The Shepherd and the Flock

By the providence of God, I have met several older pastors in my recent days here at my job. These genuine, God-loving men tend to be “walking the mall” to stay in shape in their latter years. It got me thinking: What does it look like to be a minister of God? So many men (and women, unfortunately) do it poorly that we have forgotten most of what it means to be an earthen vessel with the treasure of the Gospel and an undershepherd of God’s flock, especially in the midst of such theologically-troubled and misguided church in a crooked and perverse generation.

Then, again by the providence of God, I stumbled across an excerpt of an interview with Joel R. Beeke, who is “pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, MI, president and professor of systematic theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and author of numerous books including The Quest For Full Assurance and Meet The Puritans.”

Here are several points worth pondering:

How should a minister keep his own heart, mind, and will from theological error?

  • Keep yourself deeply immersed in the Scriptures, and pray daily to be willing to surrender all to their inerrant truth.
  • Surround yourself with sound, godly colleagues and lay people who love you sufficiently to be honest with you, so that iron will sharpen iron.
  • Read the best, sound, scriptural, classic books, especially those by the Reformers and Puritans, that address your mind with clarity, convict your conscience with poignancy, bend your wills with conviction, and move your feet with passion.
  • Meditate on those truths preached that do your people the most good; in every case, you will discover that they are biblical truths.
  • Develop the hide of a rhinoceros so that you won’t be tossed about with every criticism and wind of doctrine while maintaining the heart of a child, so that you will be a tender undershepherd to the needy.

Calvin said that ministers have two voices. One is for the sheep and the other for warding off the wolves. How have you struck the right balance in this regard in your pulpit ministry?

I suppose that one can never be absolutely certain that he is striking the right balance on this critical subject, but here are four guidelines that I find helpful:

  • Pray daily for biblical balance in all areas of ministry.
  • Love your sheep. Love has a way of balancing out our often imbalanced personalities. Those in error can receive much more from a minister who obviously loves them than from one who comes across as combative.
  • Be patient with your sheep. Be willing to teach them the same truth repeatedly, just as the Lord has done with you (cf. Phil. 3:1; 2 Peter 3:1–2).
  • Let your “voice for the sheep” always receive the primary accent of your ministry. Truth must ultimately be positive in nature to win the day with a congregation. Many ministers have focused too much on polemical and apologetical theology, often setting up and beating upon straw men in their congregation to the detriment of the flock. Polemics and apologetics must have the proper place of a minor accent in the ministry, so that no error is left unexposed.
  • But the minister must expose error wisely, forthrightly, humbly, compellingly, not by lording it over the sheep (2 Tim. 4:1–2; 1 Pet. 5:2–3).

This is sound, Scriptural advice for loving the Lord Jesus and loving His people put under our care. And every believer, not just “pastors,” has a ministry to hurting people who need God, be it in the church body or outside.

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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