I don’t know how many times I’ve read Peter’s instructions to elders in 1 Peter 5. This past week, though, the first part of verse 2 jumped out at me: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you…”
It’s not too different from Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20:28).
“The flock that is among you.” What an amazing phrase. Not some other flock somewhere else. Not the masses on social media. Not those who would be part of a platform. These people, this flock, matters. They need all of our attention and love. They are the ones to whom God has called you. Out of love he has placed you there to serve them.
I was convicted as I read William Still’s book The Work of the Pastor:
When you are sure of your calling as pastors and teachers, then you must be wholly geared to that life … We are not called to make a crowd of worldly folk happy – even worldly evangelistic folk happy – but so to labour amongst them that, through many tribulations, discouragements and misunderstandings, we form a faithful people of God, however small a remnant of the total congregation that may be.
Later on he warns:
But to the field of pastoral ministry. It would seem that many Christian ministers accept pastorates or charges as a means of basic security … and they use this as a jumping-off place for the pursuit of their pet interests in one or other of a hundred associated fields … Many men make names for themselves in these pursuits as speakers, organizers, writers, good committee members, even as entertainers. They sustain a calling almost independent of, or that has very little to do with, the task of the pastoral ministry of feeding their sheep, from which they derive their daily bread…
Too many ministers find other things to do, either because they do not like the pastoral ministry, and find it too hard, or because it creates too many problems working with people, or because they have gone cold and dead on it and it doesn’t cut much ice, and they are discouraged. Ministers must do something to justify themselves, to boost their ego and express and fulfill themselves. If they devote themselves to running large organizations, or spend their time forever on a round of vain visiting, they feel that they are doing something.
Contrast that with the pastors who believes that the Holy Spirit has made them overseers of a particular flock, and who are determined to shepherd the flock that is among them. They dedicate their entire lives to the welfare of those sheep, and make their life’s work the spiritual care of those particular people.
I’m not speaking against bivocational work. I’m speaking against distractions. I’m speaking for the kind of joy that comes from knowing God has called you to a particular flock, and being grateful for that incredible privilege, knowing it’s more than you deserve.
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…”