This may be the most obvious of all the aspects of pastoral shepherding. According to Jeremiah 3:15, the shepherds after God’s own heart are those who feed the flock with understanding and wisdom. Pastors are called to accurately teach the mind of God and demonstrate to the flock what these truths look like when they are fleshed out in daily life. If pastors are anything, they are preachers and teachers, expositors of God’s Word.
Pastors are identified in the scriptures as those who “labor in the word and in doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17). The apostles summed up the essence of pastoral labor by saying that they would give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Paul’s emphasis throughout the pastoral epistles is that men in ministry would labor in the truth by means of public proclamation in ways that would honor God, promote godliness in the lives of God’s people and bring sinners to salvation. The proclamation of the Word is the great end to which all pastoral labor is directed. Preaching is the means by which the sheep are comforted and transformed more and more into the image of the Savior. The words of the prophet Ezekiel ought to soberly place the fear of God into everyone who enters the pulpit: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 “The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.” (34:2-4)
The prophet draws a connection between the starving of the flock and their neglect and oppression. Sadly, there are men in ministry seeking to promote and enrich themselves. They feed themselves but they do not feed the flock. These false teachers will manipulate the word to derive power, pleasure, or money from the flock. It is the duty of every pastor to faithfully, fearlessly, accurately, intelligibly, and compellingly to exegete, illustrate, and apply the truth of God week in and week out. If the sheep have any righteous expectation of shepherds, it is that they will feed them. To feed the flock effectively the shepherd must engage in at least four things. He must, first of all, accurately exegete the word of truth. Effort, diligence, and training on his part is required. The pastors ought to be trained in hermeneutics and have his mind guarded and guided in both systematic and biblical theology. Secondly, he must clearly and effectively communicate that truth through a simple, logical and effective structure. It does no good to be accurate if you are not understandable. Thirdly, he must present that truth in the act of preaching in a Spirit-empowered, clear, compelling, bold and authoritative declaration that befits a man who is speaking on behalf of the King of Kings. In the act of preaching, the Chief Shepherd is preaching to his people through his appointed servant. The herald of the King must accurately express both the message of the King and the heart of the King. Finally, the faithful shepherd must ensure that his own life does not undermine his ability to handle any text or theme of scripture. The shepherd will often live and labor among his people for decades. The flock will not be compelled by exegesis or powerful oration if the man’s life contradicts what is being said. Paul told Titus to engage in a ministry in which he would open up the truth of God in very particular application to all kinds of people. He was exhorted by the apostle to, “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” (Titus 2:15)
Jim has been with RBC since 1990. He was set aside by the church for full time ministry in November of 1991. Jim was brought to faith as a teenager and soon began to experience a desire to preach God’s Word. He trained for the ministry at Columbia Bible College in Columbia, SC (now Columbia International University) and at the Trinity Ministerial Academy in Montville, NJ. He married his wife, Becky in 1989 and they have been blessed with three daughters and one son.