Be Shepherds of the Church

Acts 20:28 

I love the story told about Cline Paden, a long time preacher out in Lubbock, TX. The congregation where he was the minister made him an elder, and as he stood to say a few words at the installation service he said, “I haven’t been an elder 5 minutes and I already hate preachers.”

There are a lot of churches where elders and ministers have adversarial relationships, but this isn’t one of them. The ministers and elders here at the Glenwood church have a wonderful relationship marked with mutual respect and friendship. I love these men who have dedicated their lives to serving this church family as shepherds. And I am excited about the men who are being added to the eldership this morning, because I have had seven years to see them in action, to see their hearts, to observe their love for this congregation. I know that it’s going to be a joy to work alongside of both of them as they help lead and shepherd this congregation.

A few weeks ago, as we announced the process of adding elders, I preached a sermon reminding us of the qualities the Lord expects in the men who lead his church.

It’s a pretty rigorous list – it calls for the highest levels of holiness and conduct and lifestyle – it calls for the most intense levels of involvement and commitment.

Most congregations our size are fortunate to be able to find three or four men who meet those kind of requirements – we will have seven serving elders who are all highly qualified and great leaders. We have a wonderful leadership here at the Glenwood church, and I believe for years to come we will continue to be served by qualified, dedicated leaders.

This is a momentous occasion this morning as we install new elders in the leadership. This doesn’t happen every day – not even every year. It has been fifteen years since the last group of elders were added to our leadership. So this morning is a special occasion as we do something that will profoundly affect the direction of this congregation for years to come.

Today is a day of dedication – these men are dedicating themselves to the work of leading and shepherding the flock here at Glenwood. They are officially accepting the roll which the Lord has called them to, and which the congregation has already recognized.

These men have already been leaders – I have seen them display their leadership and wisdom on numerous occasions over the past seven years.

Leadership is at its heart influence. These men have already been leading by their examples. They are proven servants. We are not asking of them anything they have not already been doing. Their horizons will be a little broader, their responsibilities a little weightier – but they have already been leaders – and we are simply acknowledging that by asking them to lead us as a congregation.
They are accepting that responsibility this morning, and responding to our confidence in them by allowing us to call them our shepherds.

Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders give us a sense of the dedication which is required: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

Your dedication this morning is first to God – this isn’t merely accepting a position on the board of directors of some human organization. Your accountability isn’t ultimately to the congregation but to God himself. And he requires faithfulness to the task and sacrifices that will make your head swim at times. You will pour yourselves out in ways that you can only begin to imagine right now. And it won’t be because we’re the most loveable group of people, but because he is the most amazing God. This is his church and he is entrusting us to your care.

Remember that you are not being called primarily to be decision makers, but to be shepherds. Urgent decisions about parking lots and air conditioning and carpet color will beg to fill meeting agendas, but don’t let them take over. People are more important than programs, souls are more important than budgets. In all the responsibilities that will come your way, don’t let any of them take priority over shepherding – don’t ever move very far away from personally caring for the people you lead.

This isn’t just a day of dedication for these two men and their wives. It is a day of dedication for every single member of this congregation. As we make this request of these men to lead us, we must also make a promise to them that we will follow their leadership.

The Hebrews writer says this: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith… Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb. 13:7,17)

If we’re not willing to do that, then these men cannot lead – I don’t care how gifted and spiritual and dedicated they are. You cannot lead a flock that will not follow. We owe it to these men – to all seven of our elders – to follow their lead – humbly submitting to their leadership.

There is no place for critical, divisive spirits at this church. We cannot sit on the sidelines and Monday morning quarterback – believe me, it’s an easy thing to do – we all have opinions on how things should be done. You can always second-guess and find fault, and in some churches there are people who believe that’s their gift and calling. Believe me – if you think you have the gift of criticism – it wasn’t given you by the Holy Spirit.

I love the spirit of our shepherds. Their door is always open. When you have a concern or a need – you are always welcome to come to their meetings. And beyond that, they are true shepherds. You can go to any one of them and they will spend time with you and pray with you and do whatever needs to be done to help you. And many of you have experienced that kind of shepherding already. You know the servant hearts of our elders who pour themselves out for us.

Let’s make their work a joy, not a burden. Let’s commit ourselves to their leadership and allow them to do what we are asking them to do – to help us individually and as a congregation to draw closer to God.

Being good followers doesn’t mean we sit back, keep our mouths shut and let them work. Being a good follower means we follow their example. God doesn’t want a church full of passive spectators cheering on the leaders doing all the work. Paul writes this in Eph. 4:11-12,16 “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Our shepherds are in the equipping business – their job is to prepare each of us for the work of ministry. The church thrives when leaders lead and members follow. As we ask these men to dedicate themselves to the important task of leading us, are we willing to dedicate ourselves to the equally important task of following?

As we dedicate these men to the work of shepherding this congregation, I’m going to ask our new elders some questions and ask them to respond, and then I am going to ask you some questions and ask you to respond.

Dedication of Elders
· Are you willing to accept this responsibility of shepherding God’s flock here at the Glenwood Church of Christ?
· Are you willing to lay down your life in serving and protecting and nurturing this church family whom God has put under your care?
· Do you promise to let God’s Word guide you in every decision you make, take every decision before God in prayer and make the kingdom of God your highest calling?
· Are you willing to work together with your fellow elders in the work of God’s kingdom here at the Glenwood church and strive for harmony and unity in every endeavor?
· Will you imitate the Chief Shepherd in every way as you seek to shepherd this family of God’s people?

Dedication of Congregation
· Are you willing to allow these men to lead you in the work of God’s kingdom here at the Glenwood church?
· Do you promise to make their work a joy and not a burden as you humbly and willingly follow their lead?
· Will you dedicate yourself to being a good follower and willing servant as we strive together to bring glory to God and to his son, Jesus Christ?