The undeniable love of God for His people pours forth abundantly from the pages of Scripture. God really loves and cares for the good of the Church. One of the ways this shows itself is in His wise bestowment of godly pastors to His local churches (cf. Eph. 4:11).
Every Christian needs a pastor! And since pastors/elders/overseers/bishops are Christians, this includes them too. Even pastors need pastors, since God displays His love for all of His people by giving them under-shepherds to care for their souls (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-4).
Every Christian needs a pastor. This implies that professing Christians separated from the local church are at best in great danger, but there also exists a very great possibility that those separated from the church for a long time are not Christians at all. For if every Christian needs a pastor, how can one go through life apart from such a vital necessity?
For those separating themselves from the local church, or failing to take seriously membership in the local church, here are some things you are missing out on when it comes to faithful shepherding:
God loves His local churches enough to give them qualified men charged with “keeping watch over your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). What an amazing thing!
God has provided a means by which your soul can be guarded. This does not do away with personal responsibility, of course. It does, however, supply for us an added defense against the world, the flesh, and the devil because we have godly men involved in our lives who are appointed by God to help keep the sheep from destruction, whether inflicted by self or others.
For officials in high positions, we provide bodyguards. These guards are entrusted with watching over the physical well-being of people, protecting them from sinister plots.
How high a position must every Christian be in since God has provide them with soul-guards! Men entrusted with watching over the spiritual well-being of His people, protecting them from various dangers.
God gives His local churches men who are able to rightly divide the Word of truth and to proclaim that truth to them regularly in the public assembly, i.e. weekly worship (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2).
Some would object and say that in such a day of technology we can listen to godly men in a variety of ways via YouTube, Podcasts, Sermon Audio, etc.
But I humbly submit to you that our sovereign God knows what He is doing in giving you godly men who are present with the sheep, and who are preaching the Word to the sheep in both the language and specific context they need to hear. We can be grateful for the wonderful ministries of men like Paul Washer, John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, and Steve Lawson. These are men who should be listened to. However, these godly men simply are not able to feed you in the same way that your specific pastor is.
Imagine that you have a history of serious physical ailments, and you want to listen to the podcast of the world’s leading physician. No doubt you will gain some valuable insight from his teaching. However, your specific primary care physician actually knows you. His knowledge of you and your condition means that he is going to be more helpful to you in the long run.
Faithful pastors proclaim the Word of God not merely in its historical and Christ-centered context, but also deliver it within their specific geographical and cultural context. Certain applications from any given text are going to be more suited toward one congregation than another based on the things you are dealing with.
Thus, God loves His people enough to give them pastors who actually know them and their circumstances and can preach the Scriptures in such a way so as to bring the truth of God to bear very specifically and personally.
Not only do faithful pastors watch over the flock, and preach the Word of God to the flock, but they also provide for the people of God by discipling them, equipping them for ministry, and counseling them in real life decisions and situations.
What I mean here is not only do pastors preach week in and week out and seek to be a defender of your precious immortal soul, but they also positively labor among you in real life so as to help your walk with Christ. This provision is grounded in the plan of God to present all Christians “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
Godly pastors care for the flock in such a way as to have their conformity to the image of Christ as a priority. How you tell the difference between a faithful shepherd and a charlatan is the former seeks to feed the sheep while the other eats them.
That is, charlatans see you as a means to their own end, while faithful pastors provide for you in such a way that brings glory to Christ who purchased you with His own blood (cf. Acts 20:28). They are ultimately after your holiness instead of their own or your temporal happiness.
Embracing God’s Gift
There is so much more we could discuss when it comes to pastors. Certainly, there are poor examples of pastors in the history of the church and present in churches today. This, however, does not take away from the fact, that Christians need pastors and that God loves His people enough to provide for them such godly men.
When we neglect this gift, we neglect pastoral oversight of our souls! As if we are strong enough to reject God’s plan for our soul’s protection and fend for ourselves.
When we neglect this gift, we neglect personal application when it comes to the proclamation of God’s Word. As if we can survive only on Christian generalities and never need to embrace personal and tangible change.
When we neglect this gift, we neglect godly provision. As if we are the wisest Christians who have ever lived and need know encouragement or counsel from those God has placed in our charge.
Of course, there is also an application here for the necessity of a plurality of elders in a local church. Not only does this provide each elder with pastoral care, but it also helps the elders as a whole to be reminded of this great charge God has entrusted them with for His local churches.
Isn’t God so good to us? Isn’t He so wise and loving to His people? Isn’t His Word sufficient for godliness in this present age? Why, then, would we not embrace this great gift God has given to His churches in those He has appointed to shepherd our souls?