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The Scriptorium

Keep Watch

Shepherding is the way to discipleship. Acts 20.28-31

Paul’s Legacy (5)

Pray Psalm 28.1, 2.
To You I will cry, O LORD my Rock:
Do not be silent to me,
Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my supplications
When I cry to You,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.

Sing Psalm 28.1, 2.
(Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
I cry to You, our Savior, O, be not deaf to me!
Lord, speak to me with favor, lest I should dying be.
Hear now my supplications when for Your help I cry;
Receive these, my oblations, before Your throne on high.

Read Acts 20.1-31; meditate on verses 28-31.

Preparation

1. What did Paul instruct the elders to do for the people in their churches?

2. What did he tell them to remember?

Meditation
The churches of the Lord will always be under attack, from without and within, as spiritual warfare rages continuously (v. 29). Pastors and elders must guard the flocks of the Lord from false teaching, self-interested leaders, and spiritual assault. Paul exhorted the shepherds to watch carefully over themselves, their teaching, and their flocks (vv. 28-30; cf. 1 Tim. 4.16; Heb. 13.17). Shepherding – the work Jesus outlined in John 10 and practiced faithfully throughout His earthly sojourn – is the Lord’s way for making disciples and building His Church (cf. Eph. 4.11, 12).

The work of shepherding cannot be fulfilled in committees, on boards, or through programs. It takes shepherds being with and among the sheep entrusted to their care, getting to know them, building loving and trusting relationships, and watching over the progress of their souls with vigilance and prayer (Heb. 13.17).

But the work of watching over God’s flock also requires people who are willing to be shepherded, who submit to faithful shepherds and accept the teaching and pastoral oversight they receive (cf. 1 Thess. 5.12, 13). Absent such diligent shepherding, churches will not be filled with disciples, and the Lord’s flocks will not flourish as He intends.

And the paucity of true disciples in our day is a symptom of shepherding deficiency.

The strength and stability of a local church is not in its programs, budgets, or facilities. It’s in its shepherds. Faithful, self-denying, Spirit-led, Scripture-loving shepherds. Paul understood this. Do we?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paucity. Now there’s a word that sums up the state of shepherding in the church today. Here is the definition: the presence of something only in small or insufficient quantities or amounts; scarcity. And here are some synonyms: sparseness, dearth, shortage, rarity, poverty, deficiency, famine, meagerness, shortfall.

Are we guilty as charged?
Is there a paucity of shepherds?
Or a paucity of sheep?
Maybe a combination of both?

Paul warned of this happening. For three years he was not only telling the Good News, but he was warning of the bad news that would creep in by “savage wolves” from outside the faith, and those speaking perverse things from inside the faith (Acts 20.29, 30). Those who would want to draw more attention to themselves than to God. Perhaps to have a following?

Peter wrote about problems that would occur within the church. His warning encompassed the same theme, and he even specifically mentioned Paul’s writing on the subject.
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things [the new heavens and the new earth]:
1. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
2. Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as our brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand.
3. Untaught and unstable people twist his words to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
4. You, therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.
5. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
6. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3.14-18)

We must not succumb to the paucity of shepherding – the deadly shepherding deficiency syndrome. So in battle against it, we will say with Joshua: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24.15). And with David: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” “Our cup runs over” (Ps. 23.1, 5). Never a scarcity, dearth, or shortfall with Him.

Keep watch. We have been warned by both Paul and Peter.
“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock” (Acts 20.28).

For we were purchased with “the precious blood of Christ” (Acts 20. 28; 1 Pet. 1.19).

For reflection

1. What does the work of shepherding look like in your church?

2. What is your responsibility for shepherding the people in your Personal Mission Field?

3. What can you do to encourage other believers to shepherd those to whom God has sent them?

Christ’s sheep are very dear to him, for he has bought them dearly. He wants his shepherds to cherish them; he commits them to none but those who love him. Peter Riedemann (1506-1556), Confession of Faith 13

Pray Psalm 28.6-9.
Praise and thank the Lord for Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Rejoice in Him. Seek His strength and protection for this day. Call on the Lord Jesus to shepherd you through all your work for Him this day.

Sing Psalm 28.6-9.
(Angel’s Story: O Jesus, I Have Promised)
Blessed be the Name of Jesus, for He will hear our prayer.
His strength protects and shields us with mercy and with care.
In You our heart rejoices; You help us by Your Word.
To You we raise our voices to praise and thank You, Lord.

Our strength are You, O Savior, our strong defense and sure.
Anointed with Your favor, we rest in You secure.
Save us, and bless us, Jesus, upon us turn Your face;
with shepherd’s care, Lord, keep us forever in Your grace.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website, www.ailbe.org, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

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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