Week 19 May 6 - 12, 2018

As the most prominent writer of the New Testament, and a catalyst for making disciples in the early church, the Apostle Paul provides us in Acts 20:17-31 with the perfect portrait of what a local church leader is called to be: A shepherd.  

In this famous farewell address to the Ephesian elders, Paul testified boldly about his sacrificial service to the church at Ephesus. He knew his life and mission were nearing their completion, so he spoke with urgency about the most important requirements and obstacles concerning the future growth of the church. And in seeking to model for the elders how they could be faithful leaders to carry on the work of building God’s kingdom, Paul presented a four-fold model for shepherd leadership. He demonstrated that all shepherds must (1) know, (2) lead, (3) feed, and (4) protect the flock God has entrusted to their care.

First, Paul proved how committed he was to know the sheep. He stated in verses 17-18, “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia.” By living among the people of Ephesus, Paul got to know the sheep on a personal and spiritual level. He worked alongside their families and understood their culture, so he could minister to their hearts with the message of the gospel.

Second, through a spirit of humility Paul modeled how to lead the sheep. In verse 19, Paul recalled that while he was in Ephesus he was “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” Paul demonstrated in this passage that a shepherd must have a humble spirit to endure the trials of ministry, but also because sheep will never follow anyone by force. As author Harry Reeder points out in his book The Leadership Dynamic, there is a big difference in leadership between a rancher and a shepherd. According to Reeder, “Ranchers drive herds and shepherds lead flocks. It’s that simple. Ranchers crack the whip and create fear. Shepherds call the sheep by name and set the pace.” Paul led with a shepherd’s humility because he knew that was the only pace the sheep could faithfully follow.

Third, Paul modeled the calling of a shepherd leader to feed the sheep. In verses 20-27, Paul reminded the elders that he had “gone about preaching the kingdom” (v 25) and that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (v 27). He knew that a sheep cannot survive if a sheep does not eat, and the only suitable food that will fully nourish the flock of God is the Word of God. Paul had an unwavering focus to preach and teach the entire breadth of Holy Scripture, and he not only stressed this in his own ministry, but he later charged his apprentice Timothy with the same commitment to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).

The final requirement to be a shepherd leader that was exercised by Paul was the warning to protect the sheep. He highlighted this vital component to shepherding when he instructed the elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock” (v 28) because “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (v 29). He was concerned about the purity of the church, because wolves are false teachers who can come into any congregation and be used by Satan to deceive the people and destroy the flock. Paul warned Timothy of the same danger in 2 Timothy 4:3 when he stated, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”

Through these four mandates to know, lead, feed, and protect God’s sheep, Paul not only revealed a true shepherd’s heart, but he also proved why churches need shepherd leaders. As believers, we are all sheep looking for guidance and direction in our lifelong journey of becoming more like Christ. We are called to willing follow our shepherd leaders along this path of righteousness, because as we follow them they are following Jesus himself as the Good Shepherd of the entire flock. As Paul reminds his sheep in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

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Preparing for a New Pasture

The life of David is a portrait of how God can use all of our experiences of the past to prepare us for the future. In 1 Chronicles 11:2 it says, “In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.’” David had to first train as a vocational shepherd of Jesse’s flock, before he could enter a new pasture as the spiritual shepherd of God’s flock.

Leaning on the Lord's Strength

When David make his transition to the throne of Israel, we immediately see his heart for God through his approach to leadership. In 2 Samuel 5:19, David patiently inquires of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And, after God both promises and delivers victory to King David’s army, he instantly redirects the praise and glory right back to its rightful source. In verse 20 he proclaims, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” David learned that the truest strength of his leadership was to learn to lean on the strength of God.

Why He is Worthy of Worship

Psalm 96 is one of the few psalms that contains no petitions or laments, but only words of heartfelt praise. In these 13 verses, the psalmist declares in numerous ways why God is infinitely worthy of our worship. The Lord is described as a God of salvation, splendor, majesty, strength, beauty, holiness, righteousness, and authority. This is why the psalmist proclaims in verse 8, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name,” because He alone deserves to be the center of our celebration.

Week 20 Readings:  May 13 - May 19

-Day One:  2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13; Psalm 60; Acts 23

-Day Two:  1 Chronicles 14-16; Acts 24

-Day Three:  2 Samuel 7-8; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 132; Acts 25

-Day Four:  2 Samuel 9-10; 1 Chronicles 18-19; Psalm 89; Acts 26

-Day Five:  2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 51, 32, Acts 27


Tips to Keep You on Track

          This week’s list of readings will take us through David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba, and the consequences of his sinful decision on his family and his nation. But make sure to read Psalm 51 immediately after you read 2 Samuel 12. This is because these two passages highlight why David is still a man after God’s own heart. In 2 Samuel 12, David is rebuked by the prophet Nathan for his transgression, but in Psalm 51 David offers true confession and God creates in him a clean heart to continue his calling as King.