Summary: In his farewell speech Paul advises the leaders at Ephesus how to become good leaders of the flock.
Imagine after spending nine years in missionary work being asked by God to leave your ministry area to go to a place where persecution and then prison are guaranteed! Instead of being concerned of his own welfare Paul was genuinely concerned for the leaders of the church at Ephesus. He spent almost two years with this church but still felt compelled to give them final words of wisdom. As leaders of the modern day church we can learn much from Paul’s speech to these elders.
First, I find that the attitude of the leader matters. Like Paul our church leaders today need to be clothed with humility while they fearfully proclaim God’s word to the people. Too often we water down God’s word so that we might tickle the ears (2 Timothy 4:3-4) of the flock to remain popular. When faced with some of the most difficult questions society has for Christians to answer (sex before marriage, abortion, homosexuality …) we remain silent in an attempt to offend no one. If we as Christians continue to remain silent then who will teach the people of this world the truth? Paul was bold when he stated “you foolish Galatians” (Galatians 3:1) when he scolded the church of Corinth for putting up with a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5) and when he called homosexuality a sin (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:8). Likewise, today we need leaders that will preach the whole word of God without any form of censorship. This does not mean we treat people with anger or disrespect when we talk about their sin but out of love, gentleness and great hope point out their sins in hopes they will repent and get closer to God.
Second, leaders of the modern day church need to take better care of the flock. This begins first by self-examination and repentance. Romans 10:9 states we are to make Jesus Christ the lord of our lives. As leaders this means that our attitude must be similar to Paul’s when he stated: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20) Everything that we do for the flock that God has entrusted to us must be for the honor and glory of God the Father in heaven (1 Corinthians 10:31) and never for ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Taking care of the flock means watching out for ravaging wolves that seek to devour God’s people. Paul’s speech to Timothy concerning faith fading in the end times is a warning that must be taken seriously: How the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons (1 Timothy 4:1b) It is by their fruits that you will know that they are wolves (Matthew 7:15-16). These people will create chaos and conflict any chance they can get. When faced with a wolf it is the leader’s responsibility to approach them in love and if they refuse to repent then tell it to two others and then to the church. If they still refuse to repent then have them removed from the church and pray that they might repent (Matthew 18). Finally Paul tells the elders at Ephesus that in all that they do they should commit everything to the Lord. I believe that we often try to accomplish great things and make great plans inside of God’s kingdom … only to invite Him into the plan after it has been set!