QUALITIES OF A GOOD SHEPHERD

 

OCTOBER 4, 2009

 

 

I Timothy 3:1-7 (NIV):  “Here is a trustworthy saying:  If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.  Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.  He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

 

The subject that the Lord has allowed me to share with you today is “Qualities of a Good Shepherd.”  The word “overseer” in the New International Version Bible is a modern day word for “bishop” in the King James Bible.  Nevertheless, “overseer” is applicable for a bishop, an elder or a pastor.  No matter what title, it is a noble task because the minister has to be “chosen” by God.  St. Matthew 22:14 did say, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  The word “call” in Greek is “kaleo”, which means to call, invite or summon.  The word “chosen” in Greek is “eklego”, which means to choose, pick or select.  It is one thing to be “summoned” by God into His ministry while it is another thing to be “selected” by God to be an overseer of His people.  The overseer’s position is explained in 1 Peter 5:2-3:  “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be: not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”  It takes eagerness to lead the people and most importantly being of a good example.  Don’t get me wrong, it is an honor and a privilege to stand before a crowd of people and share God’s Holy Word with them while it is another thing to go out and be of a good example whenever we are outside of God’s House of Worship.  It is sad that a lot of people have abused and misused the position of being a shepherd.  All of us in this sanctuary have seen or heard stories about those who are shepherds by title only.  We have seen or heard stories about ministers that are greedy and caught up in vanity.  I can see why King Solomon yelled, “Vanity! Vanity! Vanity!  Everything is vanity!” in the book of Ecclesiastes.  Don’t get me wrong, money is needed to help ministry flourish and God likes things to be in order.  Keep in mind that it is EXTREMEMLY IMPORTANT that ministers do not allow the love of money to cloud their judgment and lose focus on saving souls!  It says in I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil:  which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  You also have ministers who are caught up in arrogance, adultery, fornication, drunkenness and the list goes on and on.  Jeremiah 23:1 said, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! Saith the Lord.”  I’m not talking about “whoa” as in “slow down.”  I’m talking about “woe” as in “consequences and repercussions of God’s Wrath!”  The minister has to be accountable for their actions when leading the people of God.  At the same time, there are many people outside the church and inside the church who look at the corrupted ministers and think that all ministers are all alike!  It is sad that a lot of ministers who are true to God are victims of “ministerial profiling!”  When that minister makes a mistake and commits sin, they are labeled as a villain until their time is up on earth!  Church people can be the most unforgiving people on the planet!  Keep in mind that there is a difference between Christians and Church people.  Christians have the love of God in them while the Church people are similar to the Pharisees and Sadducees (in the New Testament) where they profess to have a relationship with God but do not have the love in them.  I John 4:20 said “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:  for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  You also have people who place ministers on a pedestal like they are God!  There was an article in the July 2006 edition of Essence magazine called “Caught Up In The Rapture.”  It was very powerful and it exposed some issues that are going on in the church.  Some excerpts from that article read as follows:

“Decades after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., galvanized thousands to look toward the Promised Land, the pulpit of the Black church has remained a bastion of male leadership.  It is the one place in this country where the often demonized and disillusioned Black man can still reign supreme.  Add to the fact that the leader who occupies the Big Chair is usually charismatic, articulate, charming, and emotive and you have a presence that is near irresistible.  A Black pastor is like a celebrity…  When the man gets the call to preach, he also gets to wear expensive suits, travel in luxury, and command an audience.  People carry his coat and Bible for him.  His members often wait for him after church, just to touch him.  He’s almost like a god.  He is seen as a spiritual father and a good provider.” 

Don’t get me wrong, it is important to show love and respect to a minister, especially those who are overseers of people like a pastor, elder or bishop because it is a challenge to help encourage people to be together in unity while following God.  Keep in mind that us ministers are in need of prayer and we are human beings also.  Hebrews 13:17-19 did say:  “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves:  for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief:  for that is unprofitable for you.  Pray for us:  for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.”  What we all have to realize is that NONE of us are perfect!  From the pulpit to the door, ALL of us have committed sin by thought, word or deed.   All throughout the Holy Bible, you will find that God took ordinary people and used them for extraordinary things!  You have David in the book of II Samuel where he committed about every sin known to man along with committing adultery to Bathsheba but was still known as “a man after God’s heart” because he repented of the sins he committed.  He had to face the consequences of his actions yet; he was “a man after God’s heart.”  Who could forget the apostle Paul in the New Testament?  Here is a man that was a murderer of Christians and even traveled long distance to see them executed like he is going to a concert or a sporting event!  When God knocked him down and blinded him momentarily on the road to Damascus, Saul (who later became Paul) became one of the strongest Christians next to Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible!  The second, third and forth verses in the third chapter of I Timothy sums up the qualities of being a good shepherd.  “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”  When I look at the distinguished gentleman that we are honoring today, Rev. Nelson Spencer, the Pastor of New St. Paul AME Church here in Warren, Arkansas, I look at a man who is anointed by God and has been doing a spectacular job in being the overseer of this flock.  He has been a very “humble” man since I have first met him!  It said in Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride shall bring him low:  but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.”  I also look at the overwhelming amount of love and support that comes from his wife and family.  That definitely shows that he has been doing a wonderful job in being a husband, a father and being a pastor.  He is also very strong when it comes to prayer.  There were a couple of times in the past where I could feel the anointing of God when Rev. Spencer led prayer.  Rev. Spencer is a great example of how to be a shepherd of God’s flock.   The epitome of being a good shepherd belongs to a gentleman who is known as the Wonderful Counselor!  King of Kings!  Lord of Lords!  Alpha and Omega!  Prince of Peace!  Bright Morning Star!  The Way, the Truth and the Life!  No one else other than our Lord and Savior, JESUS!  In the thirteenth chapter of St. John, you will find that Jesus took the time to wash the feet of the Twelve Disciples.  In verses 14-16, Jesus said “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”  All throughout the Four Gospels, (St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John), Jesus served the people including the worst of society.  He healed people who were possessed with demonic spirits, He healed the sick, He restored a blind man’s vision and He even fed a multitude of people (5,000 men the first time, and 4,000 men the second time – not counting the women and children present on both occasions).  He also raised a man named Lazarus from the dead!  People who do not believe in Jesus are quick to label Him as a weakling because He was constantly persecuted and gave up His life on the cross.  I would like to mention that Jesus is not a punk, scrub, weakling or any other title used to define the extreme weakness of a person.  This is proved in St. John 2:14-16:  “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, Get these out of here!  How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”  When I first read that, I was like “WHUT!?!”  It did not say in the Bible that Jesus struck anybody.  I could tell from that passage that somebody would catch a physical “beat down” from Christ Himself if they did not leave the Temple!  Christ did that because the moneychangers were pimping the people by selling unclean animals for sacrifice – which is a disgrace in the Temple at that time.  He had the right to protect His father’s house, as you can see.  Jesus allowed Himself to be sacrificed for ALL of our sins because the sacrificial system at that time was not enough.  If you look at the Old Testament in the Bible, you will find that many people had to slaughter cattle, birds and other animals as a sacrifice per person for forgiveness of sin.  Also, only a priest back then had permission to be in the presence of God to receive forgiveness of sins for the people.  If the priest did not come to God in an appropriate manner, that priest would be dead!  Obviously, people kept pursuing sinful desires.  As you can see, Jesus was gracious enough to die for our sins!  A lot of us in this sanctuary would be hesitant to give up their life for the person sitting next to them!  Jesus wasn’t like that!  He was nailed to the cross, and gave up His life.  He had the right to have God send a legion of angels to wipe everybody off of the face of the Earth!  Instead, He told God in St. Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  From that moment where He gave up His life on the cross, all of our sins have been forgiven. We now have unrestricted access to God!  Keep in mind that Jesus didn’t stay dead!  He got up out of that grave and left us with God’s Holy Spirit to give us comfort in our lives!  Someday, we will ALL get a chance to see Him face to face.  I am praying that when I see Him, He will tell me “well done, my faithful servant.” 

  In closing, the ministers of God need to be good, loving shepherds over the flock of God’s people.  The people of God need to keep the ministers in prayer and support them with love.  It said in St. John 13:34-35:  “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  Let us love each other like Jesus loves us!

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