Totally Rethinking Church, Part 3: A Refreshing Change for Church Leadership

The caring “pasture” shepherd pastor that is God’s plan for Church leadership is the type of pastor that we all have a deep longing for. God’s design for church leadership is much different than what we find in most conventional “feedlot” style, building based churches today. It requires a total reprogramming of our minds of what Spiritual leadership is and how it is carried out.

In the process of changing the format of worship from a church building to a house church, we have the opportunity to totally rethink what church is and change how the leadership is in the home church to make it how Jesus desires it to be. The home church has the flexibility to follow God’s directions for church leadership and does not have to conform to denominational expectations and requirements for pastors and church leadership that are not found in Scripture. Use this opportunity to make a refreshing change for your home church. By following God’s guidelines it reduces the stress and work load for the pastor and radically increases the spiritual health of everyone involved.

Meditate on the following passages of Scripture. The insights listed are just the beginning of the gold nuggets to be gleaned.

 

Psalms 78:70-72 He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: 71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. 72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

  • People need a leader to lead them where to feed. They need to be guided in studying the Bible, and keeping God’s commands. In the Old Testament, when the people had a Godly leader they served the Lord, but when they did not have a leader, they did what was right in their own eyes and did not serve God (During the time of the judges). When their leader was wicked, the people also were wicked and served idols. We as people need a leader, a shepherd to keep us serving the Lord.
  • Feeding requires leading the congregation to the pasture and guiding them where to eat.
  • A home church needs a pastor to lead the people together in reading and studying God’s Word.
  • “According to the integrity of his heart” – a pastor needs to have the interest of others in mind rather than his own. He needs to have a desire to make each person as spiritually productive, and useful for the Lord as possible. His focus must not be on church growth or on building a bigger church to give the appearance that something is happening in his church.
  • The desires of a pastor’s heart affects how he feeds the people. Does he have an ego problem? Does he have a desire for fame, or wealth? Does he want a large church for himself? Is he concerned about what others might think (a people pleaser)? Or does he have a desire to please the Lord and do whatever God wants him to do regardless of what others think?
  • “guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” – Godly, caring leadership is a skill that is important for a pastor to learn and develop. David learned that skill by caring for sheep and leading them. Pastors today can learn the skill the same way that David did. It is interesting, however, how little is studied about sheep in learning and teaching spiritual leadership. It is unfortunate when a pastor learns spiritual leadership by trial and error with people, instead of with sheep. He makes the mistakes on people rather than on sheep. Mistakes made with people can have eternal consequences of eternity in hell for someone. At a minimum it causes those under his care emotional pain, grief, or regret. Mistakes made with sheep, may result in one or more sheep dying, but the sheep do not spend eternity in hell because of the mistake of the shepherd. When mistakes are made with sheep, the results are more quickly seen because the reproduction cycle and the life cycle are much shorter with sheep than with people. A lamb grows up in one year. A ewe can give birth to a lamb when the ewe is only 12 months old. As a contrast, the consequences of mistakes made with people may take 20 to 50 years to see the results. The mistakes in leadership are not as easily seen by the pastor because there is so much more time and so many different events that pass between the true cause and the end result. It is much easier for a pastor to put the blame for the bad results on someone else, or on some other reason than a mistake he has made. The mistakes are not as easily corrected because so much time can elapse after the mistake is made before the consequences are seen. In many instances the mistakes may never be corrected; the damage has been done.

Ecclesiastes 12:10-11 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

  • There is a lot of controversy in the building based church over whether there should be one pastor or a pastoral team. When we go from a building based church to a home church the work load on a pastor decreases significantly, and his responsibilities change.
  • Sheep need one shepherd, not many shepherds giving them different instructions. Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
    • Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.
    • Ezekiel 37:24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
    • John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
  • God chose Moses to lead the Children of Israel. Moses wanted someone else to help him. The result of Aaron’s “help” was much grief to Moses – the golden calf, complaining about his leadership, etc.
  • When God chose a Judge to bring the people back to Him during the time of the judges in the Old Testament, He chose one person to do the job. God did not chose several people to work together, a committee, or group of people to be the leaders, the shepherds.
  • It is important that a pastor chooses the right words to convey God’s thoughts and commands. The wrong choice of words can result in something totally different being communicated than what was intended, or than what God said. The words must be truth.
  • ” ‘Goads,’ because they rouse the hearer and impel him to right actions; “nails” (perhaps tent-spikes), because they remain fixed in the memory.” Barnes’ Notes
  • ” ‘Goads’ or ‘pricks’, sharp pointed sticks or staves, with which men push and prick their cattle, when driving them from place to place, or plowing with them: and of a similar use are the doctrines of the word, when attended with a divine efficacy; these are a means of pricking sinners to the heart; and of laying open their vileness and sinfulness to them; and of repentance and contrition; and of awakening them from a sleep in sin to a sense of their danger… These are also of use to the saints, as goads, to stir them up, when slothful, to the discharge of duty; and to awaken them, when drowsy, out of their carnal security; and to correct them for their faults, by sharp reproofs and rebukes; as well as to excite them to go on to perfection, who are apt to sit still and lie down; and to direct them to walk straight on, without turning to the right hand or left” John Gill’s Commentary
  • “Nails fastened” – A wise pastor needs to fasten God’s Word and God’s commands in the hearts of his flock. They need to remember them and not forget them. This instruction to not forget God’s commands is given over and over in Scripture.

Song of Solomon 1:7-8 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? 8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

  • “where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon” – Sheep typically lay down during the hot part of the day and chew their cud. They eat in the early morning and again in the late afternoon and evening.
  • A pastor needs to make sure that his sheep rest and have time to chew their cud. It is important that a shepherd does not keep moving the sheep from one spot to the next all day long. In the same way, when people are kept busy with church services, committee meetings, church events, and other church activities, they don’t have time to digest what they have been fed. Eating without time to digest what was eaten does not help people grow spiritually.
  • Unfortunately the typical church building based church tends to keep its people busy attending meetings and activities. The people do not have as much time for rest like it mentions in this passage.
  • A home church by its very design can be organized to require much less time from each of those attending so that they have the time that they need to spend in the Word.

Isaiah 40:11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

  • A shepherd leads the sheep to the place for them to feed in the pasture. He chooses where they will feed and then the sheep harvest the feed for themselves. The sheep do not choose where they will feed, what pasture or paddock they will feed in, or how long they will feed there. That is the decision of the shepherd. In the same way in the church, the pastor leads the people in what to feed on that week, so that they are all feeding together. The benefit is that one person is not focusing on one doctrine, and another on another doctrine. Everyone is at the same place. The pastor needs to lead the people into different areas of the Bible to feed so that they do not become out of focus on one doctrine and truth out of context becomes error and kills them spiritually.
  • Children need to be important to a pastor. They are the future of his flock.
  • A pastor needs to care for the children, and make sure that their spiritual needs are being met. At first glance, this passage might seem to indicate support for Christian schools, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and other educational programs for children in the church. But this is not the case. God makes it clear over and over in Scripture, that is primarily the parents’ responsibility to train their children in the ways of the Lord not the church. It is the pastor shepherd’s responsibility to make sure that no parent leaves their children behind spiritually. He may need to help out from time to time to “carry” the little ones who were neglected or who are weak. But that should be a temporary thing, not the norm. A shepherd does not carry all the lambs every time they move from one place to another. The shepherd does not feed the lambs milk unless it is an orphan or the mother does not have enough milk for it. In the same way the pastor, or the church, should not feed all the children every Sunday in Sunday School. Teaching the children spiritual things is primarily the job of the parents not the church. The shepherd pastor needs to oversee to make sure that each child is being spiritually fed by his parents until the child is old enough to feed himself and no longer needs his parents’ “milk”.

Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

  • The people had “shepherds” – the scribes and Pharisees. These men gave the people much spiritual instruction and guidance. However it was not correct guidance. The Scribes and Pharisees led the people away from God and strongly encouraged them to reject Jesus. They thought that they were giving correct spiritual understanding and the people also thought that the Pharisees were correct. They were “Godly” men, or so everyone thought, who were very educated, religious and devout. In looking at the mistakes that they made, we must be very careful that we don’t follow the same type of false shepherds. The false shepherds today could be either conservative like the Scribes and Pharisees, or liberal and progressive in their theology. Seminary education is often a significant hindrance to a pastor being able to hear God speak and give him direction for the church.
  • Jesus saw their real situation. They were as sheep without a shepherd. They did not know what was truth, and did not understand God’s way.
  • The church in America today is much in the same situation as the people in Jesus’ day, the people today are as sheep without a shepherd. Many are is doing what is right in their own eyes and are not keeping Christ’s commands.
  • The solution is to teach the people the truth.

John 10:1-16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

  • A pastor shepherd knows his sheep by name. v.3 Preachers with large church “feed lots” do not know many of the names of their sheep, they may not even recognize many of their faces. They can not call their sheep by name.
  • The analogy here is that one enters into Christ’s Kingdom through Him and Jesus only. Any one who tries to enter heaven any other way is a thief and a robber. Therefore the Scribes and Pharisees were thieves and robbers. Any pastor, church or denomination that adds to or subtracts from the true Gospel message are thieves and robbers. The Mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, Muslims, etc would also fall into this category.
  • Any one who puts the focus of how to be saved on something other than Jesus or something in addition to Jesus is a thief and a robber.
  • A pastor who enters the fold through education, through seminary training or Bible school training and not through Jesus Christ is a thief and a robber.
  • A pastor can be made a pastor through legitimate channels, by being chosen by the church and approved by the denomination’s leadership (ex. The Pharisees). But if Jesus has not opened the door for him and given him the job as shepherd, he is a thief and a robber. Therefore it is very, very important that we know that God has truly called a man to be the pastor shepherd.
  • In order for a pastor to truly shepherd his flock, the flock needs to be small enough that he knows them by name. Jesus told the parable of the man with 100 sheep.
  • When sheep have a shepherd that they know, trust, and follow, and he cares for their needs and feeds them, then they have no desire to follow someone else. Instead they will flee from a stranger v.5. Therefore one of the best protections against false teachers that a pastor can make for his congregation is to properly lead and care for them. When a person’s pastor does not really know them personally, or they are following the leadership of a TV or radio preacher or some other popular figure, that person is more susceptible to being deceived by a false teacher. Unfortunately there have been many TV and radio preachers who have “stolen” people’s money by preying on the people they were posing to serve and feed. We need to beware of a preacher that asks for our donations. His intention may be to take our money for his own interests.
  • The shepherd pastor needs to lead his people. They cannot follow if he does not lead them and show them where to feed. A pastor that views his main job description as preparing and delivering sermons most likely is not leading his people, especially if God is not giving him the messages and insights to share with the people.
  • It is important to evaluate a pastor from the perspective of where he is getting his direction from. Is he hearing God’s voice? Is he seeking God’s direction for every aspect of life? There are many who think that they know how to hear God speak but they really don’t. If they don’t know how to hear God speak, they will not know how Jesus is leading them. Therefore, if we follow them we are not following Christ.
  • A pastor needs to help his people have life and have it more abundantly. v.10 While every pastor needs to give that impression if he is going to have anyone in his church, we need to evaluate the results in the lives of those persons who have been part of the church for a number of years. Do the young people serve the Lord with all their heart and keep His commands? Have people matured spiritually, or are they at about the same place spiritually as they were 5 or 10 years before? Whether a person has grown spiritually is especially important to evaluate in older Christians. No living person has arrived at spiritually maturity. If the older Christians are not growing in their Christian lives, the pastor is not properly leading, feeding, and caring for his sheep. If there are some who are growing in spiritual maturity, find out why. Is it the result of the pastor’s leadership and care or is it the result of some other reason?
  • A pastor must really care for his people. He must have a real interest in each person, and their success in life; particularly their spiritual success and steadfastness to the end.
  • A pastor must be willing to give his life for the spiritual success of the people in his congregation.
  • When controversy arises, a hireling will flee from the problem and allow sin to take over the congregation. He is afraid that he will offend someone or make someone mad. That is at least part of the analogy of the wolf coming and scattering the sheep in v.12.
  • An hireling is a pastor that is paid to be the pastor. A pastor that works for a wage.
  • Hireling – “a wage worker (good or bad): – hired servant, hireling.” Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • A pastor that works for a wage and leaves when trouble comes, does not truly care for the people of his congregation. v.13.
  • It is amazing how many pastors work for a wage. They are hirelings. They are hired by the congregation to preach – to feed the people. It is also amazing how many of those hired pastors do not stay very many years at one church. The sheep tend to be in control because they have hired the shepherd. The pastor is hesitant to say anything that would upset anyone because he does not want to lose his job. The people do not have a true shepherd to lead them and care for them. The shepherd is an outsider that is hired in to feed the sheep but who does not have a real bonding with the people in the congregation. God has instructed that the church is to provide financial support for the pastor, but hiring the pastor is the wrong way to provide support. The example we see in scripture is gifts given to Paul for his support.

John 21:15-17 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

  • One of the ways that a pastor shows Jesus that he loves Him is if he properly feeds the lambs and sheep.
  • Feed v.15,17 – “to pasture; by extension to fodder; reflexively to graze: – feed, keep.” Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • Feed v.16 – “to tend as a shepherd (or figuratively supervisor): – feed (cattle), rule.” Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • This is one of those passages that we make the assumption that we know how a pastor is to feed the sheep – he prepares and delivers a sermon at the sheep. The people listen and are filled or so they are supposed to be. But when we understand what it means for sheep to graze pasture, the concept of a pastor feeding the flock takes on a totally different understanding. The people actually feed themselves spiritually. The pastor guides the people to the place to feed and keeps them together.
  • The pastor is to feed the children also. This points out the importance of the spiritual training of the children in the church. Again the assumption that has been made about feeding children spiritually is that the feeding should be done with Sunday school. However, it is interesting that the pastor almost never teaches the children in Sunday school. Sunday school is a modern concept based on the world’s method of education, not on a directive in the Bible.

Acts 20:28-35 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive

  • Feed – G4165; to tend as a shepherd (or figuratively supervisor): – feed (cattle), rule. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • The church is described as a flock. The analogy is to a flock of sheep.
  • The pastor is an overseer in the sense as a caring shepherd who leads the sheep to pasture to feed. Not as an overseer in the sense as being a king, boss, dictator, or authoritarian leader.
  • There have always been, from the beginning of the church, wolves, who come into the church destroy, and cause divisions. We need to beware of wolves who come in sheep’s clothing, who appear to be Christians but who are there for their own gain or desires, who cause contention, and disputes.
  • We need to also watch out for pastors who change over a period of time and start believing and teaching a false doctrine. Just because a man is a pastor does not mean he believes and preaches the truth. Neither can we assume that a man who was solid spiritually in the past is still at the same place spiritually. He may have become deceived on some point and is leading others astray. v. 30

1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

  • Feed – G4165; to tend as a shepherd (or figuratively supervisor): – feed (cattle), rule. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
  • A pastor shepherd is to take the oversight of the flock, not because he has to but because he wants to. He must not do it for money but willingly because he wants to.
  • A pastor is not to be a lord over the congregation or be treated like a lord. Most feedlot style churches subconsciously or otherwise treat the pastor like a lord by giving the pastor special privileges – a special seat in the front of the church (a place of honor), an elevated pulpit with everyone facing him making him the center of attention and importance. Sometimes a pastor or bishop assumes an authoritarian leadership style and control.
  • The pastor shepherd is to be an example to the church and lead by example. The pastor needs to do whatever it is he is being an example in first, so that the people can follow. That is leading and following. If the pastor gives the instruction of what to do and the people carry out the instruction, that is not leading by example, it is lordship. The way a shepherd leads his sheep is totally different than the way a business owner relates to his employees. The two leadership styles are totally different. In the church, especially a larger church, the pastor tends to provide direction more as an administrator or lord, then by leading and doing. But that is not God’s design for church leadership. This is an important concept to understand because it means the difference between spiritual life and death for many people. If the pastor is not leading by example and going before the flock, the people are not actually following the pastor. They do not have a true spiritual leader/shepherd.

Conclusion

God desires that your house church has a refreshing change in your church leadership style from the building based church leadership style; a change in spiritual leadership that is modeled after God’s design, where the pastor leads his people to feed on God’s Word for themselves and to receive for themselves the fresh Spiritual food that makes them strong and spiritually mature. This does not replace the need for preaching. Preaching is also a very important part of the church. But preaching only has value if the Holy Spirit gives the pastor insights and direction to give to the others in the church. A message that comes mainly from the mind of the pastor is no different than dry, poorly made hay.

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