On the Self-Examination of (Potential) Shepherds
Men are not to be forced into service as shepherds. They are to be encouraged by their fellow brethren to serve, but not forced to serve. When a brother’s name is submitted by the members of the church for consideration, it is not just for the church to consider, but for the man himself. This is a process of self-examination he must go through to determine if he is both qualified and able/willing to serve.
Enlist—“exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God;” - (I Peter 5:2) While a shepherd can certainly be financially supported for this work in service to the kingdom (I Timothy 5:17-18), his service is voluntary and not compulsory. He enlists (volunteer service), he is not drafted (compulsory service) A man must examine his heart and ask the question, “Do I want/desire to serve?”
Eagerness—“not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; “ - (I Peter 5:2) Whether the answer is “yes” or “no” the next question should be “Why?” Is it for earthly gain? Earthly prestige? For power/authority? If so, that is sordid gain. It is suppose to be from a pure humble eagerness to serve in the kingdom. Part of your growth spiritually, not part of your desire to grow in fleshly gain.
Example (Leadership)—“nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.” - (I Peter 5:3) Whether the answer is “yes” or “no” the next question should be “Why?” Do you want to be a shepherd so we can get rid of men’s meetings? So you can sit as one in authority? So you can tell others how to serve? None of these are reasons to serve. In fact, they are all reasons that would disqualify a man for service. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant... just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.-" - (Matthew 20:25-28) The leadership of a shepherd in the Lord’s church is to be a servant-leader and leading by example. Is that the service you are ready for?
Exemplary (Character) - All Christians are prone to put on our “Sunday Best” whenever we are around our brethren. Therefore, we usually see the best version of one another. But is your private-self consistent with your public-self? You must examine your character according to the qualifications and determine if you indeed do possess the character to be a shepherd. Are you truly humble, temperate, peaceable, prudent, respectable, gentle, not self-willed; etc.? It’s good to ask your family members; your wife, your children, your siblings, “You know me in private; do you believe I am qualified to serve based on my character?” Ask in honesty; being ready to humbly accept their answer and consider it deeply.
Equipped— A man must be equipped to do the work. The work of guarding the flock. (Ax 20:28) The work of defending the truth. (Titus 1:9) The work of managing the household of God. (I Timothy 3:5) The work of equipping the saints in the faith. (Ephesians 4:11-13) The work of teaching the saved and the lost (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9). This is a most serious and solemn charge. It’s not about just being a good person (character), but having the time and ability to fulfill the charge, the duty, of a shepherd. The self-examination of your ability and availability is as important as any other point of self-examination.
Examination—One of the final and most important aspects to consider is, “How will I handle being examined by the church?” For once a man has decided that he is ready and able and desirous to serve according to the scriptures, then his name is put before the church and he must go through the church examination process before he is selected by the church to serve as a shepherd. (I Timothy 3:10) When people question your character of your circumstances or your ability; how will you handle that? If it becomes apparent, that you proceeding to be a shepherd would cause great conflict/harm to the unity of the church; how will you handle that? Will you be offended/hurt, if some think you are not qualified? Are you ready to continue to serve even if it is not as a shepherd? Will you listen to the concerns of others and have a patience and desire to study the scriptures? Do you have the mental and spiritual fortitude to be examined for this work and service as a shepherd in the Lord’s church? Perhaps you can think of other questions/concerns about being examined by others? How will you conduct yourself?
Self-examination is healthy for everyone to do if done properly, with humility and godliness. It’s good for the alien sinner so that they might search for salvation in the Lord. (Acts 8:26-29) It’s good for the wayward Christian to show them the path back home. (Luke 15:11-32) It is good for all Christians so that they might have confidence that they are faithful and so that they might continue to improve in work and service. (II Corinthians 13:5) And it is not only good, but necessary, for men to examine themselves to see if they are fit to serve as shepherds. After all, if they cannot rightly examine themselves; how will they be able to rightly examine the flock which they serve?