For I do not hesitate to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 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 20:27-28).
To the elders among you I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who will share in the glory to be revealed. 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. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4).
THE COUNSEL OF GOD
This two passages provide a wealth of learning from the Holy Spirit for pastors and leaders of the Lord’s Church. A careful analytical study of these reveals God’s instructions for every leader involved in the Lord’s work.
Acts 20:17-38 contains Paul’s instructions to pastors and leaders of what we would call the fist pastoral retreat, where he was the special speaker. The apostle Paul, recognized by local leadership as the pioneer pastor in Ephesus for more than three years, returned to Jerusalem and convened the elders of Ephesus at Miletus, a tourist center a few hours south of Ephesus.
The Apostles Peter and Paul have similar teaching emphasis.
BobYandian in his book “God’s Word to Pastors” says, “I believe that one of the reasons why the Holy Spirit gave these passages is that all ministers, but particularly pastors, are favorite targets for Satan and his army of demons. When leaders are destroyed a path of chaos and confusion grips many followers. Because of this, the pastorate office is always under supernatural attack. If the enemy eliminates a pastor, he destroys the congregation.¨
“Discouragement, exhaustion, and frustration can easily plague the pastor if he does not recognize and follow the principles that the word of God teaches. We do not need a great spiritual revelation to free us from the devil’s traps.”
Over many years, Paul and Peter learned to work with God’s flock. Both positive and negative experiences served as a basis for learning the principles necessary to carry out the ministry.
The Whole Counsel Of God
Paul says that he had not departed from teaching the whole counsel of God so that no one’s blood would be upon him. When Christians suffer or when those who attend church die without knowing the Lord as Savior, God will hold the leader accountable for not having taught his whole counsel.
Many pastors abstain from teaching about certain portions of the Bible simply because they do not coincide with their theological beliefs. They avoid controversial subjects that have been carried to extremes by others. They’ve observed people get hurt for following doctrines which were out of balance and thus prefer to stay away from them. Paul says: “I have not refused to announce to you the whole counsel of God.” The whole counsel of the Word of God is given to us to perfect believers for every good work.
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Keep Watch Over Yourselves
Paul says Keep watch over yourselves and over the flock” (Acts 20:28). Let us note that the first in the order of priorities is to take care of yourself. God is more interested in the minister than the ministry. It is relatively easy to replace a minister or pastor but it is not so easy to replace a husband or father. My first responsibility before God is my relationship with Him and with my family. I have known and observed numerous ministers whose homes have been destroyed because they have given their ministry priority over their home.
The apostle exhorts us to take care of ourselves in practical matters and not just spiritual ones. A servant of God should take care of his health. He should protect time he dedicates to his wife and children. The minister should watch his diet, his ministerial agenda, his manner of dress, and other practical matters that affect his health. The healthier he is the more productive and effective he will be in the ministry.
The following passage contains praise to a tireless worker, but a warning is also prevalent:
But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him and not only on him, but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore, I have sent him all the more eagerly in order that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete
what was deficient in your service to me (Philippians 2:25-30).
Paul seems to be saying that Epaphroditus was a workaholic who had not died only because of the mercy of God. He says we should esteem those who are like Epaphroditus, but at the same time, he does not fail to emphasize the sadness he feels because of his condition.
The ministry that God gives us should not to take us to the grave. Christ already went to the grave for us so that we, through his death, might have life. There are those who work excessively and they want to condemn those who do not work like they do.
In my work for the Lord, I have to travel frequently. I used fly over 150,000 miles every year. I have visited five continents and ministered in sixty five nations. During the majority of my trips, I try to take a few days off to rest and to visit beautiful sites in each nation. My wife frequently went with me and almost always when I travel for more than 15 days at a time. When I return home, I take several days off to rest before returning to my ministerial duties.
I once worked for an individual who told me: “Never mix work with vacation.” I always try to mix work and play because I believe that it is the only way to take care of my health. This benefits my family, the ministry, and me.
Take Care of Yourself and You Will Save Yourself
Paul tells Timothy to take care of himself and thus save himself and those who listen to him (See 1 Timothy 4:16). The word “you will save” from the Greek word “sozo” can be used in a spiritual or physical sense. Sozo means “health” or “preservation from harm.” I believe that in this case it refers to physical health that preserves life. Every pastor should take vacation to rest his mind, his body and at the same time provide quality time for his family. I also recommend an occasional sabbatical to rest and seek the Lord for direction. (My 7 month Sabbatical)
Some think that the ministry cannot continue if they are not there. I have a surprise for you: God has done a good job for 2000 years without our help, and with or without us; He will accomplish what He has declared. God wants His leaders and shepherds to take care of themselves, to take vacations, and to attend conferences and spiritual and marriage retreats. The healthier we are, the more effective we will be spiritually. God wants us to take care of our family. God can replace a minister or a pastor, but there is no replacement for a husband or a father.
What are the most important things?
Paul in his epistle to the church in Colossi gives us the order of priorities for the Christian life.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart. Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Colossians 3:17-22).
According to this passage, the order of priorities is God first, our spouse second, our children third, and then our profession. If our profession is the ministry, this comes after God and family. If our employment is secular, our work obligations have priority over our temporary service in ministry.
I often share this thought with ministers and pastors which has become a promise I have made to my wife. “The day the ministry is harmful to me or my family, I will leave it.” The ministry that God has given me for my family has priority over everything else.
For The Whole Flock
The Bible shows us how the pastor of the largest church in history, with a congregation of more than two million, according to conservative estimates, became a workaholic and was so busy counseling and deciding important affairs that he had no time for anything else. God intervened and sent this pastor a person, who had been his boss and supervisor for forty years as well as his father in law, so he could instruct and advise him in the area of administration and management.
This pastor had been greatly blessed by God. The news about the miracles, signs, and wonders performed through him had reached the ears of his former boss, who was his father-in-law. This was Jethro, who at that point was not a believer. Their story is found in Chapter 18 of the book of Exodus. Here we read that Jethro, along with Moses’ wife Zipporah and his sons Gershom and Eliezar arrived at the camp that was located next to Mount Sinai.
When they arrived, Moses shared what God had done for the people of Israel. Upon hearing about these wonders and miracles, Jethro came to know the God of Israel. Jethro declared, “Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all the gods; because He has prevailed against them in the things in which they took pride” (Exodus 18:11).
During these last days, we see how God is calling many professionals and business people to the ministry. They are bringing to the church a much-needed administrative experience. In my case, the Lord called me to the ministry after more than twenty five years in the banking world. My educational background and experience has allowed me to make use of this knowledge in the work of the ministry.
Likewise, Jethro was able to offer Moses his valuable experience. Upon observing Moses’ modus operandi, Jethro immediately proceeded to give him practical advice concerning his leadership supervision roles with the congregation. “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning ‘till evening” (Exodus 18:13).
Moses’ agenda was saturated with counseling and giving verdicts after having heard the people. His agenda was very busy advising and fulfilling appointments that took up all his time. Something similar happened to the church in Jerusalem centuries later. This church was in a revival and was growing rapidly.
The Bible says that the number of disciples was multiplying (Acts 6:1). This growth was demanding more and more of the leadership’s time to serve new believers as well as older ones. The twelve leaders assembled the congregation to clarify their priorities. “It is not right for us to leave the Word of God to serve tables…And we (the pastors), will persist in prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:3).
How did they solve the problem? With the delegation of authority! “Brothers, choose from among you seven men who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom (prudent conduct in life and business) who will take charge of this work” (Acts 6:3). What was the priority of the overseers? Prayer and the ministry of the Word!
Jethro had the same counsel for Moses. He proceeds to give him a dose of administrative counsel about his priorities and the delegation of authority:
“Now when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor, and make known the statutes of God and His laws’ (Exodus 18:14-16).
It seems that Moses, because he had a pastor’s heart, had not perceived the correct order of priorities. This was leading him toward physical and emotional exhaustion.
The Apostle Paul tells us in the epistle to the Ephesians that the ministerial gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher are given to the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. This means that the ministers should be equipping (Discipling) and the saints should be working.
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 (Ephesians 4: 11-12).
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance the word “to perfect” from the Greek “katartismos” means: “to make adequate, to prepare, to train, to perfect, to qualify fully for service.”
Observe what Jethro tells Moses would be the result of continuing to minister in that manner.
What you are doing is not good. You and the people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you: you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to Him (Intercession and Prayer). Teach them the decrees and laws ( Teaching) , and show them the way to live (Role model) and the duties they are to perform.(disciple) (Exodus 18: 17-20).
The Holy Spirit has preserved Jethro’s counsel in writing so we may learn. His counsel remains firm and solid for contemporary leaders and pastors. From a practical point of view, it was good neither for Moses’ health nor for the people’s. The load was much too great for Moses alone.
The role of Moses as pastor of God’s flock was the following:
• First, as an Intercessor. He was to cry out to God as a representative
of the people and pray concerning their situations and problems. You, as a minister, are the people’s representative before God, an intercessor who presents the matters to God in prayer.
• Second, as a Teacher. To explain and teach the congregation the whole counsel of God, so they will not need to have other intermediaries, but have direct access to God’s throne. Also, that they may be able to fight against the attacks of the enemy with their knowledge of the Word.
• Third, as an Example. The leader should be a role model of a husband, father, and high priest of God to the congregation. He should be an example as an intercessor, as a finance manager, in his character, in his commitment to evangelism and missions, in worship and praise, in managing his household, and in every other vital area of influence. In Exodus we read, “Show them the way in which they should walk” (Exodus 18:20).
• Fourth, as one who Disciples. Evangelism produces numerical growth but discipleship produces spiritual growth. The call of Jesus to His followers was to disciple others. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 author’s emphasis). “Show them what they must do” (Exodus 18:20
• Fifth, as an Administrator. A good administrator trains individuals to help him in the work and then he delegates to them authority to execute it. In maintaining a good supervision of the disciples as a trainer or coach he must help them, direct, and teach them how to lead others also. When these leaders cannot solve a problem, then the administrator is available to help them resolve it.
Let us analyze Jethro’s words in the following statement:
“But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and appoint them officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain and all these people will go home satisfied” (Exodus 18:21-23).
Individuals should not be selected or chosen because of their talents but because of their character and virtues. God-fearing (believers), trustworthy men who know how to manage financial affairs, who are not lovers of money, but good stewards and who hate greed.
Jethro also recommends a hierarchy of authority. In the business world, it is known as the administrative hierarchy: chair, president, vice presidents, directors, supervisors, and employees. It means an order of authority that allows those who are in the highest positions to separate themselves from decisions of lesser importance as they exercise their functions. In the church, it could be divided this way: senior pastor, assistant pastors, ministry directors or supervisors, their assistants and the congregation. “As heads over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”The church leadership carries out the work and makes daily decisions.
The more important matters are taken to the pastor through the established hierarchy. “They will judge the people at all times —-and they will judge the simple cases.” All major decisions are taken to the senior pastor. This is called the “administrative pastorate,” which is different from the “parochial pastorate.”
Finally, Jethro counsels that before doing this, he must consult God. God has the first and final word. “If you do this and God so commands.”
Moses’ attitude was that of a disciple who didn’t think he knew it all and who was open to the counsel of someone who perhaps was not as spiritual or as anointed as he, but who was speaking from experience concerning practical areas of administration where Moses had weaknesses. It is evident that Moses sought the Lord’s approval and received it.
What was the result of Jethro’s advice to Moses?
“And Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and he did everything he told him” (Exodus 18:24).
The words of the Peter in Acts 6.4 are “We will give ourselves primarily to prayer and the ministry of the Word”
God DID NOT call you to minister to everybody, He called you to see that everybody is ministered to. You must learn to delegate. People will love to get involved in the service of The Lord’s Church and take ownership when you use them.
I highly recommend that NO PASTOR should ever get involved in the finances of the ministry. Not ever find out who tithes and who doesn’t and if possible never sign any checks for the ministry.
If you want to build a Congregation you disciple people BUT if you want to build a movement you equip and train LEADERS.
Finally, EVERYONE who is in any type of ministry MUST have Someone else to whom HE is accountable.
In my 45 years of my Christian walk and ministry I have NEVER been without someone in authority over me and I have been blessed with outstanding men of God who have mentored me as a son, a friend and a disciple.
I ALWAYS in EVERYONE of my books acknowledge those who have mentored me and to whom I have been accountable for my life, family and ministry. Those include my spiritual father under whom I was born again, Dr. Jack Hayford with the Foursquare Church in Van Nuys CA. Dr. Enrique Zone who challenged me to teach at Sunday School Level at Reseda Foursquare Church In CA, and then to teach at Life Institute of Foursquare Education (Life Bible College in Los Angeles). Pastor Charles Mc Hatton who licensed me to the ministry for Gospel Echoes Ministries, Dr. Gary Kinnaman who was my teacher, pastor and mentor for over 35 years at Word of Grace Church in Mesa and who is still my boss as a member of our ministry’s Board of Directors, Dr. Alberto Mottesi who introduced me to the Latin American Nations, Dr. C Peter Wagner who adopted me as a son and introduced me to ministry around the world from The World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, CO
Jesus declared of the Roman Centurion a man of great faith the which He had not seen in all of Israel. Why? Because the centurion understood the concept of authority and being under authority. God gives us authority when we submit to authority and God gives authority over the things we love. If you don’t love your city, If you don’t love God’s flock, if you don’t love your family, if you don’t love the lost, GOD WILL NOT GIVE YOU RECOGNIZED AUTHORITY OVER THEM.