Summary: A sermon on the elders responsibilities to their congregation (Much material taken from BIBLICAL ELDERSHIP by Alexander Strauch, Chapter 7 The Acts of the Apostles)
Lynn Anderson- Several years ago, Carolyn and I rode a tour bus through Israel's countryside, spellbound by Ahim, our unusually gifted tour guide. Ahim, who likes to laugh at himself, told how one of his tours fizzled. Ahim said he was reeling off his spiel about shepherds, who don't drive the sheep, they lead them, etc., etc., when he suddenly realized he had totally lost his audience. They were all pointing out the bus window at a man chasing a "herd" of sheep, siccing the dog on them, throwing rocks at them, and whacking them with sticks. "The sheep-driving man in the field," lamented Ahim, "torpedoed my whole fascinating story, metaphor and all." Ahim said at that point he jumped off the bus, accosted the man, and scolded him. "Do you understand what you have just done to me? I was spinning this charming story about the gentle ways of shepherds and here you are hazing and assaulting these sheep! What is going on?"
A bewildered look froze on the face of the poor fellow driving the sheep, then he blurted out, "Man, you've got me all wrong. I'm not a shepherd. I'm a butcher!" This poor fellow had just provided Ahim and all of us with a perfect example of what a “good shepherd” is not.
As Paul concluded his 3rd missionary journey and headed toward Jerusalem to arrive for the feast of Pentecost, his ship docked for several days in the harbor of Miletus to unload and load its cargo. Since Miletus is but 40 miles south of the city of Ephesus, Paul seized the opportunity to have the Ephesian elders to meet him in Miletus for a farewell. This is the only record of Paul speaking directly to elders.
Every elder should master the content of Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders.
Thesis: These verses give us the elders responsibility to the congregation.
The Elder’s Duty: Protect the Church- Acts 20:28
Keep watch- be on guard, pay strict attention, for yourselves and for all the flock.
The opposite would be to neglect the flock, to be inattentive, or to be preoccupied with other matters so as to be unaware of the problems and dangers confronting the flock.
To fulfill this task, the elders must be vigilant with their own spiritual condition. As elder cannot guard the spiritual lives of others if he cannot guard his own soul.
Elders must do whatever is necessary to guard their daily walk with God. They must faithfully engage in daily prayer and Scripture reading.
Elders also must guard against being ensnared by the pleasures and cares of this world.
They must guard against bitterness of heart, discouragement, spiritual laziness, and unbelief. They must keep their minds and hearts fixed firmly on Jesus Christ.
The elders must guard all the flock, that is, the local Christian congregation. Paul describes the local church as a flock of sheep that the elders are to shepherd and, especially, to protect from wolves. The sheep shepherd image beautifully illustrates the church’s need for leadership and protection. As essential part of this is the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. Because sheep are defenseless, an unguarded flock is in danger.
The command to guard the flock means that the elders must keep their minds on the church. They must be watchful and observant. The must be attentive at all times to the spiritual well being of the people. The must watch for people who have wandered off from the flock or for new believers who are struggling to survive. The must constantly be alert to dangers both from outside the flock and from within it. Proverbs 27:23: Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds
We must not overlook Paul’s use of the word “all” here. The elders are responsible to protect all the sheep, not just their favorite portion of the flock. None must be neglected.
Like every member of the congregation, an elder will have personal interest in and involvement with a specific ministry where they can use their gifts and talents. These ministries have a limited number of people involved. However, the elder must realize that he has a responsibility to care for the whole flock with all its people, programs, and problems.
The Elder’s Commission or Mission- Acts 20:28b- 31
Paul reminds the elders that it was God, the Holy Spirit, who made them overseers for the purpose of pastoring the flock. Paul stresses the will of God the Holy Spirit in determining who oversees the church of God. It was not the church nor the apostles that placed these men as overseers. Although humans were involved, the placement was made by the Holy spirit.
The elders must guard the church with their lives. Why? Anything less would be to disobey the One who appointed them. The HOly Spirit placed them as overseers to shepherd the church of God. This encompasses the complete shepherding task of leading, feeding, and guarding the sheep.