Acts 20:28: Paul, the leader’s charge.
“28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.NIV
What did Paul have to say to fellow-leaders in a local church? Verse 28, in a few words, gives a timeless statement for local church ‘’shepherds’’ in every generation. Essentially, Paul says this:
Watch over yourselves: The idea of ‘watching over’ pertains to shepherding. In order to be a good leader in the church the first person you have to be able to shepherd is you! The person you see looking back at you from the mirror may be the most difficult individual you will ever have to lead; but self-leadership is so important. In local church leadership you may not necessarily have someone looking over your shoulder all the time. So, do you get yourself out of bed in a timely fashion? Do you put in the hours when no-one (but God) is looking? Can you discipline yourself to do what you don’t temperamentally want to do? Will you keep going through hardship, discouragement, lack of obvious success? Do you have good habits of prayer and Bible Study etc? ‘’Watch your life and doctrine closely’’ (1 Timothy 4:16a).
Watch over the church: Sometimes, when Jilly and I are visiting our cottage in Coverdale, we find there are sheep in the field behind the garden. Each morning, the shepherd comes about the same time to feed them. You can almost sense the anticipation (and even restlessness) in the animals as it comes close to feeding time. When they hear the sound of his quad bike they move towards the opening where he will appear. He then spreads around copious amounts of food, and their heads are down, chewing, for a long time afterwards. Feeding the flock lies at the heart of pastoral work. There may well be other aspects to shepherding, but this is one I feel I must emphasise. It lies at the heart of what we’re called to do. If the sheep become thin and weak through our neglect of their ‘feeding time’ we have failed ‘’the flock’’ and ‘the Chief Shepherd’ (1 Peter 5:4). I will never forget Geoff Bennet, Bible teacher and one time deputy chairman of ‘Good News Broadcasting’, saying to me, ‘I believe many Christians go home from church hungry on a Sunday. I regularly still hear him saying these words, and they continue to prod me. I want to be like that shepherd up in Carlton – faithfully turning up, in all ‘weathers’, with a great big bag of food!
Watch over the church, says Paul,
- Remembering who called you: ‘’the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’’ (28). Paul himself knew his accountability to the same Spirit who called him (22a). He was not his own. No church leader is;
- Remembering whose church it is. It belongs to God – not you, or I. This thought should challenge us, but also encourage. We can feel overly burdened by the responsibility. Ultimately, it’s His church. Remember that. You don’t have to carry it as a weight, as if it were yours;
- Remembering the price paid for your congregation. God Himself – in Jesus – shed ‘’his own blood’’ to purchase the church. (By the way, what a staggering statement about the divinity of Jesus this is);
- Remembering that the church is always in danger (29-31). There are false shepherds carrying big bags of what may seem like even more tasty food, but it is laced with poison. How we need good shepherds.
PRAYER: Lord, bless our church leaders. Thank you for them and their willingness to serve. Help them to grow more and more like Jesus, the Good Shepherd