By Pastor Josh Bundy
1 Peter 5:2–4 (NLT)
2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. 3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
Every Christian is encouraged to grow in the spiritual gifts. When some people today say that spiritual gifts have ceased, they are wrong. This is like saying that nutrition has ceased. No one, having become a Christian and having spiritual food, ceases to eat natural food and care for the body. Neither should they despise the Spirit’s nutrition that sustains the individual believer and the corporate body of Christ. The Holy Spirit has not ceased; he gives gifts to whomever he chooses, whenever he chooses. Paul wrote that the greatest of these spiritual gifts are faith, hope, and love; love is the pinnacle of spiritual gifts, and it is made available to every Christian, in every age, for all eternity. (1 Cor. 13)
Other gifts will and do cease. (1 Cor. 13:8) Prophecies, tongues, and many other gifts are temporary and dispensed as the Spirit decides. They are not for every Christian. They won’t be needed in eternity. There is great debate in the Christian family worldwide about whether they are for our time and place. Caution is needed here and solving these questions is not the aim of this short blog. [Working on a Pneumatology – a formal set of beliefs about the Holy Spirit, his work, and his gifts – is an important pursuit for every believer. This should be done in community, with leaders such as elders and pastors, and great writings from the church’s history, much prayer, and most of all the scriptures, carefully and completely considered.]
I guess it goes to show how contentious this topic has been in Christian history that I feel the need to devote two paragraphs in a very short blog to setting the stage for a single point, and I have not yet even come to that point! Christians on many sides of this conversation need to put their heads and hearts together to recognize that there are plenty of gifts that are available in every age for every Christian and that we should be seekers of these gifts. The gift I want to look at briefly is shepherding. Covenant Church needs believers growing in the gift of shepherding.
God wants to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13), he gives wisdom to those who ask him (James 1:5), as noted above God wants every Christian to grow in faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13), and Jesus himself gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastor-teachers (Eph. 4:11). The prophets foresaw this: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
Peter, Jesus’ friend and confidant, who denied his relationship with Jesus during Jesus’ trial and execution, was later restored to his place, and confirmed in his calling when Jesus told him: “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19) This same Peter, aged and scarred, his soul broken in by the Spirit like good leather, wrote to Christians suffering and scattered across the Roman empire: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” (1 Peter 5:2) When Peter wrote this, he wrote it to the “older ones,” translated as elders in 1 Peter 5:1. But the expectation is that the “younger ones” in verse 5 will one day be “older ones.” They must grow in shepherding. Not only for this reason but because all Christians are like “sheep… gone astray… now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)
Every Christian is a sheep, tended by the Shepherd Jesus, and every Christian is to shepherd. We do this because we are following Jesus, imitating him, and becoming conformed to his image. This might be shepherding in a formal sense – serving as an ordained pastor or elder in a church. It might be in a less formal, but no less important sense.
- A young adult leads a middle school small group – she is shepherding
- A young mom prays with her toddler to the Lord – she is shepherding
- A father converses with his daughter en route to school drop off – he is shepherding
- A café leader asks her crew about their relationship with the Lord – she is shepherding
- A janitor prays with his team – he is shepherding
In fact, wise churches look for people who have grown in the gift of shepherding when they were not given formal authority to select for formal and ordained leadership. True shepherds don’t do it for the money, for the power, or begrudgingly, but because they are willing, want to please the Lord, and care about the people God has put within their range of influence.
Covenant is experiencing an important seam in its history as a church. Our staff and elders are smaller than they were a few years ago. Some members and volunteers have left. Many others have stayed. We are hopeful and expectant that God will soon show us who our next Lead Pastor is to be. Let’s be committed together to keep growing as shepherds – every one of us caring for those God has put next to us. Let us become a church with so many spiritually maturing shepherds that selecting a few for ordination is way easier, but also harder to narrow down, than ever before. Let’s follow the Lord Jesus in this important gift so that the next Lead Pastor finds his job to be a delight, in leading a church that is already growing in health and spiritual vitality.