Keeping Your Focus

Where do we begin to work ourselves out of the maze of frenetic, chaotic, directionless church life? It begins by letting Scripture shape the way we think about what a leader does. We need a clear job description. Without one, busyness can cause leaders to lose their focus on people. It is amazing how quickly this can happen in the midst of real church life.

There are three primary passages that provide a clear sense of what church leaders are to do: I Peter 5:1-4, Ephesians 4:11-13 and Acts 6:1-7. These passages will be our focus over the next three segments.

The first passage is found in I Peter 5:1-4.

Shepherd the Flock

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it 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 will never fade away.

This passage is unique because it is one of the few passages where elders are commanded to do something other than Acts 20:28. Peter also uses three separate words to refer to the spiritual leaders.

  1. Elders -- the Greek word is presbuteroi. It is where Presbyterians get their name. The word tends to connote someone with age and wisdom who sits in a leadership role. Elders are to be wise and exhibit Christ-like character.
  2. Overseers -- the Greek word is episcopos. This is where Episcopalians get their name. This word literally means “oversight.” The word connotes exactly what it says. Leaders give oversight to the entire church. They do not micro-manage but they are responsible to see that things are done.
  3. Shepherd -- the Greek word is poimen. This word literally means shepherd.

This third word is used as a command. The Elders/Overseers are to shepherd the flock. These verses are clarifying because it reminds the Elder of his first priority. It is not buildings, finances, policy, or making decisions. It may include those things, but ultimately shepherds focus on the sheep. The priority of the elder/overseer is to care for people.

 

Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.