Searching For Shepherds

Posted by on January 28, 2007 under Sermons

Read Acts 1:15-26. There was a need in the church. They were only 120 strong, but they were filled with new hope and expectation. However, when Eleven of Jesus’ apostles gathered together to teach and serve the others there was that empty seat reminding them of Judas’ betrayal. It was Peter who broke the tension and named what could have gone unspoken. Quoting Scripture he said, “May another take his place of leadership.”
And God allowed this group of prayerful and trusting leaders to make a choice with his involvement. Notice how they were blessed: Instead of an empty chair or a memory of betrayal, they discovered that there were two men among them capable of leading as apostles. There were two among them who could witness to the works and teaching of Jesus Christ. And they are blessed because through their prayers and their process of casting lots they become God’s instrument to call out leaders for the needs of the church.
Nothing more is specifically said of either one of these men. I don’t know why not, but maybe this should show us that even though Matthias is chosen, Justus is also affirmed. The way Luke describes that time in the church’s life I think it is safe to assume that both of them served as Christ-like leaders in the way the church needed them to do.

Read Acts 6:1-7 – There was a need in the growing church. The church had become more diverse and they were meeting the needs of more people. The Twelve were responsible for the distribution of food, but they were also especially responsible for the ministry of the Word and prayer. Instead of holding all that authority, they shared it. And once again the church, even this diverse church that was made up of different cultures, attitudes, and troubled with a little bit of conflict – even this church became the instrument that God used to call out leaders for the needs of the church. And the church was blessed again: The proposal to add seven new leaders to serve in the distribution of food pleased the whole group. Conflict gave way to agreement in the Holy Spirit. Notice the conclusion of the episode: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” The word of God spread because leadership was shared.

Principles for Searching Out Shepherds:

  • The church is the instrument that God uses to call leaders for the needs of the church. God does not have to use the church, but his spirit works through the community of faith in a graciously cooperative way to meet the needs of the people, not only by providing them leaders but by providing them the opportunity to call out and recognize those leaders. In this way all the church, not just those named leaders, become keenly aware of how God has gifted and equipped the church to participate in life together and in his mission.

  • Leadership is from above and below
    1. Above – Leadership is a gift from God (Ephesians 4:8-11; 1 Timothy 4:14). God is involved in the calling out of leaders. The church is not so arrogant or dull to assume that this is nothing more than an administrative task. They believe that the activity of God and the Spirit of Christ is directing the choice.
    2. Below – The whole body has a sort of “oversight” when it comes to “scoping out” overseers. When the Twelve tell the church to “seek out” seven leaders, the word for “seek out/choose” is taken from the same root word that gives us the word for overseers/bishops. To “scope out” means to concern oneself with something. It means watching out for something. In this case, the church is watching out for those who can “lead for the need.” Leadership responds to the needs of God’s people for guidance and service. The choosing of leaders is not an effort to give some a place of prominence. It is an effort to provide leaders who can serve the needs of the church and steward the church’s mission. Acts 1 and Acts 6 describe the recognition of different types of leaders, and Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 also respond to the selection of different types of leaders. But one thing is common: all of these leaders are not merely filling a slot; they serve a function in the life of the Christian community. They serve the needs of the church so that the church may grow in Christ and go forward in the mission.
  • Leadership in the church is functional, not official
    • Leadership arises from the community’s quite mundane but utterly necessary needs. The function of elders is to teach us how to live. They are models of the Christian life. They are in a way not totally unlike the Apostles, witnesses to the risen Christ.
    • Serving as an elder is not filling an office. It isn’t a seat on a board of directors. The elder has an important function in the life of the church. In Acts 1 and Acts 6, the need for an additional apostle and for seven to share in the work of service is so that the church may continue its Christ-directed mission. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul describes the work of overseeing and a noble work. It is work that is good for the church.
  • Leadership in the body of Christ is shared
    • Church leaders are empowered by the Spirit. Notice that one of the criteria for choosing the seven in Acts 6 is to find men who full of the Holy Spirit. This phrase acknowledges that God’s Spirit is what leads and empowers the church to participate faithfully in the mission of God. Leaders who are not saturated with the Spirit will have their own agenda, or they may worry that the burden of leadership is all on their shoulders. But a leader filled with the Holy Spirit understands that Christ is the Chief Shepherd and the burden of leadership is shared with other leaders in harmony with the spirit of Christ.

How all of these principles shape our current process …

  1. We are confident that the West-Ark congregation is capable of being the instrument that God uses to identify and recognize men of Christ-like character and filled with a godly spirit. As sheep, we recognize our shepherds.
  2. So, the initial phase of this process (Jan 28 to Feb 4) involves every baptized member of this congregation. We want each of you to take a form and write on that form the names of the men whom you regard to be shepherds.
  3. This is neither a popular vote nor a simple nomination for office. If there is a man that many of you regard as a shepherd, that does indicate something that our current elders will certainly consider. What we are actually asking you to do is to name those men whom you consider a shepherd and whom you would recommend to the rest of the congregation as shepherds. Don’t worry whether anyone else names the same men you do. Don’t think you shouldn’t name someone if someone else has already named them. Don’t think you shouldn’t name someone if no one else names them. We ask you to reflect your own convictions after prayer and study.
  4. Since we are convinced that God’s spirit is working through this entire process, we ask you to give this serious consideration. You really need more to go on than just choosing someone because he will be “your man in office” or because you think he’s neat or you want to balance power because you know who your friend is nominating and you think you know how that will effect the church. Those are trivial and faithless approaches to searching out shepherds. We can do better than that. God’s in control and let’s open ourselves to his will.
  5. After February 4th when all the forms are submitted, the current elders will shepherd the nominees. They will approach them and discuss their interest in serving as elders. (Of course that doesn’t prevent you from encouraging the men you want to name, you may do so.) Now, as the current elders work with these men who’ve been named they will be equipped by the “response” you have given them. Remember, the current elders are also God’s instrument in this process. They are working cooperatively with the flock.
  6. So, your first task is to pray, study, and recommend those you recognize as good shepherds. Fill out the form, sign it, and get it into the drop box before Feb. 4. This is our opportunity to be a part of what God is doing to provide leadership for his people. This is how we ought to live our lives and our life together – as though God is always working through us. …

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 January 2007

Like a Shepherd Lead Us
“Searching For Shepherds”
January 28, 2007

Acts 1:15-26

  1. The church discovers t_____   ___________ capable of leading.

  2. The church becomes God’s instrument for c__________   ______ leaders for the n____________ of the church.

Acts 6:1-7

  1. The p___________ to add seven new leaders p_______ the whole church.

  2. The word of God s_________ because leadership was s__________. (v. 7)

Principles for Searching Out Shepherds

  1. God uses the ________ to call out leaders for the needs of the _________.

  2. Leadership comes from a__________ and b___________.

  3. Leadership in the church is f_______________ rather than o___________.

  4. Leadership in the church is s______________.

People-Centered Leaders

Posted by on January 25, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

God loves sinners! Incredible! He always has! He asked Jonah, “Why should I not love the Assyrians?” (Jonah 4:11). Isaiah said Israel was to be a light to the nations [non-Jewish people] (Isaiah 42:5-7). Jesus said there was more rejoicing in heaven over 1 sinner who repented than 99 righteous people who needed no repentance (Luke 15:7). Paul said Christ died for people while they were still sinners (Romans 5:8). God loves sinners!

We live in difficult times that are likely to become more difficult. The times create enormous concerns for us. We are more likely to demand that our leadership be more concerned about our anxieties than God’s priorities-especially when our anxieties clash with God’s priorities.

God’s priorities demand that leadership be concerned with two matters: (a) rescuing those outside of Christ and (b) spiritually preserving those in Christ. Elders should be spiritually mature! Elders should think! Elders should grow!

If elders do that by virtue of study and exposure to people problems, what will happen? If you take the most spiritually mature men in the congregation, and stimulate them to continue to mature, they often “out grow” the majority in a congregation. When a congregation confuses faithfulness to championing anxieties rather than faithfulness to promoting God’ priorities, major problems develop. That is why (a) elders never cease to communicate with a congregation and (b) constantly seek to explain “whys” for their decisions. Never make elders of men you do not trust! Always make men you can confidently follow elders! Just as in good parenting, trust issues are enormous!

It is not easy to let God be the model of concern for people! It is not easy to incorporate and involve the penitent lost in a congregation! If we grow, there will be those whose backgrounds are different, whose values are different, whose problems are “messy,” whose lifestyle is different, whose “spiritual learning curve” is challenging.

Leaders must realize what was successful 50 years ago may be irrelevant now. They must understand the difference between fads and substance. They must search for ways to help us effectively “love the unlovable”-because that is what God does!

The Resurrection of Lazarus

Posted by on January 22, 2007 under Sermons

The gospels provide us very few views of Jesus’ personal life. We are often told of him when is among the multitudes, when he had private discourse with individuals, when he is teaching his disciples, or when he is taking an initiative. Rarely do we see Jesus when he is "just being himself" as he rests from his rigorous work, or successfully escapes from the demands of the multitude, or is left along to his own thoughts.

We see Jesus in many different roles: a teacher to his disciples; a spiritual informer of the ignorant; a hope giver to the disillusioned; a defender of God and the Old Testament scriptures; a man of compassion; a man of opportunity; a patient guide to those who have lost direction. But . . . what of Jesus’ personal friends? What of the relationships that blessed and ministered to him? What of the situations when those who loved him ministered to him?

To me there is no doubt that Jesus maintained deep, personal, loving relationships as a friend to a friend to a number of individuals who loved and respected him. I imagine that in most areas that he ministered frequently there was some home, some family that forever kept the door of friendship and hospitality open to Jesus–a home that offered a refuge from the public eye and public expectations. These were the people who loved to minister to his need rather than expecting him to provide something for them. Such people wanted Jesus to rest, to relax, and to enjoy the fruits of friendship.

That at least one such home was available to Jesus is beyond doubt. The gospel of John identifies the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha as the kind of place. In a most unusual happening recorded in a gospel, the gospel of John provides us a unique insight into Jesus’ relationship with his friends. In narrative form, examine this incident recorded in John 11. Note the impressive lessons we should gain.

  1. The narrative:
    1. Lazarus became sick in his Bethany home.
      1. Lazarus, Mary, and Martha had been close, personal friends of Jesus who always kept their home open to him.
      2. John indicated the closeness Jesus shared with these people by stating this was the same Mary who anointed Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.
        1. While that means little to most of us, it would have meant much then.
        2. This was outrageous, unacceptable behavior. No self-respecting Jewish man would allow that to happen to him!
        3. Yet, Jesus allowed it.
      3. Simply put, they loved Jesus and Jesus loved them in a love of mutual respect.
        1. The impression to me is that their relationship expected and demanded nothing from Jesus.
        2. This home was located about two miles Southeast of Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.
      4. It was conveniently located when Jesus visited Jerusalem.
        1. The last week of Jesus’ life as he presented intensive lessons in Jerusalem’s temple area, he spent each evening outside the city (Mark 11:19).
        2. Matthew in 21:17 states he spent at least some of those evenings in Bethany.
        3. It is possible that he stayed in Lazarus’ home and was strengthened by these friendships in the last days of his life.
      5. When Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha sent word to the Jesus in hiding (they knew where he was) saying simply, "Lord, behold, the one you love is sick."
        1. They did not say, "Jesus, come quickly!"
        2. They did not say, "We helped you; it is time for you to help us!"
        3. They did not say, "Lord, we are counting on you–do not let us down!"
        4. The friendship was so real all they needed to do was to let Jesus know the situation.
        5. Personally, I find that a beautiful tribute to their relationship.
    2. Jesus’ reaction:
      1. Jesus’ reaction is unique in all the gospels.
      2. First, he told the disciples, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4).
        1. In a distressing situation in which a friend he loved was seriously sick, Jesus saw opportunity rather than reacting with concern.
        2. He was fully aware of what was about to happen.
          1. Certainly, God would be glorified.
          2. However, Jesus (according to John’s use of "glorify") was referring to his crucifixion (see John 7:39; 12:16; and 12:23.)
          3. What Jesus would do in raising Lazarus would be "the final straw" or "the straw that broke the camel’s back."
          4. He knew Lazarus’ resurrection would precipitate his death, and he was ready to glorify God through his death.
          5. That is precisely what happened–verse 46 said some of the witnesses went directly to the Pharisees; verses 47, 48 state the counsel said they could not ignore the situation; verses 49, 50 records Cephas’ statement that it was good for one man to die for the nation’s sake; and verse 53 stated they immediately began planning Jesus’ death.
        3. John stated Jesus loved those three people–he was not indifferent to their need!
      3. Jesus delayed his departure for two days.
        1. I doubt that time was easy for Jesus.
        2. He knew Lazarus was suffering.
        3. He knew Mary and Martha were anxious.
        4. He knew all of them were anxiously awaiting his arrival.
        5. He knew their disappointment would increase with each passing hour.
        6. He likely knew some of their friends would come ask, "Where is your friend, Jesus? Why is he not here?"
        7. Knowing those things were happening in the lives of people he loved would not have been easy for Jesus.
    3. Jesus’ return:
      1. Jesus knew when Lazarus was died.
      2. He told his disciples it was time to go back to Judea.
        1. The disciples probably assumed Jesus did not return immediately upon receiving the message about Lazarus’ sickness due to the fact it was too dangerous to go to the Jerusalem vicinity.
        2. They agreed with that assessment–they knew how much the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead.
        3. They had no doubt about what the Jewish leaders would do if they were presented an opportunity.
        4. To them it made no sense to return after his friend was sick for two additional days.
        5. So they tried to discourage him from returning by reminding him of the danger.
        6. Jesus said, "You need to walk while it is daylight."
          1. Most travel then was done in the daylight (they had no forms of artificial lighting).
          2. Jesus likely meant his day was not ended and there was no need to fear.
          3. It also probably meant he had to do this before his day ended.
      3. He then informed the disciples that Lazarus was asleep, and he was going to awaken him.
        1. The disciples were relieved; sleeping was to them a sign of recovery.
        2. Then Jesus informed them that Lazarus was dead.
        3. He then made an unusual statement.
          1. "For your sakes, I am glad I was not there."
          2. "Because I was not there, you will have greater faith."
      4. Still, the disciples are reluctant to return.
        1. Thomas settled the matter.
        2. He thought it was inviting trouble to return.
        3. Yet, in resignation, he said, "Let us go die with him."
    4. Jesus arrived:
      1. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus has been dead for four days.
        1. At that time, in that climate, with no embalming, burial almost always occurred the day of death.
        2. A Jewish funeral was not a time of quiet meditation.
        3. It was a time of public weeping and mourning best described as a time of continual wailing.
        4. To us it would be a time of noise, confusion, and near hysteria.
        5. It typically lasted seven days and involved the community and friends.
          1. Commonly the home was filled with those in sympathy.
          2. Since they were near Jerusalem and evidently well know, sympathizers were still present four days after the death.
          3. Ordinarily, the sounds of mourning could be heard long before one reached the village.
      2. News reached Martha that Jesus was coming, and she immediately left to meet him.
        1. Perhaps she wanted to talk to him privately, which could not happen at the house.
        2. What followed was a beautiful declaration of friendship.
        3. Martha expressed the depth of her anguish which must have caused Jesus anguish: "Had you been here, Lazarus would not have died"–an affirmation of confidence and expression of regret.
          1. Some look at her remark as one of censor, bitterness, and chastisement.
          2. I do not–I think it was and expression of sorrow and disappointment that Lazarus was dead.
          3. It was an expression of confidence: "If you could have been here, this would not have happened."
        4. Her next statement reflects the depth of their friendship: "Even now I know God will do anything you ask."
          1. She clearly had not lost confidence in her friend.
          2. He was no less the Lord because he was not there when she wanted him.
          3. To me, she is not trying to censor Jesus, but to say it was all right even though she was disappointed.
          4. From the next events, it is obvious that she did not expect Jesus to raise Lazarus.
        5. Jesus told her that her brother would rise again.
          1. She was confident he would rise in the last day.
          2. When Jesus said he was the resurrection and the life, she had no doubt that was true.
          3. The resurrection was not merely an event; it also was a power and authority–Jesus declared he was that power and authority.
        6. Martha returned to the house and secretly told Mary that Jesus had come and asked for her.
          1. Mary quickly left and went to Jesus.
          2. Her quick departure caught the mourners’ attention.
          3. It was customary to make frequent trips to the tomb to mourn.
          4. They assumed this is what she did, and they accompanied her.
          5. When Mary saw Jesus, she fell at his feet crying, "If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died."
    5. The resurrection:
      1. The whole scene and situation was too much for Jesus to keep his composure.
        1. Two sisters he loved in deep grief saying our brother would be alive if you had been here.
        2. One wailing before him in genuine sorrow and loss.
        3. Mourners wailing.
        4. John says he groaned in spirit–the words used indicate he was deeply distressed.
        5. John also says he was troubled.
        6. Jesus asked, "Where did you lay him?"
          1. As they went to the place, he cried.
          2. Some said, "How he loved him!"
          3. Others asked, "Could not this healer help this man?"
        7. When they reached the tomb, it (as usual) had a stone covering the opening (to protect the body from animals and grave robbers).
          1. Jesus told them to remove the stone.
          2. Martha tried to discourage him because enough time had passed for the body to begin to decay and release an odor.
          3. Jesus said, "I told you that you would see God’s glory!"
          4. When the stone was removed, Jesus prayed a prayer of gratitude, and asked God to respond to his request for the witnesses’ sake.
        8. With a loud voice, he ordered Lazarus to come out of the cave.
          1. Lazarus came out bound in his grave wrappings.
          2. Jesus told them to cut Lazarus free.
          3. Jesus raised him (did what they could not do); they loosed him (did what they could do).
        9. With that Jesus ended the grief of his friends and set in motion the events that would lead to his own death.
        10. After this event, Jesus avoided those who wished to kill him.
  2. Some brief observations:
    1. The purpose and objective of Jesus was not always clearly discernible even to his closest friends.
      1. His disciples knew him better than anyone, but they saw no purpose in his return.
      2. Mary and Martha loved him dearly, but they did no understand why he took so long to come.
      3. Though his actions were misunderstood by all who believed in him, those actions were still full of purpose and blessing.
      4. We do not have to see the purpose beforehand to enable our Lord to accomplish a good purpose.
      5. All we need to do is not lose faith in him.
    2. We are related to Mary and Martha: they had great faith in what Jesus could have done, but no understanding of what he could do right then in those circumstances.
      1. They had absolute confidence that Jesus could have healed Lazarus if he has come while Lazarus was alive.
      2. They had no confidence that Jesus could do anything after Lazarus died.
      3. Often we make the same mistake.
        1. We say, "If only the Lord had done such and such in the past."
        2. Rarely do we say, "I have every confidence the Lord can use what is happening right now."
        3. Instead we say, "I just cannot see how anything will work out in this mess."
    3. We should take consolation in the fact that we have a compassionate Lord who can weep.
      1. Jesus knew what he could do.
        1. He knew all would be okay regarding Lazarus’ death.
        2. Yet, Jesus could not be indifferent to the sorrow, disappointment, and concern for those he loved.
        3. Our Savior is not aloof, arrogant, unfeeling, unemotional, and untouched when he sees those who believe in him in pain.
      2. Jesus knows, cares, and feels.
      3. It is of enormous comfort to me to know he is touched by the feeling of our infirmities.

Of all things to be remembered in this unusual incident, the foremost is that he is the resurrection and the life. Just as he had the power to raise Lazarus, he will resurrect us. There is one big difference. He raised Lazarus to die physically again. He will raise us to never die again.

Noble Work

Posted by on January 21, 2007 under Sermons

Teaching the Faith
The apostles are the models for church elders, just as Jesus is the model for all church leaders.

  • Promoting healthy belief and thus healthy believers (Titus 1:9; 2:1; 3:8).
  • Guarding the gospel against different doctrine (Acts 20:30; Titus 1:11).
  • Knowing, preaching, and teaching the faith (1 Timothy 3:6; 5:17).
  • Ministry of word and prayer (Acts 6)

Shepherding the Flock

  • Protecting the church from “wolves” (Acts 20:28-31). Among the wolves are those who cause dissension and strife.
  • Ensuring good “nutrition” for the flock (John 21:15-19).
  • Taking care of flock with caring authority (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17).

Consoling the Hurting

  • Consoling with the consolation they have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
  • Praying and “anointing” the sick and sinful (James 5:14-16) –
  • Dealing with each one gently
    • like a nurse caring for the sick
    • like a father with his children (1 Thessalonians 2:7,11).

Encouraging Christian Formation

  • Nurturing Christians as Christ is formed in them (Galatians 4:19).
  • Maturing believers to grow into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:14,15).
  • Leading the believers to go beyond the basic teaching and toward maturity (Hebrews 6:1). Maturity and the fullness of Christ is the goal and purpose for all the gifts of the spirit.

Building Community

  • Building believers into a “household of faith” (1 Corinthians 3:10-18).
  • Facilitating the “one another” ministries:
    • mutually edifying (Romans 14:19);
    • accepting (Romans 15:7);
    • serving (Galatians 5:13);
    • offering hospitality (1 Peter 4:9);
    • encouraging (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14).
  • Enabling us to use gifts for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Equipping Saints for Ministry

  • Equipping Christians for their God-given ministries (Ephesians 4:12).
  • Encouraging each part of the body to be “joined and knit together,” working properly in love (Ephesians 4:16).
  • Calling saints to be good stewards of the gifts each has received (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Facilitating Reconciliation

  • Promoting oneness of mind and purpose in the body through devotion to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-5).
  • Overseeing the practice of Matthew 18.
  • Romans 16:17 (“keep an eye on–and avoid– those who cause dissensions and offenses”).
  • Offering counsel to members in conflict (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).

Restoring the Fallen

  • Gently restoring those who have sinned (Galatians 6:1-5)
  • Affirming love and forgiveness to the penitent (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)
  • Saving some from the fire (Jude 23)
  • Prayers of restoration (James 5:15)

Above adapted from material presented by Dr. Charles Siburt at the ACU Fall Lectureship 2006.

Teach Us How To Live

Posted by on under Sermons

Take a look at a nation that is at its worst:

  • Its people are consumed with wealth and they will use every means legal and illegal to acquire wealth. Call it greed or stealing, it works the same.
  • Relationships have very little meaning. Adultery and infidelity are taken for granted. Homosexuality and casual sex are encouraged. Children are not a blessing, but a financial liability.
  • Substance abuse is widespread and overt; the virtue of self-discipline is in sharp decline.
  • Criminal offenses are not dealt with in the name of justice, but in the name of financial compensation.
  • Honesty is a rare commodity and one’s creativity at bending the truth is applauded.

Crete satellite photoThe People on Crete are Cretans
You may assume that this is our USA, but I assure you that this is civilization on the island of Crete about 2,000 years ago. Despite the fact that there are disturbing parallels, the reputation of Crete in the first century was worse than our greatest concerns for our own nation.

  1. Crete had a reputation of immorality, dishonesty and greed. Ancient writers often spoke of the decline of a once great civilization. By the first century, the island nation of Crete had become known as a degenerate, backwater cesspool of warped virtues. What was once the inspiration for Utopia and Atlantis, had become the scorn of the rest of the world.
    • Cretan courts were not interested in justice, but in financial compensation. For instance, a crime as serious as rape did not incur punishment, but a fine. On Crete, mothers could choose to leave their children to die, but only if the father did not want the child. And when a mother killed an infant without the father’s consent, she was charged a hefty fine.
    • In an attempt to control the population, Crete sanctioned sexual relationships between adult men and boys. It was so common that it was considered unusual for a man not to have a youth as a lover.
    • Crete had broken down politically so that by the first century it had become a collection of city-states that were often in conflict. Piracy was the major industry of the island.
    • Examples of dishonesty and greed …
  2. Imagine having the task to bring the gospel to such a land. Imagine how you would begin to teach and encourage the believers who had to live in such an anti-culture. As if all of that weren’t enough of a problem, there were also troublemakers in the church that were causing divisions.
    • From Paul’s letter we get some sense of the problem. There was a group of troublemakers who saw an opportunity to take advantage of the church. “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach-and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” (1:10-11)
    • Titus found himself engaged in controversies and quarrels with these troublemakers. He may have been trying to argue with them about Jewish mythology, the finer points of tradition, and other disputable matters. It makes for good debate, but it doesn’t really help anyone to live better lives. Rather, its tearing up the family of God on Crete.
  3. So Paul is writing to suggest that Titus spend his time doing something different. Paul left Titus on Crete to straighten out what was unfinished. That included empowering positive leadership. And we get the sense from all of Paul’s letter that he thinks it would be better for Titus to build up the positive leadership rather than try to hopelessly bring down the negative leaders (because they just keep coming back like termites).

Titus’ Unfinished Business
Paul may have worked with the church in Crete, may have even helped establish it there, when he was there before his shipwreck in Malta. Acts 27 mentions how Paul was a prisoner being taken to Rome for trial. It makes sense that Paul, as a prisoner, would have limited time to help nurture the faithful on Crete. But he might have taken an interest in their growth and thus sent his associates, like Titus, to work with the believers in a culture that was very hostile to the virtues of faith. Paul’s strategy for Titus, his unfinished business, was to …

  1. Appoint elders in every town. (1:5) There needed to be someone in that culture who could demonstrate what godly living was all about.
  2. Someone who is blameless. (1:6) Here’s the generic virtue. A blameless man isn’t a perfect man, but a man who lives in such a way that no sustainable charge can be lodged against him. [In our political atmosphere, we often want to think about background checks and sins of the past. The quality of blamelessness is a present quality. Consider Peter: He denied Christ but he was considered an elder (1 Peter 5).] Paul is reminding Titus of the type of character an elder should have. So when he says that he must be a one-woman man, he means that the man has to demonstrate fidelity to his wife. Remember how loose morals are on Crete. When he notes that the man must have faithful children who aren’t open to charges of being wild and disobedient, he proposes this as a check of the man’s ability to form character in others. It’s basic to shepherding because …
  3. An overseer must be blameless as the steward of “God’s house.” (1:7) Titus won’t be on Crete forever. If he spends all his time combating the troublemakers then there may be balance as long as he’s there. But what happens once Titus leaves? There’s an old saying that the best way to keep weeds out of your yard is to grow healthy grass. The elder is the steward and caretaker of the household of God. If he is blameless, then he models the virtues of Christ that need to be nurtured in all the faithful. When you look at this comparison of what an elder must be and must not be, consider that there’s not really anything in this that any of us can ignore in our own development of character: Not arrogant, not inclined to anger (short-tempered), not a drunkard, not belligerent, not greedy for money; rather hospitable, loving the good, self-controlled, righteous, devout, disciplined.

A Good Grasp on the Gospel (1:9)
The qualities mentioned are very basic. They also respond to the situation on Crete, as the people of that culture were reputed for being contentious, abusive, drunkards, excessive and greedy. Paul describes one more quality that is important for the on-going task of being an overseer. The man needs to have a good grasp on the gospel. He needs to have an integrity and depth in his understanding and use of the teaching that was passed on to him. Why? For two important, yet related, reasons …

  1. So he will be able to encourage others with healthy teaching. We often translate the phrase as sound doctrine. The word we translate sound is the same word that gives us hygiene. Paul suggests that the teaching of the gospel is not just right, but it is good for us. He wants Titus and these overseers to stress the “things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (3:8) That’s healthy teaching.
  2. So he will be able to correct antagonists. (See Titus 1:16; 3:10-11.) Likewise, the faithful model of these elders will stand in opposition to the troublemakers and their unhealthy teaching. The only result of their defiant and deceptive approach is to ruin households and line their own pockets. Yet, the example and the teaching of these godly men may actually serve to correct some of these troublemakers. Here’s the goodness of the gospel: It forms in us the character and concern even for those who would become our opponents. The gospel isn’t a weapon for their destruction rather it is an invitation to healthy living.

Teach Us How To Live

  1. Avoid controversies, arguments and quarrels (3:9).

  2. Sound doctrine is healthy teaching (2:11-15)

  3. Elders live out healthy teaching and thus teach us how to live. (2:1-6)

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 January 2007

Like a Shepherd Lead Us
“Teach Us How To Live”
January 21, 2007

The People on Crete are Cretans

  1. Crete had a reputation of i___________, d___________, and g_________.

  2. T_________________ in the church are causing d_______________.

  3. Paul left Titus on Crete to s_________   ______ what was unfinished.

Titus’ Unfinished Business

  1. Appoint e_____________ in every town. (1:5)

  2. Someone who is b_________________. (1:6)

  3. An overseer must be b________________ as the s_____________ of “God’s house.” (1:7)

A Good Grasp on the Gospel (1:9)

  1. So he will be able to e__________________ others with h_________   ______________.

  2. So he will be able to c_____________ antagonists. (See Titus 1:16; 3:10-11)

Teach Us How To Live

  1. Avoid c_______________, a______________, and q______________. (3:9)

  2. Sound doctrine is h________________ t______________. (2:11-15)

  3. Elders l_____   _______ h___________ t____________ and thus teach us how to live. (2:1-6)

Shepherding – A Leadership Style

Posted by on January 18, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

The leadership style of shepherding is an ancient emphasis on godly leadership among God’s people. God wants His people to be led by those whose focus is on God, not controlled by those who are focused on human priorities or human agendas.

This leadership style always was God’s leadership style. In 1 Samuel 8 when Israel wanted a king, their desire was (a) for the wrong motives and (b) a distinct change in leadership styles. God never tolerated leadership over His people by evil men. The key solution to Samuel’s sons being evil (verse 3) was national repentance, not a change in leadership styles. God led. Humans dictated.

After God explained that kings were (a) expensive and (b) easily corrupted, Israel still insisted that the answer to their problems was a king-he would make them like other nations, he would judge them, and he would choose their battles and lead them into battle [they would become aggressors, not victims].

Their solution became their disaster. King Saul became blinded by dedication to his own power. His fears and insecurities determined his policies. King Solomon was blinded by his building programs and foreign wives. He lost sight of the needs of God’s people. Rehoboam committed to Solomon’s leadership style, not the needs of God’s people. The result: in only 120 years, Israel permanently divided.

The only exception was King David [not our choice because he committed adultery and murder]. When Israel came to David in Hebron (2 Samuel 5), they asked him to be their king. King Saul was consumed with himself. They wanted a change in leadership style. They wanted a shepherd. Before David was pursued by King Saul, they said Saul was king, but David was their shepherd. They considered David’s leadership style a mandate from God (1 Samuel 5:2). The fact that God’s style of leadership over Israel was that of a shepherd is inferred in 1 Samuel 7:7.

The emphasis on elders leading in the style of shepherds was [is] ancient, not new.

God has tremendous interest in people. Good shepherds have tremendous interest in the flock. God wants men to lead His people out of concern for the righteous well-being of the people. The church is God’s people. It is not about money, property, or society’s dictates. It is about the well-being of people. The “bottom line” always is this: what is in the best interest of people.

Blessed is the congregation who is led by men who are concerned about people. This is a difficult age often consuming people with society’s values instead of God’s. It is easy to tell people what they should do. It is demanding to be concerned for them in their struggles when they fail. “Do not be content to tell me I messed up! Love me when I fail [just as does God] and show me how to recover in Christ.”

The Costliness of Salvation

Posted by on January 16, 2007 under Sermons

Several years ago I talked to a new acquaintance about general interests to encourage the development of a relationship. Quickly I learned that we had similar interests in hunting and fishing. I asked the man what kind of hunting he enjoyed. He replied he liked to hunt small game–birds, rabbits, squirrels. I asked if he had any interest in deer hunting. (This was at a place in a time when deer were few and the deer hunting season short.) He smiled, replied no, and made a statement I remember: "That is too much candy for a nickel."

I knew immediately what he meant. The average deer hunter had great expectations he hoped to achieve with a minimum of effort. In most instances, those expectations were never realized.

I am convinced the phrase, "Too much candy for a nickel," is an appropriate description for a large, growing segment of the American society. We all need to beware or our lives will be trapped in the pursuit of looking for "too much candy for a nickel."

Ask a person what kind of job he/she wants. Most will not discuss the kind of work he/she wants to do. Instead, he/she will discuss the kind of benefits he/she wants. Likely those benefits include an excellent salary, incredible fringe benefits, a minimum of time required, and no demanding responsibility. The person rarely discusses personal productiveness, useful involvement, or a task resulting in personal fulfillment. The determination is to get as much candy as possible for a nickel.

Consider our society’s expectations. We want guaranteed medical help of every kind at modest prices. We want a minimum annual income for every adult even if the person refuses to work. We want to eliminate poverty even among those who by choice refuse to be productive. Basically, we want everyone to enjoy a good level of life with no one having to pay for it. Many increasingly think the government can pay for anything. Whether we want to admit it or not, this perspective affects all of us in our thinking on some level.

For years I have been fascinated by observing parallels between social-political attitudes and religious attitudes. Personally, I am convinced that the more our society pursues getting a lot of candy for a nickel, the more that philosophy influences our religious lives and spiritual commitments.

I see the philosophy of a lot of candy for a nickel at work in the minds of too many Christians in the expectation of a no cost salvation. The basic view of this concept is that all the benefits, all the promises, and all God’s blessings should be available to everyone for a nickel. Such people want to dwell exclusively on the fact that salvation is the free gift of God.

Does scripture teach there is a price associated with acquiring eternal life?

  1. Allow me to begin by noting some problems that disturb me.
    1. Problem one: I am disturbed by the dilemma created by considering salvation’s costliness.
      1. First, by emphasizing the responsibility of godly obedience for years, we have created a false impression in the minds of many Christians.
        1. Too many are convinced they can earn their salvation through a acceptable number of deeds in response to the proper commandments.
        2. This mistaken idea produces several problems.
        3. The problem of self righteousness–a person feels saved by virtue of his/her own "goodness."
          1. Nothing is more offensive to God than the human arrogance of self righteousness.
          2. Nothing destroys salvation any quicker than self righteousness.
        4. Too many are plagued by constant guilt.
          1. The person tries to do everything associated with perfect godliness and finds the attempt is an impossibility.
          2. The harder the person tries to earn salvation, the guiltier he/she feels.
          3. They are constantly impressed with their failures.
        5. Too many Christians are victims of hopelessness.
          1. Because perfect obedience alludes them, they are terrified of God.
          2. Every failure results in their despair.
          3. The Christian life becomes an existence of intense frustration rather than an existence of joy and hope.
      2. Second, by misunderstanding the role of works in salvation, as a solution to a dilemma we substitute the importance of God’s grace.
        1. When we properly emphasize that we can never earn our salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10), some are so relieved that they go to an opposite and equally wrong extreme.
        2. These people declare that all one must do is "trust the Lord," and they refuse all spiritual responsibility.
        3. The result: Christian life is a farce; obedience is forgotten; and Christians become spiritually irresponsible and negligent.
      3. Third, we desperately need a sound understanding of salvation.
        1. We need to understand we are saved by God’s grace.
          1. Salvation cannot be earned.
          2. Only proper faith in Christ allows us to live in God’s grace.
          3. It is that grace that enables us to have a life of joy, hope, and happiness that is free from despair and guilt.
        2. Yet, it is faith in what God did in Jesus’ cross and resurrection that expresses itself in appreciative, grateful obedience.
          1. Obedience trusts God’s grace.
          2. Appreciation of salvation expresses itself in total commitment.
          3. Obedience is an expression of gratitude, not an attempt to earn.
        3. Thus salvation involves a combination of God’s grace and human obedience.
    2. Problem two: I am also disturbed by the fact that many Christians are becoming materialists, sensualists, or both.
      1. A materialist–a person subscribing to the concept that physical well being should determine all conduct/behavior.
        1. The number one priority in life is the material.
        2. This person’s life is preoccupied with things; he gives the highest importance to things; and lives for things.
        3. Consideration of God or people are secondary to his/her consideration of things.
      2. A sensualist–a person who believes life’s highest priority is satisfying physical wants and desires.
        1. The appetites of life determine the course, conduct, and interest in life.
        2. This person lives to satisfy physical wants.
        3. Anything in the way of satisfying physical wants must be moved–even if it is God or people.
      3. Too many Christians live more for material purposes than for spiritual purposes.
      4. Too many Christians live more for sensual purposes than for spiritual purposes.
      5. It scares me to see how easily all of us believe we can combine Christianity with materialism, sensualism, or both.
    3. Problem three: the belief we can get a lot of candy from God for a nickel.
      1. While it is true that we cannot "buy" God’s grace,
      2. It is also true that it takes more than a nickel to continue in that grace.
      3. Do you honestly believe that you can receive:
        1. Forgiveness of all past sins.
        2. Continual forgiveness of mistakes
        3. The constant right to approach God’s throne.
        4. Daily spiritual strength.
        5. Special strength in crisis.
        6. God’s presence in death.
        7. Eternal life after death.
      4. For:
        1. Assembling in a building one to four times a week.
        2. Praying when it is convenient.
        3. Getting up a Sunday school lesson when it is convenient.
      5. That is a lot of candy for a nickel!

  2. Consider 1 Peter 1 with me.
    1. After the salutation, Peter called attention to the great blessings given the Christian found only in Jesus Christ.
      1. Look at verses 3-5.
        1. Note the stress on our hope.
          1. We were spiritually conceived in hope.
          2. Hope was at the foundation of our response to Christ.
          3. Hope is the reason we live in Christ.
          4. That hope is a living hope–not a mere wish!
          5. That living hope is not subject to death because it is based on a resurrection.
        2. Note the inheritance.
          1. Christians are spiritual heirs.
          2. We have an inheritance–we anticipate our promised land, our own country.
          3. This place we will inherit is incorruptible–not subject to decay, imperishable, not temporary [as is this existence].
          4. This place is undefiled–it is not polluted by evil; it serves only God’s purposes.
          5. This place is permanent, does not fade away–what we know as time has no impact on it; it cannot become old; its significance cannot be dimmed; there is no "end" to dread.
        3. Note the protection.
          1. As long as we continue relationship with Christ, God’s power guards us.
          2. Christians live in anticipation of the ultimate salvation, life with God.
    2. Consider the beautiful way Peter emphasizes the beauty of these blessings in verses 10-12.
      1. Christians right now enjoy the finest spiritual privileges God has yet revealed.
      2. The prophets of old knew God was yet to reveal wonderful privileges.
        1. They searched for the time when these privileges would be revealed hoping it would be in their lifetime.
        2. Yet, they found it was not for them in their lifetime but for those who would accept the Messiah.
      3. When we think of men like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel we think of towers of strength.
        1. Yet, those men would have gladly traded places with us just to have the opportunity to have what we take for granted.
        2. As great as they were, they never had what you and I have in Christ.
    3. Pay particular attention to verses 13-19.
      1. Peter already enumerated the blessings.
      2. He already emphasized the privileges.
      3. Now he discusses the price.
      4. First, he says prepare yourself to receive these blessings.
        1. Gird up your minds.
          1. Their robes got in the way of manual labor.
          2. They wore what we would call belts–he said tuck your lower robe in your belt.
          3. We would say things like "roll up your sleeves" or "pull off your coat".
          4. They were to get their minds ready to work.
          5. Lazy minds produce thoughtless acts that work against salvation.
          6. Mindless ritual is meaningless to God.
          7. Salvation involves mind and body.
        2. Be sober.
          1. Think seriously about your salvation.
          2. When you deal with sin, death, and destruction after judgment, make careful, sensible, wise decisions.
          3. Salvation is not a concept that deserves no more than a passing thought.
        3. Set your hope on the grace in Christ.
          1. Your full hope is placed in Christ, not in yourself.
          2. Your hope is real–you are committed to serving God all the time!
      5. Second, he said live righteously in your conduct.
        1. We will be children of obedience.
          1. Obedience will be our first and last name.
          2. We will not rebel against God!
        2. We will refuse to return to the existence of ignorance of God.
        3. We will accept the responsibility to be holy in our behavior
          1. Since God is holy, we must set holiness as our standard to be His children.
          2. As God is totally set apart from sin, we consciously seek to set ourselves apart from sin.
      6. Third, we realize the seriousness of our commitment.
        1. If we call God our Father, we must live for Him in the awe of respect.
        2. Never forget the price He paid to redeem us–to make relationship with Him possible.
          1. The life of a slave was redeemed with money.
          2. God used something more precious than money to purchase our freedom–he used the blood of His sinless son.
          3. If we accept His redemption, we must live in awareness of what it cost Him.
      7. Being a Christian is a precious privilege and a serious responsibility.

How serious are you about being saved? Is it the most important goal in your life? Have you prepared your mind to serve? Are you a child of obedience? Is your behavior holy?

Or do you think you can live as you please in unconcern for God? Do you think you can occasionally give God a polite smile and thank you and reach heaven with no problem? Do you think you can have all of God’s benefits without any personal cost?

God’s candy cost more than a nickel!

Shepherds of the Flock

Posted by on January 14, 2007 under Sermons


  1. Elders in ancient communities were honored men of wisdom, not officials
  2. Function more important than title
  3. The church ministers to one another (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Acts 20:17-35

  1. Three terms used for same leaders of the Ephesian Christians:
    1. elders (presbyteros) v. 17
    2. overseers (episkopos) v. 28a
    3. to shepherd (poimainein) v. 28b

    Watch over yourselves and all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers to shepherd (infinitive verb) the church of God which he saved with his own blood.

    προσέχετε (imperative) be concerned about, care for, pay attention to …

    Paul states the actual duties of elders in vss. 28-31.

    • “Keep watch over yourselves” indicates that the first duty of leaders is to ensure their own integrity and character. As with Paul’s personal example, only those who demonstrate sacrifice and commitment should be leaders.
    • The passage makes extensive use of the shepherd image: “and to your flock … to feed (literally “to shepherd”) the church of God.
    • The shepherd’s task is to “be shepherds of the flock” (v. 28NIV). This role includes herding and feeding the flock.
    • Verse 29 indicates that the shepherd’s task will be to protect the flock from wolves that threaten. The image of wolves points to false teaching.
    • The emphasis on herding and feeding is evident in Ezekiel 34:13-16, where God take the role of shepherd.
    • Jesus’ description of himself as the good shepherd (John 10:7-9) provides another dimension: the selflessness of the shepherd.

1 Peter 5:1-3

  1. Three terms combined again:
    1. elders (presbyteros) v. 1
    2. shepherd (poimanate) v. 2a
    3. over seeing (episkopountes) v. 2b

“poimanate” – [imperative] “shepherd the flock of God (under your care), over seeing … .
“episkopountes” – [participle] “caring for, looking after, watching over”


  1. English = Bishop, Overseer, Guardian, Supervisor
  2. Term used for a wide range of functions: overseer of slaves, head of mint, construction foreman.
  3. Used of the gods in pagan literature
  4. Usage in 1 Peter 2:25
  5. Acts 1:20 – “May another take his place of leadership” (NIV)
  6. Quoting Psalm 109:8
  7. Hebrew = (p’qudah)
  • Paul describes the church leaders as overseers (v. 28). The Greek episkopos (epi=over; skopos=see) is most commonly translated “bishop.” It may also be translated “supervisor” (super=over; visor=see).
  • It was the common term in secular life for a supervisor at work or in the field. The passage suggests the authoritative role of elders/bishops.
  • What is the real meaning of episkopos? Overseer? Guide? Caretaker? Superintendant? How is the word used in ancient literature? How would we translate this generic term today?
  • The KJV (bishop) has more to do with 17th century hierarchy and church leadership in England than the actual meaning of the term. They equated the term with their understanding of a church officer.
  • Other than Acts 1:20 and Pastorals, word is used in Philippians 1:1

How can the terms elder, shepherd, overseer be used interchangeably by Paul if they carry vastly different meanings?

  • What are they overseers/caretakers/superintendants over? What is it they care for? (Souls! People! The Flock!) – See 1 Peter 2:25
  • God is the shepherd and guardian of our souls (not business)

1 Timothy 3:1-2

  1. Striving for the “episkope”
    1. Word “office” is implied; a charge or responsibility
    2. He desires a good/noble work
    3. The “overseer” must be …
    4. The nature of the work demands a certain character

Titus 1:5-7

  1. Appoint elders in every city (v. 5)
  2. Following Paul’s guidelines (v. 6)
  3. Rationale: An overseer must be blameless as God’s steward (oikonomon) – v. 7

Notice that function is more significant as title. These terms convey a sense of function and role within the community

Didache 15:1-2 [not scripture]
Therefore, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, true and approved, for they also perform for you the ministry of the prophets and teachers. Therefore, do not despise them, for they are your honorable men, along with the prophets and teachers.

Good Shepherds

Posted by on under Sermons

“You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.” – Norman Schwarzkopf

With this quote in mind let us read Ezekiel 34 and learn from God’s judgment of bad shepherds of Israel. Our goal of course is to what God does not want in shepherds, and therefore what he does want.

Read Ezekiel 34:1-10Five contrasts drawn from this text between bad shepherds and good shepherds will show us what God expects of the spiritual leaders of his people …

Bad Shepherds – Take advantage of the flock
Good Shepherds – Take care of the flock

Lynn Anderson wrote the story of his trip to Palestine: the tour guide was speaking of the way the good shepherd leads his sheep and he began to tell of a time when, as if on cue, a man same by chasing after a herd of sheep throwing rocks at them and whacking them with sticks. The guide got off the bus and chided the man saying, “I was just telling these tourist about the gentle shepherd who leads his sheep.” The man said, “You’ve got it wrong. I’m not a shepherd, I’m a butcher.” (See Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep)

When Israel demanded Samuel for a king, the prophet warned them about the corruption of power. He said that the day would come when a king would take their children and press them into his service. He would take their property and a tenth of their harvest and give it to his attendants. He would take what was theirs and use it for himself. The end result is that they would become slaves of the king (1 Samuel 8:10-18).

Last Sunday we noticed how our typical models of leadership do not fit the kingdom model. God allowed his people to have a king (even though it wasn’t his idea). But God redefined what a king over his people would be. He would be a shepherd who cares for the sheep, rather than a shepherd who consumes the sheep for his own benefit.It is one thing to be called out as a leader for the sake of others, it is another thing entirely to need to be a leader over others for your own sake.

When leaders need the position of leadership to gain power, control, or visibility for themselves, then they do not care much for the people who God want them to serve. Shepherds in God’s church are not called to use up the gifts and abilities of the people and to use the resources of the congregation in order to satisfy their own desires for control or recognition.

Colin Powell tells the story of his early days as an officer. After noticing that many of his men were being picked off by snipers, he order a set of flack jackets and outfitted his frontline scouts with them. It saved their lives. His only concern was saving their lives but he observed how the men became more loyal and appreciative of his leadership. He learned what was an old rule of leadership – take care of your people and they will follow you anywhere.

As you consider men who might serve as shepherds look for men that you would follow because they care for you more than themselves.

Bad Shepherds – Neglect the weak, sick, and injured
Good Shepherds – Nurture the weak, sick, and injured

One of the most humbling duties of church leadership is to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, and bind up the injured. Why? Because you become aware of your own limitation to help those in need. People are not easily fixed as one might fix a flat tire or leaky roof. Our weaknesses, sicknesses, and injuries are more than physical. But the good shepherd that cares for the sheep will nurture the weak, sick and injured. The key is care.

The bad shepherds that God judges were guilty of much more than human limitations. Their sin was that they just did not care. They abandoned the weak, sick, and injured – outright neglect. No leader is going to be perfect. And we know that no human leader can “fix” us – at least we ought to. But we all want to be met with someone who just cares. I recall a family meeting not too long ago when our shepherds asked you what you expected of them. One answer came very quickly: “When I am sick, I want you to pray for me.” And I think that statement would apply to a variety of situations.

Every Sunday our elders wait just for you in Room 100. They will pray for you, they will help strengthen you if you are weak, help heal you (spiritually) if you are sick, and bind up the injuries to your spirit. But call one of them, or all of them, if you need them.

And as you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those that you would call on if you needed someone to strengthen you, heal you, or bind up your wounds.

Bad Shepherds – Overlook the stray and lost from the flock
Good Shepherds – Look for the stray and lost from the flock

Jesus told a set of parables (Luke 15) about things that were lost. A sheep, a coin, and a man’s son. The parable’s reveal God’s concern for the lost. You can see that concern in the Ezekiel text. It grieved God that his people were scattered and lost. And God stood in judgment of the leaders who did nothing to bring those lost sheep back into the flock. They just overlooked them.

Even a good shepherd, I am told, might lose a few sheep along the way. Sheep tend to wander off. Years ago when Karen and I were driving through Scotland we would often come around a country road and find a few wandering sheep just standing in the road. And it takes a while to get their attention to move.

All shepherds will have sheep wander away, the difference between a good shepherd and a bad shepherd is that the good shepherd will look for them, and the bad shepherd overlooks them.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those who would care enough to seek you out if you wandered away from the flock.

Bad Shepherds – Leave the flock as prey
Good Shepherds – Keep the flock protected

A good shepherd will go after a sheep because he knows the dangers to a stray sheep. When sheep wander off they become vulnerable. Not just from tourist motoring around the countryside, but from wolves and other predators who want to consume the sheep. Predators love to scatter the sheep. Wolves hunt in packs. They divide and consume. Scattered sheep are easy pickings.

Good shepherds keep the flock together. Do you see the comparison? One of the works of church leaders is the ministry of reconciliation. They are not representatives who are in a place of authority to “vote my way” or concern themselves with my interests. We must go to our church leaders and ask them to do the work of reconciliation. To aid us and lead us in building up the bonds of love, unity, and peace. (Matt 18). Otherwise, the scattered flock will be vulnerable to the predatory powers of this dark age – and they will be consumed.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, look for those who keep the flock protected and keep the flock together. Look for the men who reconcile us to God and one another.

Bad Shepherds – Lead harshly and brutally
Good Shepherds – Lead like God leads

Why would a bad shepherd take advantage of the sheep, neglect the weak and sick, overlook the lost, and scatter the flock? Mainly because the bad shepherd has a character flaw. He leads harshly and brutally.

Lynn Anderson describes two distorted models of leadership: the cowboy and the sheriff. The cowboy drives the herd rather than leading it. He cracks the whip and yells and hollers to get the herd to go where he wants them to go. The shepherd leads through relationship. He leads the sheep to green pastures and quiet waters – he leads them to what is good for them. The sheriff carries a badge and enforces the law.

[Rookie police officer illustration]. The lesson is that the authority of office and badge and title will at best get you compliance, but at worst rebellion. Bad shepherds lead as if they are god, but Good shepherds lead as God leads them.

So how does a good shepherd lead as God leads them. Since God could not count on Israel’s shepherds, he vowed to be their shepherd. Learning from the Chief Shepherd …

He leads the flock …

  1. to peace. Under God’s care, the sheep are safe and protected. They can lie down. John 10:16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. [The work of reconciliation and the safety of God’s care]

  2. with justice. God vowed to keep the stronger sheep from overpowering the weak. Sheep will do that and a shepherd has to look out for the weak. For humans, that is called justice. In the church we follow the teaching of James 2. We do not show favoritism. We love our neighbor.

  3. to healthy living. We often think of elders as being responsible for sound doctrine. Sound doctrine is healthy teaching. It isn’t a set of rules, rather it is words for life. Jesus came to give us abundant life here and now (John 10:10)

  4. to eternal life. Good shepherd know that we are heading toward the day of the appearance of the Chief Shepherd. They have a vision of eternity that shapes our path even now.

As you consider men whom you would name as shepherds, name those who lead as they are led by God.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 January 2007

Like a Shepherd Lead Us
“Good Shepherds”
January 14, 2007

Learning from Bad Examples (Ezek. 34:1-10)

Bad Shepherds Good Shepherds
1. T_____   ___________ of the flock. 1. T_____   ___________ of the flock.
2. N_____________ the weak, sick, and injured. 2. N____________ the weak, sick, and injured.
3. O______________ the stray and lost from the flock. 3. L_____   ______ the stray and lost from the flock.
4. Leave the flock as p_________. 4. Keep the flock p___________.
5. Lead h__________ and b__________. 5. Lead like G__________________. (see Ezekiel 34:11-16)

Learning From The Chief Shepherd (Ezek. 34:11-16; John 10; 1 Pet. 5:1-4)

  1. He leads the flock to p____________. (Ezekiel 34:15)

  2. He leads the flock with j______________. (Ezekiel 34:17-22)

  3. He leads the flock to h________   ________. (John 10:10)

  4. He leads the flock to e__________________. (1 Peter 5:4)

A Challenge Facing Congregational Leadership

Posted by on January 11, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

I was asked to share my insights on congregational leadership. I was not provided thoughts–the insights are my own. If you disagree, disagree with me.

Selecting elders is a unique moment in a congregation’s history. It can be a great affirmation of God’s goals. It can be a tragic commitment to human agendas that change a congregation’s focus for decades. It is always a courageous commitment to faith in God, or a commitment to convenience that seeks comfort. Amidst swirling fears, it can be a time of fear rather than an opportunity for faith. If Christians hold genuine confidence in God, it should be a unique moment of faith.

Among the many challenges confronting those who lead is the challenge of congregational diversity. Younger and older Christians hold different perspectives. The struggles of Christians from non-spiritual backgrounds are often distinctive. Christians from differing heritages and traditions do not have identical concerns as Christians from three [or more] generations in churches of Christ. Christians with differing ethnic or national backgrounds view this world and its problems from differing views.

A remarkable thing about this congregation: the ability to respect Christians whose faith and repentance led them to baptism into Christ EVEN IF WE DISAGREE LATER. Quickly additional elders will confront this diversity. Soon they will decide if God’s purposes are achieved through unity in diversity or conformity to demands.

The problem is not new. In fact, it is as old as the church. Diversity between Jewish and Gentile Christians created enormous first century church problems. You can see this problem in Scripture. Consider Jewish Christians’ reaction in Acts 11:1-3 to the conversion of the non-Jewish Cornelius in Acts 10. Not even a vision from God altered their distaste for any non-Jewish person! Consider the conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Acts 15:1-5. This dispute had to be referred to the Jerusalem leadership! Consider the resentment of Jewish Christians toward Paul because he dared convert Gentiles (Act 21:20-22). Their elders could not prevent the explosion fueled by Jewish false rumors targeting Paul! A core issue prompting Galatians was this conflict between Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ. Consider more about first century “in church” conflicts by reading, Unity and Uniformity in the Early Church, on our Web site.

We are a diverse congregation. A leadership that respects this diversity is essential to spiritual success as we seek God’s goals. God’s purposes, not human agendas, must guide us as God’s people.