Best for Everyone

My boys don’t understand my motives all of the time. As someone who has lived longer, I can also observe situations that will escalate and end in injury or property damage. As an adult in our relationship, I can better perceive a situation’s cause and effect and keep the perils of life away from them. And so, as I watch my boys run around my house with three-foot wooden dowels, swinging them chaotically, I know that this is a recipe for disaster. However, to my sons, I am only ruining their fun and being a “meanie” when, in reality, I am protecting them from the dangers they are not aware of yet. As I observe humanity, I am aware of the duality of our condition- on the one hand, we want parameters to live by, but we also don’t like for anyone to interrupt our “status quo.”
Churches of Christ are an anomaly. There are a variety of things we do that are contrary to other Christian group practices. One of those differences, and one I am convinced that we adhere to and excel at, is church structure.
Some groups have one senior leader who calls the shots and “runs” the church. They function like a CEO and rule the roost, controlling the direction of the gathering. Other groups elect a board of directors to govern the church. These individuals rotate and share the load regarding the “business” of the assembly. Still, others gain direction and directives from a regional or corporate office; they set a standard and manage the group’s affairs from afar. If all of this seems cold and objective, that’s because it is- when groups operate like this, they become more of a business and less of a family. Our desire should be to keep the Bride of Christ from turning into a business.
There must be a better way, and there is an ideal model we follow that is influenced and supported by scripture. As a body of “sheep,” we are appropriately described as a flock; therefore, we need shepherds to tend to our needs. Paul, departing from Miletus and bypassing Ephesus, meets with their leaders and gives this exhortation.
Acts 20:17, 28 – “From Miletus he sent word to Ephesus and called to himself the elders of the church. … 28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
This pivotal passage contains the understanding of God’s view of church leadership. Elders, overseers, bishops, shepherds- all these terms refer to the same group of individuals. Paul charges these individuals with meeting the needs of the body of believers that the Holy Spirit directed under their care. It is a lofty goal and a heavy responsibility.
From this concept, there became a bridge between Greek and Latin, as Latin became the predominant language of religious activities for 1200 years. The Latin word for a herdsman- “pascere” from the root word to feed — became anglicized to our term “pastor .” A pastor is, therefore, one who looks after the flock. Based on these definitions, three individuals in our body are unsung heroes in my book. Three individuals who continually put other’s needs above their own; physically, spiritually, and emotionally- these men definitively tend to the flock.
Most Christians are only concerned about their own spirituality and eternal security. Some might be selfless enough to consider a friend’s or two’s spiritual health as well. However, a shepherd must consider the entire flock’s health, safety, and security. This can mean that when someone needs visitation or prayers- they are there. When someone needs spiritual advice- they are there. When someone needs a shoulder to cry on- they are there. And when a sheep has wandered from the fold and is dangerously close to falling off a cliff- they are there. They look after the health and well-being of everyone entrusted to their care. That means not only the one sheep who wanders away but also the ninety-nine that never left and now must delicately integrate the one who strayed.
Recall the parable of the prodigal son. Which son needed more guidance, the wayward wanderer or the older son that never parted with the Father?

It is a lonely and ostracizing responsibility; someone will always be unhappy with any major decision. And as Paul mentioned in his message to the elders in Ephesus, sometimes the only things you will attract are “savage wolves and false messengers” (Acts 20:29-30). Setting the example for those around them, they must be “above reproach, faithful to the word and able to exhort” (Titus 1:7-9). Finally, for those who are not elders, bishops, overseers, or shepherds, the apostle Peter has these words for us to adhere to.
1 Peter 5:5-8 – “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT HE GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
There is always a serious threat from our greatest adversary looming outside our village. And few people are willing to keep that prowling lion at bay, risking their own “skin” in the ensuing fray. Some sheep know the danger- rebuff the shepherds and wander off in their own direction, confident in their own abilities and highlighting their autonomy. Others will see the wisdom of someone who has lived longer, entrusted with a responsibility by the Holy Spirit, and values the kingdom above their own entitlements; humble themselves and submit to the shepherds. This epitomizes the role of a shepherd: to uphold the values of God’s Kingdom, take care of those around them, and guide the flock to love God completely.
Relating this to my kids, they are still growing, and they will only see my guidance as wisdom once they have made their own mistakes. Until that day, I will do my best to keep them from hurting themselves or others, not because I am a tyrant but because I want to prolong their life and make them successful. Therefore, I will guide them and hope that one day they understand that I only want what is best for everyone.
Thank you, Dan, Mark, and Rod- for your diligence in taking care of the flock at Richland.

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