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Topic: Impersonating a Shepherd -- Speaker: Tom Ascol

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. [Acts 20:28 ESV]

From the very beginning, we have had impersonators pretending to act the shepherd and lead people astray, putting into the minds of people to doubt the veracity of the Word of God. The serpent in the garden of Eden took on that role, falsely, and said, “Did God *really* say … ?”

God’s people have always been warned against false teachers and prophets. They will come, and they will destroy the people. Because of the seriousness of the role, God had made it a capital crime in Israel to act as a false prophet and to tell the people something other than what God had said. In the eyes of God, these were the worst kinds of criminals. Without the proclamation of the truth, people will die. Now, though the church does not bear the sword to punish the wicked, this does not mean this pulpit crime is any less serious.

Positively, God uses elders to protect and care for His people, and has described Himself as a shepherd (see Ps. 23). It is a matter of stewardship for elders – these people belong to God, and elders are charged to care for His sheep comprehensively. With this authority, comes great responsibility; and by authority, we mean a vested authority as opposed to an inherent authority. So, this does not mean the elder is a member of a superior class of Christians; he is chosen from among his brethren. It’s an office which there is no right to apply an authoritarian regime, and the elder cannot exercise authority beyond the spheres given to him by God.

Paul instructed the elders to take heed to the flock, but how does an undershepherd take heed? How does he treat the sheep? With disdain, or with patience? He is to consider the needs of the people of God. When he sees the flock under his care in the beginning stages of apathy, he is to call them again to consider their first love. Whether the flock is strong or weak; mature or inexperienced, the elder is to pay attention to their needs.

The elder is also to take heed of himself. The man is more important than the ministry, yet many ministers neglect the man. Every pastor needs a pastor, but a lone ranger is just a man setting himself up for a fall. Even the apostle Paul himself (often considered a lone ranger evangelist) desired and received ministry from others. The pastor must strive in his own Christian walk as a disciple of Christ, because to be more dedicated to the ministry than to Christ himself is to deny Christ. So why is it such a neglected duty among pastors? More gifted, intelligent, [insert desired trait here] men -- better men than us -- have fallen by neglecting this duty.

You can be a Christian without being an elder, but you can’t be an elder without being a Christian. This seems obvious, but discipleship is the priority in the life of an elder. It’s not at all in competition to his work as an elder, but an integral part of it. He is called as an example, an example of zeal for the lost, an example of one who pursues humility. A man who doesn’t believe he is called to be himself holy will have a lot of difficulty in convincing others that they are called to be holy.

It’s very easy to preach compared to the mortification of your own sins. You can’t neglect your own soul. Your condescention and labor is small compared to Christ who came from heaven and died for the souls of the church. They are God’s possession; they are Christ’s purchase, and His bride.

May these notes bless the readers,
Sean