Looking over the assemblies today there is a need for spiritual leadership among God’s people. An elder or overseer is not like being an owner or trustee of a business. Board members make decisions and give out orders.
Elders, by contrast, serve among the people as shepherds and leaders. Here are four responsibilities they need to consider (among others) important for effective leadership.
1. Feed the flock
When Paul gathered the elders together at Ephesus he taught them to, “feed the Church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Likewise, Peter instructed elders to, “feed the flock of God which is among you.” (1Peter 5:2).
Peter himself was acting as an elder fulfilling the command that the risen Lord had given him (John 21:15-17). Three times he was told, “feed my sheep”. The driving power to accomplish this task came from Peter’s answer to the question Do you love me?
Do you love me?
Three times over he was asked and His response was Yes Lord you know that I love you. The true motivation for every elder must be love to Christ. God’s condemnation of the Shepherds of Israel was they fed themselves and not the sheep! Ezekiel 34:1-2
This neglect meant the sheep were scattered and became a prey to every wild beast (v5). Today the wild beasts of false teaching with their cunning craftiness are abounding on every hand.
With friendly persuasion wolves in sheep’s clothing are snatching away many from the flock. Are we concerned about it? The food of the Word of God needs to be taught to safeguard those errors from creeping in.
2. Know the flock
The section in John 10 dealing with the Lord Jesus as the good Shepherd sets before us some delightful features of a true Shepherd! The Lord says, “I am the good Shepherd and know my sheep and am known by my own.” (John 10:14).
Is every believer in the assembly known to you? Not just the handshake at the door but do you visit in their homes? Do you share their joys and sorrows? Do you help to ease their burdens and alleviate their fears? Are you known by them?
Many backsliders or discouraged from the faith might not be in that condition if the elders had discerned the steps that led to their going astray. The Shepherd’s true joy did not come until they had all been gathered in.
3. Lead the flock
The longings of the one seeking her beloved asks, “Tell me, o you who I love, Where you feed your flock where you make it rest at noon.” (Song of Solomon 1:7-8) The answer given was to follow the footsteps of the flock and feed the little goats beside the Shepherds tents.
Are the people of your assembly following you to pastures where you yourself are feeding? If they are following, it is necessary that you walk in paths that will be for their good.
Hebrews 13:7-8 reminds us that shepherds are first and foremost leaders by example, “Whose Faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, forever.”
4. Rule the flock
When God had in mind a man to rule His people he chose a lad with a shepherd’s heart. Peter exhorts the elders not to be lords over God’s heritage but examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:3).
The elder is not a dictator wanting everyone to bow to his command. Among the last words of David were, “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” (2 Samuel 23:3-4).
Two things were required by men who ruled in a past day: not to be marked by partiality or to receive bribes. We need men today who will not be swayed to the left or right when dealing with assembly problems. They will seek their guidance from the Word of God and with compassion give clear instruction in each set of situations.
Sometimes we forget these men who carry this responsibility are only human and often need a word of encouragement with lots of prayer. I trust in consideration we will know, pray, honor, obey, love, and esteem them very highly for their work’s sake (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
In closing, every elder should consider their ministry as shepherds given in Ezekiel 34.
- The weak to be strengthened
- The sick to be healed
- The broken to be bound up
- The driven away to be brought back
- The Lost to be sought after