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Pastor to Pastor

The Conduct of a Shepherd

Has to be a notch above.

Shepherding God’s Flock (8)

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 1 Peter 5.2-4

As we’ve seen, pastors and shepherds have three tools to employ in the work of shepherding: the Word of God, prayer, and their personal example (Acts 6.4; 1 Pet. 5.1-3). The skillful shepherd has learned how to use these tools consistently, appropriately, and in a good combination in every situation. Our work may be informed by other resources beyond these, and we may, indeed, employ such resources in equipping the flock of God. But whatever tools or resources we use in our work must always be as extensions of our personal pastoral tools, beginning with our own example.

Gregory the Great (540-604) insisted on this with those who aspired to be shepherds in the early Church: “The conduct of a prelate [shepherd] ought so far to transcend the conduct of the people as the life of a shepherd is wont to exalt him above the flock. For one whose estimation is such that the people are called his flock is bound anxiously to consider what great necessity is laid upon him to maintain rectitude” (The Book of Pastoral Rule)

The operative phrase here is “ought so far to transcend”. Shepherds must not be just “one of the guys,” as it were. We must provide an example—a model—which encourages others to increase in the Lord. Not in some Pharisaical or “look at me” way, but simply being like Jesus in all the quotidian situations of life and ministry. The conduct of a pastor can, like a spiritual tide, raise all the boats that harbor with him. Similarly, as we have seen all too often, it can lead a congregation into captivity to the ways of the world. Let’s encourage and help one another to be the kind of example of Christlikeness that lifts others into a closer and more consistent walk with the Lord.

Resources for Shepherds
Men, have you ever thought that you might like to use writing as part of your ministry? You don’t have to write books or theological articles to use the written word to deepen and expand your ministry of the Word. Our course, The Writing Pastor, can show you the wide range of writing opportunities available to shepherds and help you get started in what can be a lifelong and positive addition to your work. Watch this brief video, then enroll in our free course, The Writing Pastor, by first registering at The Ailbe Seminary (upper right hand of the home page) then enrolling in the course. We’ll provide a Reader to review your work if you like.

We do not minister in a vacuum but in specific times with specific challenges and opportunities. Like the sons of Issachar, we must work hard to understand the times we live so that we can do our best work shepherding the flock of the Lord. Our book, Understanding the Times, provides a broad survey with implications of what it means to be living in the sunset years of a dying secularism. Learn more and order your free copy by clicking here.

The shepherd’s calling is to make disciples. How’s that going? Our ReVision study, “Disciples Making Disciples”, can help you bring more of a disciple-making attitude and framework to your work. This is an excellent study for individual or group use, and it’s free. You can download all the installments to “Disciples Making Disciples” by clicking here.

From the Celtic Revival
Columbanus, the greatest of the Irish peregrini, understood the importance of knowing the people he was called to serve and making sure he taught them at their level of understanding:

[Columbanus and his team] wanted zealously and shrewdly to inquire into the disposition of the inhabitants in order to remain longer if they found they could sow the seeds of salvation; or in case they found the hearts of the people in darkness, [that is, utterly closed to the Gospel] go on to the nearest nations.

  - Jonas, Life of St. Columban[1]

Since I bear the responsibility for very needful teaching, first of all I may briefly speak of the first thing for all to know. I desire that what is the basis for all men’s salvation should be the foundation of our talk, and that our doctrine should commence from that point whence all that arises and what has not been begins, and that the heart’s belief should open the gateway of our talk, rightly opening, as it does, the mouths of all Christian believers to a salutary confession.

  - Columbanus, Sermon 1[2]

We unpacked these two quotes in a recent Crosfigell to learn what we can about asking good questions and teaching or preaching to people at their levels and into their lives.

Crosfigell is mailed every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe to Crosfigell today (click here to update your subscriptions). Be sure you click each teaching letter you want to receive, (including Pastor to Pastor), and journey with us through our devotional study of this remarkable saint. 

Check out our latest Celtic Legacy podcast to learn how to keep distractions down and focus more consistently on the things that matter most.

T. M. Moore.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Jonas, p. 6

[2] Walker, p. 61

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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