Not every believer is called to the office of a pastor, but all believers should be pastoring.
A few years ago, our church said goodbye to a pretty special man named Harold “Doc” Mangus. He wasn’t a doctor, nor was he a giant. He loved the Lord, tractors, and greasy cheeseburgers. He was married to a prayer warrior named Jodene. I miss Doc’s simple approach to life, his work ethic, his given-to-hospitality heart, and his inability to say the word “pastor”. He always said “pasture”. It used to drive me nuts, but I think he was onto something.
Pastors are shepherds of the flock of God, and the work of a pastor is done in the pasture. Not every believer is called to the office of a pastor, but all believers should be pastoring. There is always someone to lead and invest in, someone to pray over and give guidance to, and someone to disciple. Unfortunately, not every believer who thinks they’re shepherding really is. They’re focused on so many things that they can’t focus on the right things.
Where should the focus of a Sunday school teacher, discipler, pastor, ministry leader, church planter, nursery worker, or service team leader be? Proverbs 27:23-27 gives us great insight into the role and focus of a shepherd keeping the flock and the work a pastor has in the pasture.
Does your flock have your heart?
Focus on loving your flock
Proverbs 27:23 Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
The phrase “diligent to know” literally means “know that you know.” You can always tell whether shepherds love their flocks by how much effort they put into studying the people they are leading. Do you know their names, their voice, their testimonies, their fears, their needs, their habits, their addictions, their cries? How often do you engage with them? Are you able to pray specifically for them because you know the specifics of their lives?
This is your flock to lead. You have to own it. So many shepherds are driven to obtain the title of pastor or ministry leader with little desire to fill the office they hold. We have too many hirelings tending to flocks because they get a paycheck, and few shepherds who are willing to lay down their lives and paychecks for the flocks. Hirelings don’t love the flock; they love what the flock has to give them. Does your flock have your heart? They will never give you theirs if you haven’t first given them yours.
Shepherds should spend their time focusing on what God places a priority on.
Focus on focusing your flock
Proverbs 27:24 For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
Shepherds should focus on loving the flock so they won’t focus on things that don’t matter in eternity. God eternally preserves that which is important to Him: His Word and His people. Shepherds should spend their time focusing on what God places a priority on. How much time is wasted because pastors and ministry leaders spend the majority of their time chasing money, power, and fame? None of it matters nor lasts.
What kind of message does chasing bigger offerings and nicer buildings send to our congregations?
“We’re not good at saving money in our personal bank accounts, so let’s take pride in saving money in the church’s.”
“If we have the nicest building in town, then more people will come, and we will become the biggest, richest, and most well-known church in town.”
That’s gross – it’s a classic bait and switch move that is more characteristic of a wolf that devours sheep than of a shepherd who leads them.
Offerings and buildings are important parts of the ministry because they support the growth of the flock. However, in many churches the growth of the flock is intended to support the offerings and buildings.
Offerings come and go. Church buildings get built and sold. They get built and remodeled. They get built and neglected. Offerings and buildings do not ensure that churches will carry on generationally. The churches we read about in the scriptures don’t exist today. We don’t know how much their annual budget was, and we don’t know much about the buildings they met in. However, we know they were focused on the right things because we are here. Their ministries carried on to the next generation.
Churches die. I heard another pastor say, “The only thing to do when the candle begins to go out is to light another candle.” Dear shepherd, help your flocks to focus on and chase eternal things and make generational disciples who will do the same.
..the Shepherd must be instant in season, out of season..
Focus on feeding your flock
Proverbs 27:25 The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
If you have ever had the opportunity to be around sheep, you would notice that they eat A LOT. That means the Shepherd must be instant in season, out of season because it’s always time for the flock to eat.
There are times when the flock comes to the shepherd to get hay because they are hungry and aren’t able to feed themselves. There are times when the shepherd brings the flock hay to remind them of their need to eat. Hay is the result of what the shepherd has harvested and prepared for the flock. It is the preaching and teaching that is derived from the study and preparation of the shepherd to be delivered to the flock and satisfy their hunger. Preaching provides the nutrients that are needed to get the flock through seasons of drought and hard times. It should be delivered in a way that is easily accessible to each member of the flock and also be enough to satisfy each member of the flock.
Unfortunately, there are many pastors, teachers, and disciplers that only want to keep their flock on a steady diet of hay because it keeps the flock entirely reliant upon them. But preaching and teaching is not to be the sole source of food for God’s people, nor is it to be the best tasting food. In fact, the hay of preaching and teaching should be a motivator for the flock to seek out the tender grass that only grows through the reading, praying, and meditating of God’s Word during a personal devotional quiet time with the Lord. That’s the tender and sweet stuff. But it requires the shepherd to be willing to lead the flock into the valleys and meadows of the personal quiet time where they can learn to feed themselves and be familiar with their true Shepherd’s voice.
It’s also the responsibility of shepherds to lead prepared flocks up to the mountaintops where they can eat the herbs that only grow there. They won’t get a taste of the good and flavorful stuff without the hard work of discipleship and personal bible study. The herbs that are found in the mountain tops are to be gathered, not devoured. They are to compliment the steady diet of hay and tender grass. Good shepherds will lead their flocks to feast on a healthy and balanced diet of hay, tender grass, and herbs.
...without discipleship we don’t have missions, and without missions we die.
Focus on reproducing your flock
Proverbs 27:26 The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.
This verse teaches that both lambs and goats have their purpose within the pasture. Lambs provide clothing and goats provide opportunities for more fields. Both are necessary for healthy growth of the flock. Churches grow when every individual understands their purpose and are being used according to their gifting. Churches should be growing because people are getting saved by the blood of the Lamb and are being clothed in His righteousness. Churches should be growing by healthily dividing themselves and starting new flocks. However, the majority of church growth in the West is accomplished through people leaving one church and going to another… sheep from one pasture joining the sheep of another.
Flocks that don’t have lambs will not be a flock for long. Without evangelism we don’t have new believers, and without new believers we don’t have discipleship, and without discipleship we don’t have missions, and without missions we die.
Lambs are not only new believers in Christ; lambs are also children. I love seeing churches filled with children. A true shepherd understands that lambs are not the future of the flock—they are flock. Without them, there is no flock. Lambs grow into sheep, and sheep produce more lambs. Why are so many pastors and ministry leaders willing to overlook the importance of children’s ministry? As those children learn, pray, and memorize scripture, they are growing. As they accomplish simple service tasks throughout the church, they are developing into ministers.
Good shepherds also raise goats because they understand that there will be a time when their flocks will outgrow their fields. They will have to sell off a goat to pay the price of the field. Churches must always be developing leaders, pastors, and missionaries in preparation for the time when the flock has outgrown its field. There will be a time when the shepherd has to let go of a goat so that the flock can grow. It hurts because the flock loses a valuable asset, but it’s also a celebration because it means that the flock has the ability to multiply and produce more lambs.
They enjoy being part of the flock.
Focus on enjoying your flock
Proverbs 27:27 And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
Healthy flocks are loved, eternally focused, well fed, and reproducing. Healthy churches are self-sustaining for the same reasons. They provide for itself, the work of the ministry, and the support of their shepherds through their giving. They give because they are part of the flock. They receive because they are part of the flock. They are satisfied because they are part of the flock. They enjoy being part of the flock.
Whether you’re an established or growing leader, take a moment to address your shepherding. Are you weary, focused on the business of ministry? Or are you joyful, focused on loving, focusing, feeding, reproducing, and enjoying the flock with which God has entrusted you?