Friday, May 6, 2011

Biblical Church Government, Part 3: The Responsibility Of The Sheep

We have looked at "Who Are The Shepherds?" in part 1, and "What Is The Role Of The Shepherds?" in part 2. Now we turn our eyes to the sheep. Paul has charged the elders of the church in Acts 20. And such a high and solemn charge implies some things for the people of the church.

Paul's holy charge calls the elders to "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (v28, ESV). Paul went on to tell the elders to "Be alert" because of wolves, who would attack the church from without and from within. These men will watch over the souls of Christ's sheep, and will give an account to God for their oversight.

In light of this charge, here are 3 brief implications for the sheep:

1. Commit to a local church. Paul's charge is given to elders of a local church (the church at Ephesus). They cannot oversee the universal church, but only "the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers"! They are able only to care for the souls of those they KNOW, who are committed to their local church. This implies church membership. It is impossible for elders to obey this command unless a local church recognizes who is a committed part of that local church fellowship and who is not.

Yes, all believers are part of "the church" universal. But elders are strictly charged to watch over the sheep in their local church. So stop hopping from church to church and commit yourself to a local church! Live the Bible with other believers that you can KNOW and forgive when they hurt you, and encourage and edify, all under the oversight of shepherds who can feed you and hold you accountable to God's word.

Commitment means, at the minimum, showing up! Your shepherd cannot feed you if you don't show up to the table at feeding time. And yes, it is the duty of a mature believer to feed himself by daily reading and studying God's word. But God has given elders a special call to feed the sheep. When the flock is gathering to eat, make sure you are there!

2. Submit to the leaders God has set up in your local church. If God has called them to lead, then it follows by implication that he also calls the church to follow. (This also implies local church membership, because you can’t submit to all the elders in all the churches!)

• Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17

• We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

3. Pray for your elders. With such a solemn charge the elders have received – caring for God’s church, purchased with his blood, watching over the souls of the church, as men who will give an account – does this not showcase their need for great prayer from the church? Imperfect men have been entrusted with the oversight of Christ's sheep! Your local church pastors, elders and overseers need your daily prayers! It is your duty as a believer to cry out to God on behalf of your leaders. Pray that God would give them integrity, boldness, love and compassion, wisdom, vision, encouragement and strength. Pray for your pastors' family members, their marriages, and their needs to be met. Pray that they would fear God and not man, holding unswervingly to the gospel without all the little distractions.

Let us give thanks to God that he has entrusted the leadership of his church to shepherds. This is a gift from God to his people (Ephesians 4:11-12). God knows that you need to persevere in the faith to the end, and that you need direction, leading and feeding. So he gave you local church elders as a means of helping you and blessing you toward that end. Take some time today to praise God for this!

And why not send an encouraging word to your pastors and elders today?

No comments: