Shepherding the Church of God

I sat in a coffee shop with a pastor whom many would say is “successful” in his work.  Big church.  Big congregation.  Big car.  Big salary.  He even looks the part.

After a bit of small talk he asked, “What are you doing to pastor the community?”

Honestly, I was surprised by the question.  It revealed something important about him, and where he was coming from theologically and practically.

For those of you who are pastors: who has God called you to pastor?  What is the role of the pastor?  What is the church?

The ancient shepherd had three primary duties: to guide the flock in and out to pasture and water, to provide the sheep with the necessities of life, and to protect the sheep from danger.  Jesus spoke of all three responsibilities in His I am the Good Shepherd sermon in John 10.  These are the same responsibilities of a pastor.

As I sat with this “successful” minister, the only answer to his question came from the mouth of Paul.  In Acts 20:28, the Apostle reminded the elders of the church in Ephesus: Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

A pastor cannot shepherd sheep from another flock.  He cannot shepherd peacocks, gophers, or wolves – whether they are in sheep’s clothing or not.  A pastor must be careful to obey the one who owns the sheep or he is a failure.  His mission is the the church of God – not a neighborhood.

Every pastor is called by the Holy Spirit to “oversee” and “shepherd” the flock purchased in the blood of Jesus.  He isn’t called to shepherd – and cannot shepherd – the unsaved.  A pastor’s responsibility isn’t to clone sheep or reproduce sheep, but to guide, provide, and protect the people of God given to Him by the Holy Spirit.

If a minister has enough time to “pastor the community,” he’s not only stepped out of his divine calling, he’s doing a lackluster service to those in his congregation.


About Richard L Rice

Just an ordinary, balding, blind guy, making my way to Heaven by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Richard L Rice has been an ordained minister since 1986, and pastored 6 churches. A graduate of Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland, OR) and Abilene Bible Seminary (Abilene, KS), Richard is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Matthew, Romans, the Minor Prophets, and the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. He is the pastor of a congregation in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the faculty of the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife Kimberly and son Daniel. Further details about him can be found written on the pages of his blog.
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