The church is charged with a solemn duty in selecting shepherds for the local flock. This is a process that is to be continually done through the generations, and always with the same standard of measure (the scriptures—II Timothy 3:16) and the same standard of conduct (Romans 13:8—Love). The O’Connor Road church has spent 2 months searching the scriptures and hopefully searching our hearts as well. We should be ready for the next step in this process—which is submitting names of men the brethren believe to be qualified to serve. With that in mind, this is a reminder/review of the overall principles we have studied.
1) Above Reproach— (I Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6) - To be above reproach is to be of good reputation. It doesn’t mean that one is perfect, as in “sinless”, but that one is exemplary. How? In character, and thereby, conduct.
- Community—A Shepherd is a person who lives their Christianity consistently. We see that a shepherd is known in his community, but for all the right reasons. They are men of outstanding character and conduct, and so they have a reputation of integrity that precedes them. (Job 29) If a man brings shame upon the church and is a disgrace to God and His people, he is not qualified to lead as shepherd in the church.
- Church—There are certainly many men who throughout their lives have given their lives to the community at the expense of the church. That is, they have not lived and served diligently in the local body of believers. Such men, though still “good” men, are not qualified to serve as leaders of the Lord’s flock. Their standard of character and conduct must meet the high standard of God’s word, and not merely the low standard of a godless society in which Christians are continually surrounded.
2) Proven Worthy—They are proven worthy (I Timothy 3:10—”first be tested”) based upon their performance in leading the physical family God has blessed them with. There is no greater earthly blessing a man is given in this life by the grace of God than a family. If he is not proven a worthy steward of his biological family, then he is proven to be an unworthy steward of the spiritual family of God. (Luke 16:10). This exact parallel is explicitly alluded to in I Timothy 3:5 “but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?”
- Respect (as a leader) - A man does NOT prove his worthiness in the political arena, or the social arena, or the work arena. He does not garner respect with college degrees or professional awards or wealth or fame. His respect is to be earned by the brethren, by earning it at home first. Did his wife honor and respect him? Did is children honor and respect him in the home? Did/Does he lead with fairness, integrity, discipline and “with all dignity”? (I Tim. 3:5)
- Submission—A church will be subject to her shepherds. (Hebrews 13:17) When men have proven themselves in the home by leading with godly knowledge, wisdom, and character; then they earn our respect and submission as well. It is due unto them because of the office they hold, and they hold the office because they have proven themselves worthy of it.
3) Work Capable—"Shepherd" is not just a title or an office, it is a work. Shepherds are teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12; I Timothy 3:2) and guardians (Titus 1:9; Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28) of the flock. A solemn and holy charge. It is a spiritual work that they do. One that is not to be hindered as best possible. (Acts 6:2-4)
- Teaching—They teach by both example (Hebrews 13:7), but also by their work of instruction. They must first be able to study and understand the word (II Peter 3:16-18; I Timothy 1:6-7), so that they can build up and equip the church in faith and work. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
- Guarding (Discipline) - The church is always at danger from without and within. Men must have the mental faculty to be alert and vigilant and also have the mental and spiritual fortitude to protect the flock.
While these are the overarching themes of the scriptural qualifications of shepherds in the Lord’s church, these alone will not qualify him to serve. There is still one major qualification of men to serve as shepherds, and that is—Willingness. Men must be willing to take up the high-calling of humble service. “Not under compulsion, but voluntarily…” (I Peter 5:2) What will motivate men to search their hearts, sacrifice, and serve in such a way?
“He (Jesus) ‘said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" He *said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He *said to him, "Shepherd My sheep.’” (John 21:16) Love for Jesus will compel a man shepherd the sheep of the Lord. It is not his flock, but the Lord’s. May we have men who seek to love the Lord by loving His sheep, His people. And may we be a flock who loves our Shepherd… and Lord willing, our shepherds.