Today, we're talking about shepherding your church. And in a sense, we all have a responsibility for the shepherding of this church. Yes, there is an office of elder, but it's more than just eldership that is responsible for the health of a church. And we must accept this teaching with humility because we are a good church, but we are not a perfect church. And there is no such thing as perfect church. We are all striving to fulfill the commands of our Lord together. So, we'll start with the office of elder, and then move out more broadly to the whole church:
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So the command of Jesus through Peter to the elders is "feed my sheep," right? To love the people of God so that they will strive toward godliness. And this is my responsibility and Darren's, and Larry's and Randy's. We must be present and active in your lives so that we can care for you. And we lead by our own good example. Does that mean that we are perfect? No. But the arc of our lives bends toward Christ-likeness.
And did you catch the command to non-elders that Peter gives here? Probably not because of how all the English translations render it. (Verse 5) This is why elders are appointed. The church is not a democracy. It is a monarchy, with Jesus at the head, and elders submitted to him leading under him.
And we are all commanded to relate to one another in humility. This is important because we all fail to follow Jesus perfectly, and so we must all be open to correction. That means that truth is important. We must be honest with each other regardless of feelings, and we must respond with gentleness in the face of correction.
And now, we'll move into the are of how we are all responsible for shepherding our church.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
So this is the part the whole church plays in growing together toward Christ-likeness. Let's look at some of the roles that God has given to his Body to grow:
Apostles- People that God has sent out with authority. Literally, this word just means "sent one". Today, this would be the modern equivalent of church planters or missionaries. Our church is blessed to be able to help support financially several missionaries. So my question to you would be, do any of you feel strongly called by God to go do something? To plant a church? To be a missionary in the city or to another country? This is a vital part of the body of Christ- those to whom Jesus has given a specific mission. Is he giving you one?
Prophets- In our country, we generally think of prophecy as predictive in nature. That's not at all how the Bible defines prophecy. Prophecy is anything that communicates who God is, what God desires, and what God demands from his people. Prophecy is anyone who claims to speak on behalf of God. This is weighty. Anyone who claims to be a prophet must never be wrong when speaking in that capacity. To speak on behalf of the King is to speak with the King's authority. If anyone speaks in this capacity and is wrong, they are guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain. (EXPLAIN) Is Jesus giving you a message for the church?
Evangelists- These are people who are constantly sharing the gospel of Jesus. They are zealous for right living before a holy God, and they boldly call people to holy living. Do you have a zeal for introducing anyone and everyone to Jesus? Do you long to see his people obey his commands? This too is a necessary gift for the building of the church.
Shepherds (or pastors)- These are those who look after and protect the church from heresy and complacency. They are constantly yearning to see the church grow, not necessarily in numbers, but in maturity. There is no difference between a pastor and an elder in the Bible. All elders are pastors and all pastors are elders. And Scripture says that whoever desires to look after the Flock of God desires a good thing. Has God laid on your heart a desire for leadership in this church? Can you guard the church from heresy and complacency? Do you know the Truth well enough to defend it, or do you still have a lot of work to do?
Teachers- These are the people who faithfully pass on the teachings of Christ and the apostles through explaining or applying Scripture. Do you know your Scriptures well enough to teach them to others? Do you have a passion for teaching?
All of these have been given by God, Paul says, for the purpose of equipping the saints for MINISTRY! (EXPLAIN SAINT) And the equipping of the saints for ministry is to build up the church. To grow in maturity and in numbers. To provide a firm anchor to our foundation, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, died a sinner's death, in our place, for our sins, and rose from the grave after three days to show us that it really is finished. So that we aren't blown about by every new doctrine that comes around.
And all of these gifts working together through the ministry of the Holy Spirit is what makes a church grow. Not a program. Not a youth group. Not activities. Not socials. What makes the body of Christ grow is his people being faithful to the calling they have received from him. And very rarely will you see all of these roles in one person. A pastor cannot by himself accomplish each of these by himself.
These are to equip for ministry. THIS is not the purpose of the church. And don't get me wrong, gathering on Sunday to sing the praises of God and to hear from His Word is great. It's awesome. But it isn't the point. The point is to get equipped here so you can go out there and do the real work of ministry. Of bringing the gospel to people.
Of buying lunch for the single mom.
Of giving the ride to the smelly hitchhiker.
Of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone who will (or won't) listen.
This building is not the church. YOU are the church. And the moment this building becomes a distraction to the mission- the moment you start to think that this is what it's all about- is the moment that church has become an idol for you. This is for getting filled up to be poured out. To go to your fields, you jobs, your homes, and share the gospel. To BE Jesus to your employees, to your co-workers, to your kids, to your spouse.
Do you have a role to play in shepherding the church of Jesus? What gifts do you have? How can you pour out to equip people to pour out.