these wolves have come both from the culture, as well as from those inside the church, and thus arises the need for the pastors/elders to protect the flock, which can be done in several ways.
First, pastors/elders protect the flock by preaching and teaching sound doctrine. This task has several positive outcomes in regards to protecting the flock. It helps to disciple the flock so they are less likely to be prone to false doctrine taught by the world. It helps draw attention to sin, so the flock is less likely to be led astray by the evil one. Finally, as the gospel is preached it has the potential to soften hearts of those from within who would be potential wolves in the future.
Secondly, pastors protect the flock by admonishing sin. The work of the Enemy in regards to sin is what leads sheep astray. Therefore, pastors/elders who are quick to confront sin, following the process of Matthew 18, are more than likely to see the believer repent and follow the Lord. Those who allow sin to fester and multiply, will see more and more of their flock be led astray by the culture and by their own desires.
Thirdly, pastors protect the flock by encouraging and caring for the flock. Every member will at one time be susceptible to discouragement, depression, or hopelessness. It is easy in these hard times to question the Lord’s presence and to withdraw from the Body. Therefore, pastors who are quick to notice these signs in their flock, are able to pray for them, encourage them, and keep them connected to the Body when the Enemy wants to lead them astray.
Finally, pastors protect the flock by helping to settle disputes. We have all heard the stories of churches that divide or even split because of conflict within the church. Wolves in the form of cultural issues provide disagreement that leads to conflict. Wolves in the form of personal preferences on behalf of the members provide disagreement that leads to conflict. Or, wolves in the form of sin, provide hurt that leads to conflict. All of these threaten the health of the sheep, and often lead to one or more sheep leaving the flock. Therefore, pastors/elders who want to protect the flock well are quick to help settle disputes, to lead the members involved to repent and seek forgiveness, and disciple those involve so that these issues do not creep up again.
So there are the four basic functions of pastors/elders in the church. I will spend next month sharing with you some plans for how we can better shepherd you all in the months ahead. I cannot wait!