Calvin on the Ministry (4)
I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the LORD. Jeremiah 23.4
Shepherding is how those who are called to the ministry of the Word – at whatever level or in whatever context – are to do the work of making disciples. As Jesus pointed out in John 10, shepherding involves building relationships of mutual love and trust; leading people in God’s way; defending His sheep against the world, the flesh, and the devil; laying down one’s life for the sheep; helping them to grow in the gift of salvation; and bringing others to faith in Christ.
Calvin believed that all the people in the churches of Geneva needed to be shepherded. Shepherding was not voluntary. If you worshiped at one of Geneva’s churches, you would be shepherded, so that you learned to follow Jesus as a true disciple. Calvin summarized the role of a shepherd in the Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinance. He wrote, “[The] office [of the elders] is to have oversight of the life of everyone, to admonish amicably those whom they see to be erring or to be living a disordered life, and, where it is required, to enjoin fraternal corrections themselves and along with others.” Emphasis on “everyone.”
Shepherds must look well to know the condition of all the sheep entrusted to their care (Prov. 27.23), so that they might more effectively watch over the souls of God’s people and spend and be spent on their behalf (Heb. 13.17; 2 Cor. 12.15).
Running programs which people volunteer to attend (or not) is no substitute for the face-to-face work of encouraging the people of God to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sooner we recover the work of shepherding as it is set forth in Scripture, the sooner we will begin seeing more true disciples in the pews of our churches.
Resources for Shepherds
Our course on “Shepherding God’s Flock” is free and available for all. Watch this brief video to receive an introduction to the course. Then, register at The Ailbe Seminary (top right of the Home Page) and enroll for the course.
We’ve just finished our InVerse Theology series, “An Essay on Preaching.” In case you missed any of these, here are links to all five installments:
An Essay on Preaching Part 1
An Essay on Preaching Part 2
An Essay on Preaching Part 3
An Essay on Preaching Part 4
An Essay on Preaching Part 5
Feeling like you need to brush up on your overall approach to preaching? Our book, Text to Transformation, provides an exhaustive outline of the work of preaching that can serve as a checklist to help you make sure your own ministry of the Word is as thorough and fruitful as possible. Order your free copy of Text to Transformation by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
“St. Brendan entered the boat, and with hoisted sail they set off westward into the summer solstice. They had a favorable wind and needed to do no more than trim the sail. But after fifteen days the wind dropped and they rowed and rowed until their strength failed. Then straightaway St. Brendan began to give them words of comfort and encouragement: “Brothers, you have nothing to fear, for God is our helper. He is our navigator and helmsman, and He shall guide us. Pull in the oars and the rudder. Spread the sail and let God do as He wishes with His servants and their boat.”
- Anonymous, The Voyage of Brendan, Irish, 12th century
“The service of the Lord is light, wonderful, and pleasant. It is an excellent thing to place oneself in the hand of a holy mentor, that he may direct one’s path through life.”
- The Rule of Comghall, Irish, 6th century
Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).
T. M. Moore
It is our privilege to provide resources and opportunities to equip and encourage church leaders in building the Lord’s Church and advancing His Kingdom. Please pray that God will move many of those we serve through this ministry to share with us financially in its support. If the Lord moves you to give, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Davies, p. 159.
 Ó Maidín, p. 33.