As pastors, we have the unique and spectacular privilege of shepherding the flock of the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:28 freshly reminds us of this stunning truth:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood…”
This verse is currently written upon my whiteboard in the office at work—a vivid reminder of the previous minister who sat in this chair before I did. His heart was passionately set on serving the body of Christ to the glory of God. He used the board to write his future sermons and ideas on, but when he left to plant another church, I inherited it. As its emptiness stared me in the face, I remembered Paul’s words and resolved that this verse would be the foundational text in all seasons of ministry and life.
When Paul is giving this message in Acts, he is in a room full of men—elders—who are looking for spiritual guidance, wisdom and counsel on being good leaders. These are men who know the joy, the pain and the weight of doing pastoral ministry in a broken world tainted by sin. Nevertheless, Paul, in this final meeting with them, wants to make sure that they are clear about the responsibility, the reason and the means.
Paul makes it clear:
Keep watch over yourself and the entire flock…
As pastors, our first and foremost priority is the spiritual sustenance of both our souls and the souls of others. What good is it if you’re simply caring for yourself? Our study and application of God’s Words needs to go beyond our own lives. It needs to affect our families and those to whom we are shepherding.
But the opposite is true too. What’s the use of loving, guiding, tending, and caring for others, when your own soul is spiritually malnourished? A pastor who lacks the spiritual maturity to cultivate his heart’s affections for the things of God should not be an elder in a local Christian Church.
This is a daunting responsibility, but Paul does not stop there. He also give us the motive for the task:
- Because … the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
- Because … God has purchased these people with His own blood.
Our calling, ministry, talents and time are NOT something that we have chosen for ourselves. They come from God in his infinite wisdom and kindness.
This truth should bring us tremendous comfort and hope when we are struggling as leaders. The season of ministry that you are currently in was given by God, in God, and for God, to display his glory and his ability to work through the weak and foolish things of the world (and thus shame the strong). God has appointed you; God has commissioned you; God is holding the broken shards of your heart in His scarred hands … and you had better believe that He WILL continuously provide the grace, wisdom, power, and ability for the task at hand.
Notice too, that it is God himself who has purchased/bought/acquired the people we are caring for, with his own precious and blood. God’s blood! This is incredible! The biggest reason why those we minister to are worth our time, talents, efforts and tears is because they have been bought with something of incalculable worth!
What better motive do we need for this wonderful task!
Finally, notice the way we are to accomplish this:
Be shepherds of the church of God…
Interestingly, the word used for shepherd here is the Greek word ποιμαίνειν (poimainein)—not only is this where we get our word shepherd in the Bible, but this literally describes the task of a shepherd—“nourish/feed/supply…”
So Paul says that we are to feed God’s people with spiritual food that strengthens, nourishes, and builds them up in faith toward Jesus Christ. In doing this, we begin to fulfil part of what it means to shepherd, guide and lead God’s church that is purchased by God’s own precious blood whom He has made us overseers of.
Ministry is tough – life is hard – people are sinners…but the Gospel is greater, and God is better!
So, take heart dear brother! You are NOT competent for this task in and of yourself, but that’s the point! God has appointed you an overseer of his Church, and if God has done it, then he will allow the best and worst times to come upon you for your good and His glory!
The quicker we learn this simple truth, the quicker he gets the glory and we get the joy!
Praise God for this small simple verse.