To be a Pastor is an awesome responsibility and privilege. The gift of Pastor is sovereignly bestowed upon some believing, but undeserving male member of the human race.
The exercise of this office must not be taken lightly for, rest assured, those who mismanage this office will be disciplined (Jas. 3:1), and those who function efficiently and effectively will be rewarded (1 Tim. 5:17).
In Acts 20:17-38, the Apostle Paul called a special “Pastors’ Conference” at Miletus for the Ephesian Pastors. The subject of the conference was “God’s Plan for Leadership in the Local Church.”
It is important to notice that the Apostle Paul uses himself as an example (Acts 20:18-27) and then gives an exposition of the priorities associated with the pastoral office and how it is to be executed (Acts 20:28-38).
PERSONAL HOLINESS: “Take heed…unto yourselves” (vs. 28). The Pastor’s most important task is to prepare himself, not his sermon!
- A Pastor is not ready to lead if he is not right with God (1 Tim. 4:16; Mk. 13:9; Lk. 21:34). If a Pastor’s sermon is one thing and his life is something else, then he has destroyed the meaning of his sermon!
- God uses holy instruments (2 Tim. 2:20-22; 1 Cor. 9:27; Heb. 12:14-15). There is no ministry for an unholy minister. A man is only as useful as he is holy. This is illustrated by David when he sinned with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11; Ps. 51).
- Holiness is what qualifies a man to be a Pastor (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:12). Please note: it is a mans spiritual qualifications, not a man’s education, political maneuvering, personality, charisma, dynamics, eloquence, vision, energy, courage, enthusiasm, or even his “gift of gab” that qualifies him for the ministry.
SHEPHERDING THE FLOCK OF GOD: “Take heed…to all the flock” (vs. 28).
- Believers are seen as sheep, i.e., a “flock” of helpless followers. (1) Old Testament Saints (Israel) (Jer. 13:17; Zech. 10:3); 92) Kingdom Saints (Lk. 12:32; Jn. 10:1-29; 21:15-18); (3) Church-Age Saints (Acts 20:28).
- The sheep belong to God: “The church of God” (1 Pet. 5:2; Jn. 21:15-17).
- The sheep are precious: Christ purchased them with His own blood (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Pet. 1:18).
- The sheep are to be holy (Eph. 5:26-27; 36:37-38). The under-shepherd/pastor should want what the Great Shepherd wants (2 Cor. 11:1). Paul wanted the believer to be holy, sacred and undefiled.
- The under-shepherd is appointed by the Holy Spirit: “over that which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers.”
- The under-shepherd is to shepherd “all” the flock.
- The under-shepherd shepherds the flock by feeding and leading. (1) Feeding: The Greek word translated “feed” is poimaino. This means that the shepherd is responsible for the total watch care of leading, guiding, guarding, and folding of the sheep. This is best done by feeding the sheep (i.e., Bible Doctrine—1 Tim. 4:16; Mt. 4:4; Jn. 21:15-17). (2) Leading: “Overseers” (1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 5:2). The congregation has the prerogative to choose its leaders, but once those men are chosen, it is theirs to rule (2 Cor. 10:13, 15; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pwet. 5:2; Heb. 13:17, 24; Acts 6:3). The shepherd leads the sheep where they are to go by example (Acts 20:20, 35; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3-4).
- The under-shepherd is accountable not only to God, but also before the congregation (1 Tim. 5:19-20; Heb. 13:17).
PROTECTING THE FLOCK OF GOD: Watch and warn (vss. 29-31). Dangerous wolves (false teachers) will endanger the flock of God (vs. 29). Paul says, “I know this.”
- The false teachers are likened unto grievous wolves (Acts 20:29); a dog returning to his vomit and a sow wallowing in the mire (2 Pet. 2:22); clouds without water, being twice dead and having spots (Jude 1:12); a liar and slow bellies (Titus 1:12); beasts (Titus 1:12; 2 Pet. 2:12); wells without water (2 Pet. 2:17); filthy dreamers (Jude 1:8); and scabs (2 Pet. 2:12).
- The false teacher’s doctrines are characterized as perverse things (Acts 20:30; 2 Pet. 3:17); damnable heresies (2 Pet 2:1); feigned words (2 Pet. 2:3); words of vanity (2 Pet. 2:18); thus, Jesus said: “by their fruit [teaching] ye shall know them” (Mt. 7:16, 20).
- The false teacher draws away followers (Acts 20:30) by enticing them with their doctrine (Eph. 4:14; 2 Pet. 2:14), thus “overflowing” and destroying (Titus 2:11; 2 Tim. 2:14-18) their “captives” (2 Tim. 3:6); “not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).
- The false teacher is more often than not found in the pulpit (2 Cor. 11:13-15; Mt. 7:15). Many churches are dominated by false teachers.
- The false teacher will come into the flock from the outside (Acts 20:29).
- The false teacher will also arise up among the flock from the inside (Acts 29:30; 2 Pet. 2:1).
- The false teacher is to be tested (1 Jn. 4:1-3), reproved (2 Tim. 4:2); ejected (Rom. 16:17-18; Titus 3:10; 2 Jn. 1:9-10); and exposed publicly (1 Tim. 1:3, 19-20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; 3:1-9). Paul names them (Acts 13:10; 2 Tim. 2:17-18)!
The Pastor is to protect the flock from the wolves (vs. 31).
“Watch” (2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Thess. 5:6; 1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:17; Ezek. 33:7).
- The Pastor is to be on guard, looking around and watching. He has the responsibility of knowing who is leading, who is teaching, and who may be sowing discord among members of the fellowship.
- The Pastor owes this responsibility to the Lord for the sake of the chaste virgin (The Church Which is His Body) that Christ wants to present to Himself (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:27).
- The Pastor owes this protection to His flock (Heb. 13:17).
- Paul says he prayed night and day (1 Thess. 3:10), worked night and day (1 Thess. 2:9), labored night and day (1 Thess. 3:8), and warned night and day (Acts 20:31).
- Paul says he warned “everyone.”
- Paul says he warned everyone with “tears,” because he knew the terrible consequences of false teachers in the flock.
- So, the Pastor is to do like Paul!
COMMEND (commit or deposit for sake keeping) THE FLOCK TO GOD: (vss. 32, 36).
- This is a prayer. There comes a time when the human instrument can go no further. There is only one recourse and that is prayer.
- Paul’s ministry was bathed in prayer. Paul prayed for the salvation of the lost (Rom. 10:1; 2 Cor. 5:20), for people to live holy, worthy lives (2 Cor. 13:7; 2 Thess. 1:1), for direction (Acts 13:3). He prayed in adversity (Acts 16:25), for people’s prosperity and health (1 Thess. 5:23; Acts 28:8), and for the well-being of believers (Acts 20:36; 21:5; Col. 1:9; Phil. 1:4).
- There is no substitute for prayer. Pastors should pray!
– The church is not run on a word of prayer.
– Prayer is not a parachute for a soft landing.
– Prayer is not a little salt on the meal.
– Prayer cannot be substituted for by prosperity, success, good ideas, programs, talents, hard work, growth, confidence, organization or committees.
COMMEND THE FLOCK TO THE WORD OF HIS GRACE: (vs. 32).
- This is Bible Study (2 Tim. 2:15).
- It is the study of the Bible which builds and secures an inheritance for the Pastor.
- Bible Study is one of the two great tools of the Pastor’s trade. Prayer is the other indispensable tool. These two tools are linked together in Acts 6:4 just as they are here in this passage.
- There is no substitute for Bible Study. Pastors should study!
FREE FROM SELF INTEREST WHILE SERVING THE FLOCK: (vss. 33-38).
- The Pastor must adhere to the Biblical principle that it is impossible to serve God and mammon at one and the same time (Lk. 16:13). This does not mean that a Pastor ought not to be, when necessary, employed in secular business. The Apostle Paul was so engaged. He says, “with these hands” I labored in order to supply my personal “necessities” and those “that are with me.” He worked to support the ministry.
- The Pastor has a right to financial aid and subsistence (1 Cor. 9:1-15; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 2:25; 4:18), but he must be willing to work for a living, to sustain his ministry if the situation calls for it (1 Thess. 2:9; 1 Cor. 4:9-16; Acts 18:3; 20:33-34).; and he must be willing to be taken advantage of for example sake (1 Cor. 9:15-18). Paul went everywhere without any promise of money.
- The Pastor must get on top of the money question. God does not bless the ministry of a man who is concerned with money or the materialistic things above the ministry of the Word (1 Tim. 3:3; 1 Pet. 5:2; Titus 1:7; especially 1 Tim. 6:6-11).
- God is the Pastor’s business manager (Phil. 4:11-13, 16-17; see especially verse 19).
- The Pastor who puts a price tag on his ministry, prices himself right out of the blessing (vs. 35b).
- The Pastor’s sacrifice will be rewarded. The Ephesians loved Paul; they hugged and kissed him, didn‘t want him to go,
CONCLUSION: The Pastor who takes care of these priorities of Pastoral Leadership will have the love of the Saints and the blessing of God on his life.