I tend to think of my pastoral authority and responsibilities in four basic categories: feeding, leading, protecting, and caring. Alexander Strauch, in his wonderful book, Biblical Eldership, was perhaps the first to introduce these categories to me in such a clear and persuasive manner. I believe this is consistent with the biblical teaching on pastoral leadership. In I Pet. 5:1-5, for example, the Apostle Peter offers a brief description of how pastors/elders should conduct themselves. Interestingly, Peter doesn’t say that elders are to be CEOs, savvy businessmen, sharp dressers, dynamic speakers, brilliant minds, or charismatic personalities. He tells us from the very beginning that elders are to be shepherds. This is without a doubt the dominant imagery in the Bible when it comes to spiritual leadership—the image of a shepherd. So, I think these four categories—feeding, leading, protecting, and caring—line up well with Scripture. I’ll elaborate a wee bit.
1. A shepherd must feed the sheep. This means that he must preach and teach the Word of God. Without the Word, the sheep will suffer; they will experience spiritual starvation. I’ll have more to say about this in a forthcoming post. For now, I’ll just mention a few basic criteria. A shepherd who desires to nourish the flock will preach: faithfully (the content is thoroughly biblical). clearly (the presentation is orderly and biblical terms/ideas are carefully explained), and passionately (the herald believes and is convicted by what he has studied long before he tries to share it with anyone else).
2. Additionally, a shepherd must lead. He must guide and direct the sheep. He must have a vision of where God wants the church to go (this, of course, should come from the Bible) and he must work diligently to move the church in that direction. In doing this, however, the shepherd must hold to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and instill within the entire congregation a sense of ministry as “our work.”
3. Third, a shepherd must protect. He must be on guard against those who would try to harm the flock. False teachers are popular because they tell people what they want to hear. But a shepherd must be able to discern truth from error and he must be willing to protect the sheep from going down the wrong path.
4. Finally, a shepherd must care. He must love the sheep. He demonstrates this by praying, visiting, counseling, writing letters, and whatever else he can to show the sheep that they really do matter to him.
In summary, all four of these things are extremely important. No parson on the planet will ever be able to do all of these things perfectly! However, a faithful shepherd must be aware of and committed to all four of these areas. Enough said for now. But if you have never read it, or if it’s just been a while, I highly recommend Strauch’s book. You can check it out here.