A few days ago, I began a series on “What Should a Pastor Look Like?” I have already written two of the six parts, using the acronym for the word ‘pastor’ as a guide:
- Preaching and Teaching
- Apologetics, Engaged in
- Shepherd of the Flock
- Training and Equipping Leaders
- Reverent in Worship
In this case, we look at how a pastor is a shepherd.
Back in May of 2010, I went to Hodgenville, Kentucky, to the birthplace of Jefferson Davis. He had an interesting life. Born in Kentucky, he graduated from West Point in 1828, was married to Zachary Taylor’s daughter, became a senator from Mississippi as well as President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War. But he’s most known for being a reluctant president of the Confederate States of America during her short life from 1861-1865. He struggled with the various ventures in his life and died in 1889 at the age of 81.
On Memorial Day weekend, we remember and honor the many men who gave their lives for their country. Not all have agreed (as we certainly saw in the Civil War). But as I was at Jefferson Davis’ birthplace, I truly wondered, “How incredible are those made in the image of God who feel so strongly to give their lives for a cause!”
As Christians, God has called all of us to lay down our lives for a cause. This cause is not political in nature (although politicians hijack various areas of Scripture, and thus we as Kingdom people must address those issues), not is it exclusively denominational in nature (although God may use those structures to do so). It is both spiritual and physical in nature. It is spiritual in that we are being led by the great Author of the cause of Christianity, and we use our physical Temples to accomplish those spiritual means as God leads.
Over the past few weeks, it has become more and more clear to me that I cannot pastor this church any longer. Matthew Perry cannot be the point person of this church. Now, before you get too shocked, please understand that I am not resigning.
No, what I mean is that Jesus is and must be the pastor/shepherd of this church. Have you ever wondered what it would really look like if Jesus was truly the heartbeat of this church? Would it look any different?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus utters a five-word phrase that is absolutely stunning. He said, “I will build my church.” Over the years, I’ve heard statements such as “This church doesn’t feel like ours anymore with all these changes.” If it’s any consolation, this church never belonged to you or to any of us. Boone’s Creek Baptist Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, and He must be the one to lead and shepherd this church.
What does this mean?
1. Jesus will personally build His church.
Jesus says, “I will build my church.” Jesus here is involved, personally tending to a church which is known by many things: his body, his building, his bride, among other descriptions. In other words, Jesus is working from the top down.
Violinists play all sorts of models of violins, but playing a rare and priceless Stradivarius is a rare and priceless act. Those who know how to play can tell the difference between a fake and the real thing. Same with Ferraris and Corvettes. In fact, some of you have Bibles where some are Genuine Leather, others are Bonded Leather—they are both leather, but you can tell the difference between the true product and the imitation.
One should be able to tell the difference between a church built by Christ and one built by man. Just as man cannot live by bread alone, so too cannot church live on man-made business principles or programs alone. We live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Jesus personally builds His church by His Word and for His glory.
Our natural inclination is to view the church with our own eyes, and then assume that our view is God’s view. But consider the word ‘church.’ The word used for ‘church’ is the word ‘ekklesia,’ which means, “called out ones.” Jesus is the one who calls out those from darkness into His marvelous light. Yes, we plant the seeds, but God causes the growth (1 Cor 3:8). The church is made up of those that Christ personally called out from the kingdom of this world and into the kingdom of God.
Now one may say, “Wait a minute! I chose to come to this church and join as a full member.” John 6:44 says, “No one comes to Me unless the Father who sent me draws Him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” God is calling and drawing and saving His people from their sins and sending them on the road to sanctification.
Why do we need to know this? Because we need to be relieved of the pressure, the burden, and yes, even the pride of saying, “Look what we built!” In Revelation 1, we see Jesus walking in the midst of the seven messengers (likely the pastors of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation), showing the Apostle John that regardless of how the circumstances look inside and outside the church, Jesus is still moving through His church.
2. Jesus will certainly build His church.
Jesus says, “I will build my church.” Have you ever had your doubts about this part? Have you really ever had your doubts that Jesus would build His church? North America is the only continent where the church is dying. We hear statistics about baptisms being down convention wide and we wonder, “Did Jesus get this wrong?”
No, he most certainly did not. He builds his church in various ways. This is actually found in our mission statement: “Spreading the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations.” The glory, the splendor, the majesty, the weight (which is what ‘glory’ actually means) is to go out in the person of Christ, who is the glory of God (John 1:18). That glory, that weight, that splendor resides in us through His Spirit. And that glory in His church goes forward from our neighbors to the nations!
Yet we move on by saying we do this by strengthening the people of God. I grow so encouraged by hearing of people who hear the Word of God in this place and they are nourished, encouraged, challenged, and strengthened. That is what we aim to do is strengthen the people of God. Other Christians are strengthened by visits, phone calls, and cards that are sent out. They do this because they have been strengthened themselves by God’s Word and God’s people! God is continually moving and working in His church.
Now you may say, “Wow, I sure don’t feel as if anything is growing in me. I love the Lord and I want to grow.” I hear recently about a gravesite in England that had something very interesting happen to it. This particular gravestone had a rather large tree right in the middle of that stone, which had caused that stone to split. How did this happen?
About 600 years earlier, that 1,000 slab of concrete or marble was planted into the ground. But right underneath that slab was a tiny acorn. Now consider, which seemed to be more intimidating, the 1000 lb slab or the acorn? At first, the acorn. But that acorn turned into a shoot, and that shoot turned into a tree, and that tree grew to such an extent that that 1,000 lb gravestone was no match.
Christ strengthens his church, but its gradual. And we have to patiently trust that He is working in our hearts and remain faithful to His faithfulness! Right now, you may wonder: will God grow His church? If we remain faithful to the faithfulness He has demonstrated through His Word. We keep the cross of Christ always before us as a reminder of His faithfulness.
1. Jesus will carefully build His church.
He will build His church. In other words, He has a plan. He builds the totality of the church, as well as the parts of the church (you and me) so we can be a witness to those who are around us. He strengthens us to share His gospel to His creation.
How does Jesus carefully build the church? By giving us the “keys to the kingdom.” What does this mean? The keys to the Kingdom is the gospel, the good news that through the reconciling, atoning work of Jesus, we go from aliens to His Kingdom to being adopted into His Kingdom! The gospel of being redeemed from our sins and declared righteous before a holy God through the blood of Christ unlocks the door for entry into the Kingdom of God.
Through the Word of God that we read and heed, we begin rebuke, exhort, challenge, and even discipline the children of God (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Jesus gave us the instructions to build His church—and He expects us through the Holy Spirit to take great care in building His church.
He builds his church with such care that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. The strength and endurance by which Jesus built His church shows how he is the Great Shepherd of this flock. As Peter says:
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Christ shepherds His church! Pastors serve as the undershepherds tending the flock of Jesus until He returns. Yet even during this time, Christ is shepherding His church through the Word and the Spirit as proclaimed by God-called shepherds who pastor our local church faithfully!