One of Jesus’ favorite metaphors for spiritual leadership, one He often used to describe Himself, was that of a shepherd–a person who tends God’s flock. A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects–responsibilities that belong to every church leader. In fact, the word pastor means shepherd.
God wants us (His people) to understand what the ministry of oversight is all about, and to make sure that those who are in a position of oversight fulfill their God given duties FAITHFULLY. We can discern from God’s word what would amount to a serious warning if the spiritual leader steps out of line.
Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
This passage of Scripture was written for the Old Testament leaders of God’s people. It is written specifically against “the shepherds of Israel”. “Shepherd” is the same word as “pastor”. This would define what the concept of shepherd or pastor is, as God sees it. Failure to fulfill this task brings railing condemnation against that pastor. From this we too can learn much about New Testament church oversight (i.e. pastors).
Beware when your pastor …
1. Is overly concerned about remuneration and his own life style instead of his preaching. Ezekiel 34:2
The first and great overriding condemnation by God is that the pastors feed themselves instead of feeding their charge, the flock of God. We must admit that God’s principles are that the local church is to give the pastor a livable wage or salary, and they are to even give him “double honor” if he ministers well, and the pastor is to live of the gospel. But when the balance becomes to great towards “feathering his own nest” instead of tending to his charge, then the pastor is not what he is supposed to be.
The charge of God to the pastor is the same as the owner of sheep in Palestine to a shepherd of sheep, “whatever is wrong, fix it.” What this means is that the pastor should confront all problems and resolve them however it is necessary to do so. A pastor who by-passes and ignores problems in the local church is not doing his job. We must give time to many matters, and we must labor over them in prayer, but some matters need to be confronted and dealt with instead of being prayed over. For example God rebuked Joshua in Joshua 7 because he was praying instead of rooting out sin in the camp. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the church for not confronting sin in their midst. Paul’s comparison is that this is like kneading a lump of dough with leaven in it, soon it will saturate the entire lump if not stopped quickly and decisively.
The preacher should preach, and he should do that well. Preachers that do not spend a lot of time preparing, and that includes study, prayer, and meditation, just are slighting their duties. Even the most scholarly preachers still spend many hours on a sermon if it is to be a good, effective sermon. Moreover, when a preacher spends a large portion of his time in other things (such as administration of a Christian school, counseling, writing, fellowship, or entertainment concerns) be careful. A person’s priorities are reflected by his attention to that things, i.e. what he spends the most time, energy, and resources on is his highest priority.
Beware when your pastor …
2. Hurts more people than he helps. Ezekiel 34:2
The sense of “the diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken” is that he should be building up the flock so that they are not crippled by spiritual disease or sickness. The broken perhaps refers to the difficult crises of life that cause a person to become disabled or unfruitful and unproductive.
Focus on our task as Christians. We must ask ourselves, “what should the sheep be normally doing that these diseases, sicknesses, and crises (brokenness) would hinder?” The answer is very simple, sheep are supposed to roam around after the pastor eating and feeding all they can get, and they are to reproduce more sheep, and give fruit (wool and milk). Christians then are supposed to go to church and feed on the Word of God that the pastor feeds them with. This Word of God explained (feeding grounds) is supposed to promote the Christian to bear spiritual fruit and to reproduce (evangelism). This evangelism is the mission of the church (Matthew 28:19-20). It is a single mission that must all come under the focus of the local church. The local church must evangelize the lost, baptize them (membership – integration) into the local church, and teach them all God has commanded us (discipleship so that they are just like the rest of the church). This is the work of God, and the sheep are supposed to be doing it, and the pastor is supposed to promoting it, making it happen.
Moreover the Christian is to bear spiritual fruit. Let us mention what the Christians should be moved to produce from their “church experience”.
Love – The practice and attitude of placing somebody else before their own self. Seeking the benefit of another before your self.
Joy – Happiness (well being) that is not necessarily linked to physical well being. Comfort or thoughts that overwhelms the person even if that person finds himself in conflict, affliction, distress, anguish, agony, or pain.
Peace – The absence of conflict in the soul, even though outwardly the person may be in great conflicts.
Longsuffering – Suffering long, waiting and having patience even though the events and pressures of life would force the person to immediate response, vengeance, attack, rebuke, conflict, or improper speech.
Gentleness – Treating others softly instead of harshly and brutishly. Gentleness means not seeking to hurt others even when it is fully possible.
Faith – Faith is belief. But much more than some doctrinal point somebody ascribes themselves to, faith is spiritual force to wait or go forward when the evidence before ones eyes is to the contrary.
Meekness – This is to approach others as though you believe them to be better and superior to yourself. While it may not be so, still the meek person will treat others with this respect and dignity even though he himself may be a king.
Temperance – Self-control. A control over one’s self so that one does not indulge in sins and excesses of life. This is a strong control over oneself, or perhaps better put, it is a complete rendering of one’s self to the control of God to decide and guide their life, actions and speech so that what a person does is God’s will.
KJV Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
The Christian is supposed to have his life full of all goodness and righteousness. Good is free from the element of sin. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. It is what we are supposed to be doing instead of sin. Truth is God’s banner (identifying flag) over us. We are supposed to be champions of the truth. Beware when people claim to be Christians and tell lies to protect or promote their version of Christianity. No obedient Christian will use Satan’s methods to do God’s work. It just does not work.
Beware when your pastor …
3. Drives away people instead of gathering them. Ezekiel 34:4
KJV Ezekiel 34:4 brought that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost
The biblical pastor will be active in evangelism. Any church or pastor that slights evangelism is making light of the verse heart of God. “For God so loved the world He sent …” Evangelism is hard and discouraging, but it is the essence of God’s work. We cannot get around it. We cannot use the world’s methods, especially not Madison Avenue’s methods to do God’s work. We must use God’s methods.
Some pastors drive away and scatter the sheep instead of gathering them. This is seen by the pastor doing and saying things that drives people away from the Lord for unbiblical reasons. God’s purpose is to change people so that they obey the will of God. When a pastor preaches the will of God, then at times he will drive disobedient people away from the Lord because they will not obey God’s word. This is normal and not what we are talking about here. (Christ said he came to bring a sword into this world). What is a bad sign is when the pastor delights or accepts driving people away when there is no need to do so. For example, the pastor is sarcastic or bitter or sharp with his words when he could have said the same thing in a different way and not offend. The offense must always be between the individual and God, not the pastor and the individual. The pastor shows them God’s word and they may get offended or repent and follow God’s will.
Another aspect of a good pastor is that he seeks the lost. This goes beyond evangelism. It goes to the pastor’s relationship with his own sheep. When the pastor offends somebody, or somebody just stops coming or distances himself from the church, the good pastor will go out and seek that person seeking to “fix what is wrong” and restore that person into the fellowship as an active and fruitful member.
Beware when your pastor’s …
4. Leadership style is marked with cruelty and force. Ezekiel 34:4
KJV Ezekiel 34:4 with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them
“Force” here means excessive force, vehemence, might, strength. “Cruelty” means to break apart, to break down, to fracture, to use severity or cruelty, rigor. The idea is that the bad pastor is somebody who gets his will done no matter what. He is very forceful, and reserves all right for himself. Seldom is he ever wrong (in his own eyes), and even when he is wrong, he will ignore it and wants all others to ignore his errors, adhering absolute loyalty to his “always right” way.
Beware when your pastor …
5. Decides not to give pastoral counseling and get involved in correcting people’s lives. Ezekiel 34:5
One of the most important points to understand about pastors is that they government the sheep. That “government” simply is that they make executive decisions for the welfare of the sheep. The word for shepherd (ra’ah) means and is translated on occasion, “to govern”. They are personally responsible to God for their charge (Hebrews 13:17). This governing takes a public form in guiding the decisions of the local church, and a private form in personal one on one counseling.
Public guiding of the church is done by preaching and teaching, setting the norms, understandings, and standards of that local church. Also he has the burden of biblically expositing the direction, activities, and work of the local church to set its course. He does not make these decisions privately, and the church simply obeys him, but rather he exposits biblically why and how we are to do what we do, and the church follows his leadership. His “validity” is not found in his authority (position) but rather in his right to “have the ear of the church”. He feeds them daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, with information from God that illuminates the church, and is the pastor’s principal means of governing.
When a pastor comes to a person position in his own life in which he is not willing or able to “risk” giving counsel and getting involved in correcting the wrong in people’s lives and in the church in general, he must be removed, either voluntarily or by the people of that church for failure to fulfill his primary work burden.
Pastors today think that they can split and divide their work such that they personally do not have to do the “dirty job” of dealing with people’s problems. This is the primary burden for the pastor. He gets his validity in everything else because he has helped the personal problems of his people and church.
Bottom Line: Whatever is wrong, the pastor has to fix it however it has to be done.