By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
(Jeremiah 3:15 and 23:4)
The work of the pastor is largely undone in many quarters because some believers are not doing what God called them to do. Rev. Gary Hendrix observes, “In many instances the bottom line is that pastors must keep the people happy while also increasing the attendance (and collections). How to accomplish these tasks can drive a person to distraction! Perhaps some would find it surprising to know that neither of these objectives is specified in the Bible as the work of the pastor. The primary work of the pastor, according to the Scriptures, is to feed and protect God’s people. This is plain beyond dispute from passages such as: Jer. 3:15, 23:4; John 21:17; Acts 20:18-21, 26-28; 2Tim. 4:2; 1Peter 5:1-2. This feeding and protecting is of a spiritual, and not physical, nature. Christ appoints men, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to be over His churches in order that those men might instruct the redeemed in all His holy will and protect their souls from the errors and temptations which threaten them in this world. God prospers His people as they trust Him according to His Word (doctrines, promises, commands, and warnings). When people are deprived of the Scriptures and faithful instruction in them, they become susceptible to erroneous thoughts about God and life and right and wrong and the world to come. They are also more likely to become ensnared in various evils. Thus, the teaching and preaching of pastors comprise crucial means (or channels) through which the grace of God strengthens and fortifies true believers, while also making believers out of unbelievers.”
Rev. William Still (1911-1997) laments, “A pastor may find himself in the midst of a generally nominal church membership. How is he going to turn a flock of goats into a flock of sheep? . . . So that the pastor called to feed the sheep may find that his first calling is to evangelize the goats!”
Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) said, “Now we hear a lot about being seeker sensitive. And I believe we ought to be. We ought not to be rude to unsaved people. We ought to make them welcome. Even in business, the businessman says, ‘Business goes where it is welcomed and stays where it is treated well.’ We ought to do the same thing, but listen to me, precious friend, it is not our job to fill the pew. It is our job to fill the pulpit and to preach the Word of God regardless.”
From our text recorded in Jeremiah 3:15 and 23:4 we read, “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. . . . I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,’ says the Lord.”
While God communicated these words specifically to the nation of Israel, at least in principle they apply to God’s people today. Peter reminds us, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, / ‘Behold, I lay in Zion / A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, / And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, / ‘The stone which the builders rejected / Has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling / And a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:4-10).
Dr. Luke writes in Acts 20:17-31, “From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ‘And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
Allow me to share about shepherds, shepherding and the shepherded.
I. First, we see the gracious provision of true shepherds.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel warn about false shepherds (Jeremiah 23:1-2; Ezekiel 34:1-10). They also extol true shepherds. For example, we read about one true shepherd in Ezekiel 34:23, “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.”
At the closing sermon to the Conference of the Pastor’s College (April 13, 1877), Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) explained, “One of the chief qualifications of a true pastor, and one that is not very common, is a great deal of patience. Perhaps you say, ‘These people are so sinful, and erring, and foolish.’ Yes, they are like sheep; and if they were not so, they would not need you or any other shepherd. Your calling would be abolished if all Christ’s people were strong, and able to instruct others. Be very patient with them, as a nurse is with the child committed to her to watch, and love, and teach. What an honor this office puts upon you! To belong to the College of Fishermen with Peter, James, and John, is a great honor; but the work of the pastor is nobler still. Well did they speak of old of shepherd-kings, for the shepherd’s business is such as is worthy of a king; indeed, amid his flock he is the truest of kings. What a line of shepherds can be bated right through the Word of God!”
In Ephesians 4:11-16 we read, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Rev. John G. Butler explains, “The word ‘edify’ here [1 Thessalonians 5:11 as in Ephesians 4:11-12] means to ‘build, construct’ (Zodhiates). So many saints spend their time tearing down other Christians. They do this sometimes by slander, sometimes by evil influence which causes other saints to ruin their lives in sin. But the precept here is to build up, that is, build up in the faith. Help others to grow in the faith. This is not just the work of the pastor but of all the people. Each saint of God has the duty of building up other saints, helping them to grow in the faith.”
Rev. George Fletcher (1838-?), late Governor or Principal and Tutor in Pastoral Theology and Church Organization, Wesleyan Theological College, Richmond, Surrey, England, explains, “Pastoral preaching is preaching to the Church or to Christians, and takes its character from the relations between the Pastor and his flock,—the flock committed to his charge by the Chief Shepherd; feeding and tending; taking oversight; watching for souls; these responsibilities determine the character of Pastoral preaching.”
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon states, “IT has been truly said that, if the members of our churches were in a right condition of heart, the work of the pastor towards them would be no more difficult than that of a commanding officer to his troops. A general, or a captain, has never to study eloquence; he has simply to give the word of command tersely and plainly, and himself to lead the way. So, if our hearts were right in the sight of God, we should not want illustrations to win attention, and arguments to urge us on; we should only want to know what is the special duty of the hour; and, helped by the Divine Spirit, we should, with alacrity, seek to perform it.”
Dr. C. Mark Corts (1938-2006), Pastor Emeritus of Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, preached a powerful message at the Coastal Evangelism Conference at Langston Baptist Church in Conway, South Carolina, in 1992. His expositional message focused on Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 24, where we read, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. . . . Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. . . . Greet all those who rule over you.”
II. Second, we see the grueling practice of textbook shepherding.
We find the word “feed” in both Jeremiah 3:15 and 23:4. Please note we find the word translated “feed” in Simon Peter’s restoration recorded in John 21:15-19, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) reportedly warned, “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.” Scripturally feeding sheep requires time consuming prayer and study.
Rev. John G. Butler explains, “A goodly number of churches need help here. One can readily judge a church’s spirituality by taking a look at the pastor’s study—or what they call the pastor’s study. A good church will perceive that the work of the pastor requires much meditation and study and, hence, the need of an adequate study. But carnal churches with their little interest in the Word do not perceive that need well at all. In fact, we have heard some folk complain about the pastor wanting a study; and when he gets one, they wonder out loud why he wants to spend so such time in the study. Such musings disclose gross carnality.”
Paul exhorts in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Dr. Luke writes in Acts 6:1-7, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
“Why Are Preachers So Exhausted After Preaching?” In part, Dr. Matthew Perry answers, “It’s Work! It’s a labor of love, to be sure—but it’s still labor. Studies have shown that the energy used for preaching a 30 minute sermon is the equivalent of an 8-hour work day. Hours are spent the week prior in prayer, study, and more prayer and more study! The main priority of a pastor’s ministry is preaching—so much of our energy is put into this endeavor that an adrenaline builds up! The Spirit begins to work in the preacher as the preacher works out the Spirit’s message! While the Spirit at times just brings the message, He also intends to give us the ‘want-to’ to mine out what God’s Word has to say from a specific passage.”
Dr. William Smith (1813-1893) explains, “The Epistles to Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles, because they are principally devoted to directions about the work of the pastor of a church.” We read in 1 Timothy 5:17-20, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’ Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
Shepherding the flock, from the field to the fold requires a tremendous amount of energy. It takes vim, vigor, and vitality to shepherd by the Book.
III. Third, we see the grim precariousness of those shepherded.
The term “precarious” means, “Dangerously lacking in security or stability.”
The sheep can become fearless, focused and full under the ministry of a faithful shepherd, who is an undershepherd of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From Isaiah 53:6a we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray; / We have turned, every one, to his own way. . .” Sheep have a tendency to wander from the fold as we recall from our Lord’s parable of the Lost Sheep recorded in Luke 15.
Remember, the Lord said through Ezekiel, “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:23). This gives new meaning when we read what David writes in Psalm 23:1-6. He writes, “The Lord is my shepherd; / I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; / He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; / He leads me in the paths of righteousness / For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, / I will fear no evil; / For You are with me; / Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; / You anoint my head with oil; / My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me / All the days of my life; / And I will dwell in the house of the Lord / Forever.”
Rev. George Fletcher forthrightly declares, “Preaching is the chief and central work of the Christian Minister; that it is a work of the highest importance and of real greatness, embracing the whole range of human interests, and demanding the entire devotion of a man’s power, no powers being too great to be concentrated to such a work.”
Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explains, “The work of the pastor is frowned upon in many quarters because it calls for faithfulness in a daily grind of unromantic, colorless duties, and some try to sidestep that by moving into more exciting activities.
Christian living calls for faithfulness. Not every one can sing or preach, but all can be faithful.”
These two passages highlight the work of the pastor from beginning to end. First, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” Then, in 1 Peter 5:1-4, Peter writes, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
All across our land and all around the world, may we see a restoration of the biblical model of the work of the pastor.
Gary Hendrix, “A Friendly Challenge to Pastors”, Available from: http://www.proclaiminghistruth.com/message.php?topicID=27946& Accessed: 08/10/12
William Still, The Work of the Pastor (Carlisle Cumbria, Edinburgh, Scotland: Paternoster Publishing, 1984, 1996), pp. 2-3
The Baptist Banner, ed. T. C. Pinckney, “Adrian Rogers: On Spiritual Warfare”, Vol. VIII, No. 7, August 1995, (Alexandria, VA: The Baptist Banner, 1995), [Adrian Rogers, Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, June 19, 1995], Available from: http://www.baptistbanner.org/Subarchive_7/795%20Adrian%20Rogers-%20On%20Spiritual%20Warfare.htm Accessed: 08/10/12
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Collected Sermons, Sermon Notes, “Feed My Sheep” (John 21:16), [The Pastor's College Conference, 4/13/1877], (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit), #3211
John G. Butler, Jesus Christ: His Return, Studies of the Savior, Number Ten, © 2006 by John G. Butler. Database © 2006 WORDsearch Corp.
George Fletcher, Chapters on Preaching: A Manual for the Guidance of Young Preachers, (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1902), p. 50
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Collected Sermons, Sermon Notes, “The Right Key-Note For The New Year” (Psalm 115:18), [preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington], (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit), #2289
John G. Butler, ELISHA: The Miracle Prophet, Bible Biography Series, Number Four, “The Chamber”, 2 Kings 4:8-17, Copyright © 1994 by John G. Butler, Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp.
William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, (London: John Murray, 1863), Database © 2003 WORDsearch Corp.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009), Available from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Precariousness Accessed: 08/11/12
George Fletcher, Chapters on Preaching: A Manual for the Guidance of Young Preachers, (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1902), p. 4
Vance Havner, Hearts Afire: Light on Successful Soul Winning, (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1952), Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
Special Note: Author completes 30 years of ministry on November 7, 2012.
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
© November 4, 2012 All Rights Reserved