First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ October 22 2023)
Elder Russ Long
Pastors: Leading as Shepherds
We saw from the 1st ten verses of Ephesians that there is one body in the church. There is one spirit that is our common ground in that fellowship. We have one common hope in the future to which we are called. We have one Lord – Christ to whom we belong. Our common faith is in the saving grace of Christ. And our common baptism by the Holy Spirit who dwells in all believers. But as we see here in vs. 11-16 our oneness in Christ does not destroy our individuality. The Holy Spirit gives every believer gifts for the building of the church. Once we have these gifts, it is crucial to the church that we use them as we will see here. If one pat of the body is not operating to their full capacity, then the body may be able to limp along, but it will not function as God intended.
Today I want to talk about the pastor’s role in the church leading as shepherds. Pastors are first God-called, then church-called, and that part of their calling is to lead the Lord’s church as a preacher. Today we will look specifically at the role of shepherd.
Shepherds: What the Bible Says. The word shepherd or shepherds is only used 18 times, in 17 verses in the New Testament. For example, in Mathew 9:36 the word is used when Jesus considered the people of Israel as sheep having no shepherd. They were gone astray. Jesus told the disciples about how the sheep would scatter when the shepherd was struck, speaking of the way the disciples would scatter when He was crucified. In John 10:11-18 Jesus talked about being the good shepherd, and His sheep knew His voice.
Of all the times the Bible speaks of shepherds, only one time does it identify pastors as such. Read with me our text this morning in Ephesians 4:11-13.
“And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
In verse 11, the apostle Paul wrote that God gave to churches apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Here the words pastors and teachers are referring to the same man. The word pastors as you see it in your Bibles comes from the same Greek word for shepherds.
Shepherds as Leaders
If you understand the biblical definition of leadership as placing yourself in service to others so they might become what God wants them to be, then you won’t have any problem seeing God’s plan of shepherding leadership in our text. God’s plan for our life is that we be transformed into the image of Christ: that we be Christlike in all our ways. Romans 8:29 tells us “for who He foreknew, he predestined, to be conformed to the image of His Son. In other words, God wants us to think like Him, to act like Him, to hold His values, to feel what He feels, for His passions to be ours, so that when He looks at us He is only seeing a reflection of Himself. God’s plan for shepherding leadership then is that the shepherds are to help us become that reflection. Look at verse 12 with me again. Why did God give shepherds to churches?
Paul gives us three reasons that form a progression of sorts.
1 - For the perfecting of the saints
The word perfecting means to completely adjust in conduct and in character. The Bible says in Romans 3 that we are corrupt in every way. Our speech is corrupt, our character is corrupt, and our conduct is corrupt. If you want to think of it in this way, you can say that we are 180 degrees out with God. The work of the shepherd then is to lead us in such a way that a complete adjustment is made in our life.
If the front end of my van was out of alignment, it would wander all over the road. It might pull hard to the left or to the right. But I want it to run true and right down the middle. The only way to get it right is for there to be an alignment, and the only way to get it properly aligned is to allow someone who knows what they’re doing to adjust it back to the original specs, as determined by the manufacture of the vehicle. In the same way churches are filled with people who are all over the road. Some pull hard to the left, others to the right, but God’s way is straight down the middle. So long as God’s people are out of alignment, then God appoints shepherds to help them make the proper adjustments as determined by the Creator. Luke 9:62 tells s that “no one putting their hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom. In the same way, God wants from us total dedication. We can’t pick and choose what we like from His word and ignore the ones we don’t like.
The word perfecting also means to equip or prepare for service. As we make the adjustments in our lives that will bring us into alignment with God’s Word and will, we will become better equipped or prepared for service. Now, how are God’s shepherds supposed to accomplish the perfecting of the saints?
Look first with me at 1 Peter 5:1-3.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you,
How is a shepherd supposed to accomplish the perfecting of the saints. Peter said to “feed the flock of God. The diet of God’s people is the Word of God. Every week the pastor can go to the cupboard from Genesis to Revelation and present it so that we can grow and mature into the image of Christ.
The Word of God is God’s alignment tool. It is His perfect standard, and the shepherd’s job is to make sure that we understand that we must be adjusted to it rather than changing it to adjust to our likes and dislikes.
Not only is the shepherd to feed the flock, but he is to be an example for the flock. He can never expect us to be anything that he is not, so the shepherd must be careful to live in such a way that others learn by example. “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
As the shepherd feeds the flock, he has a responsibility to guard them from the attacks of wolves, to guard them from those who would harm them. Wolves come in many forms today. Some come from outside the church, and some come from within. Some wolves would have us to believe in false plans of salvation. God’s plan is that we recognize our sinfulness before Him and repent, placing our faith and trust in Christ.
Wolves come in the form of many other false teachings. The shepherd must guard the flock from them, and he does this by teaching them the perfect Word of God. When a bank teller is learning how to tell a real $50 from a forged $50 they don’t study all the fakes. They study the real one so that they know what to look for when they are checking. In the same way we can know the real truth from Satan’s lies by studying the truth of God’s word to us. As this occurs, then we become equipped for the next thing found in Ephesians 4:12.
2 - For the work of the ministry
Simply put, God gives pastors to His churches to train and equip the members of those
churches to do the work of the ministry.
“By teaching, preaching, training and by example the pastor is to equip church members for God’s service. Pastors ready Christians for action and to make them useful in the kingdom’s service. It is not the pastor’s job to meet every need of the congregation. It is their job to see that every need is met.”
Did you notice the subtle difference there? It isn’t the pastor’s job to meet every need of our church. It is however his job to make sure that every need is being met, and the biblical way to do that is for saints to do the work as they are taught and trained.
So, as the shepherd labors for the perfecting of the saints, as they become engaged in the work of the ministry, a third reason comes about.
3 - For the edifying of the body of Christ
The word edify means to build up or to grow stronger. As we grow in Christlikeness, as we mature and align ourselves with God’s Word and God’s will and we become engaged in the work of the ministry, our body is built up, as lost souls are saved and by the building up of us as individual saints.
Leading one of the Lord’s churches as a pastor / shepherd is a great privilege. (The stone tablets in the narthex) God placed Pastor Mouris here to lead us in that direction. It took three years to bring Pastor Mouris to this church. He took us part way in this journey that God has us on and I believe that even now God is preparing that one who will lead us on the next part of that journey. We just need to be vigilant and praying for that person and that we will recognize him when we see him.
Verse 13 tells us that until we all come to the unity of the faith (we all believe the same things concerning the faith), and until we all come to the knowledge of the Son of God (we all know Him as we should), and until we all become perfect, or fully grown and mature believers, found to be perfect reflections of Christ, that this work must continue.
V16 – till every part does its share… we all need to share our gifts in the ministry of building God’s church so that the body grows and matures.
What adjustments is God looking for in your life today? Perhaps it is nothing more than having a better understanding of what God has planned for us as we search for our next pastor. It’s not what we want but rather what God’s plan for us is, as he knows better that we do what is needed in the church and in our lives. Perhaps it is God inviting us to join Him in His work somewhere, and we need to respond to that invitation. Whatever He is inviting us to do, heed his call today. Let’s pray
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.