The heart of an under-shepherd…

Church leadership is hard; it involves stress, worries, late nights, deep conversations and frustrations. But at the same time church leadership is a joy; it is a pleasure to serve, care for, guide, point people to Christ and love people like family.

I have just started my third year of ministry at a church leadership level and it has been a joy to serve God and His church in that way. I am 27 years old, but the grey hairs are already showing (that’s why I always have short hair!). Amidst all the struggle and hardships of ministry there are plenty of joys.

The heart of a shepherd should be humble because first and foremost they need to recognise that they are sheep and are being cared for by the Great Shepherd. Our role as leaders in the church is that of under-shepherds. We are hired hands who lead and teach the flocks that God has placed in our care. We are to be extensions of God’s character and care to His people. We are not the answer, we simply have the privilege of leading the church according to God’s Word.

If you are not in church leadership and your reading this, hopefully you will get an insight into how much your pastor and elders care for you. There are times when that care will show itself in them visiting you and mourning with you. Other times it will mean that they warn you about something in your life, not to judge you but because they care for you.

The church leadership have probably spent many nights as they sat awake thinking and praying for you. they have probably spent a lot of time in conversations with others in ministry to try know how to support you and care for you best. The work of an under-shepherd does not end after the Sunday services, it is a 24/7/365 work that never stops.

I do not know everything about ministry, everyday I am reminded of how little I do know! But here are a few thoughts on what the heart of an under-shepherd that I’ve been learning and thinking through recently…

 1. Love people like the Lord does!

Throughout Scripture we see scores of passages that speak of God’s love for His people, scores of pages where He calls them to obedience because that is what’s best for them. As an under-shepherd, we should share that same love for the Lord’s people. Our heart should be heavy when they are hurting, our prayers should be filled with them that they would grow in their love and understanding of the Great Shepherd.

Questions for the church leader…

  • Do you love the Lord’s people like He does?
  • Do you care, think and pray for them as much as Jesus would?
  • Are you constantly learning so that you can best care for people in a way that would honour the Lord?

Questions for the church member…

  • Have you ever thought about how much the leadership of the church loves you?
  • How are you caring for your local church leadership because ministry is tough and they also need care?

 2. Point people to the Great Shepherd!

Under-shepherds should be preachers and teachers, godly men whose desire is to build up the church by equipping them to serve the Lord and teaching them from His Word. Our job is to constantly point people away from ourselves and to point them to the Great Shepherd. Our prayer should be that of John the Baptist “He must increase, but I must decrease” John 3:30.

We are not the answer, we can only point people to and bring them before the Great Shepherd in prayer. He alone has all the answers. We are not to be the focus of a Sunday service, we are not to be the focus of the church and no ministry should be built around us. The church should be focused on God, should be built around His Word and should always do everything for His Glory.

Questions for the church leader…

  • How are you pointing the church and every member to the Great Shepherd?
  • In which areas are you tempted to seek the glory for yourself?
  • Are your preaching and teaching, counselling, mentoring and training God-centred or man-centred?

Questions for the church member…

  • When was the last time you encouraged your leadership by telling them how they have been pointing you to God and equipping you for His service?
  • In which ways do you put the church leadership on a pedestal and how can you focus on God more than man?

 3. Rejoice and mourn with them!

There are times for rejoicing… take them! Know what is going on in members lives, ask about that interview, the job promotion, the holiday and the university grades. Knowing where people are at and how they are doing are not ‘keeping tabs’ strategies, but we know it so that we can rejoice with them!

There are times for mourning… take them! There is no greater thing to do than sit and listen to someone who mourns and to mourn with them. The church should become like family to us, therefore, when they hurt so do we! Do it in person. The temptation is to text or call people, but people feel more looked after when you are present. You don’t need to speak, you don’t need to know the answers but you need to be there.

Questions for the church leader…

  • How can you be present for members this week?
  • How can you be real in your sermon applications on Sunday to convey both a rejoicing and mourning with the church?
  • Who do you have who rejoices and mourns with you?

Questions for the church member…

  • Are you making the leadership of your local church aware of things to rejoice and mourn over?
  • How well do you know what is going on in the life of your church leadership?
  • How can you rejoice and mourn with the church leadership?

2 thoughts on “The heart of an under-shepherd…

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