Both the noun and verb forms of the word carry two main thoughts:
- Leadership: A shepherd is one who leads and provides spiritual oversight to the sheep. He is in a position of responsibility with limited authority (Acts 20:28-31; I Thess 5:12, 13; Heb 13:7, 17; I Pet 5:2, 3;on elders see I Tim 5:17,18).
These Scripture references clearly show God’s standards for church leadership. In Acts 20:28- 31, several key principles emerge for those in pastoral leadership:
a)”Take heed to yourselves” (v.28) means pay close attention. A shepherd must regularly check his heart, his motives, attitudes, behavior and character. He should constantly allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light of God’s convicting truth upon him. This will help to ensure a more Christ-like heart and life.
b) “and to all the flock” (v.28): A church leader must also pay dose attention to the needs and hurts of those in the church. Then he/she will pray more accurately and minister more effectively.
c)“the Holy Spirit has made (v.28): God’s leaders are not self- made, they are appointed and anointed by the Spirit of God. Leaders desperately need the Lord’s help and enabling power; this leaves no room for any pride!
d)“overseers” (v.28): This word is from the same Greek root translated as “overshadow” in Luke 1:35. This conveys that to oversee is to protectively cover the flock in order for spiritual life to be nurtured in them.
e) “the church of God which He purchased” (v.28): The whole Church, and every local body, belongs to God because He bought it with the blood of His Son. Therefore, a local church leader should not act as if that body belongs to him; but rather, as a steward entrusted with the care of a precious possession of his Lord.
By way of contrast to Paul’s exhortation to qualified church leaders, in verses 29-31 he shows the qualities of those false leaders he can “savage wolves”. Three types of leaders to avoid are pointed out:
1) v. 29 – Those that are only interested in themselves and view the flock as something to use to gain personal advantage (see Matthew 7:15).
2) v. 30 – The false shepherds who will speak misleading (“perverse”) things in order to lead people away from Jesus to something else.
3) v. 31 – Those wrongly motivated leaders who will seek for quick results that require little work, time or personal sacrifice. As you read Acts 20:31, you will see that Paul was not this type of leader.
- Service: A shepherd is one who cares for the flock. He feeds, waters, rests, heals and protects his sheep. He gives of himself in humble service to the well-being of the flock -even unto death! (John 10:11-15; John 21:15-17; Rev 7:17).
It is very important to note that these two principles are tied inseparably together. Truly, the Spirit-led pastor is a SERVANT LEADER.
God has NOT called the pastor to be in control of other believers. The pastoral ministry is NOT to take the place of a believer’s personal relationship with God.