What is a Shepherding Elder?

1 Peter 5:1-5 (TPT) says, “1 Now, I encourage you as an elder, an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, and one who shares in the glory that is about to be unveiled. I urge my fellow elders among you 2 to be compassionate shepherds who tenderly care for God’s flock and who feed them well, for you have the responsibility to guide, protect, and oversee. Consider it a joyous pleasure and not merely a religious duty. Lead from the heart under God’s leadership—not as a way to gain finances dishonestly but as a way to eagerly and cheerfully serve. 3 Don’t be controlling tyrants but lead others by your beautiful examples to the flock. 4 And when the Shepherd-King appears, you will win the victor’s crown of glory that never fades away. 5 In the same way, the younger ones should willingly support the leadership of the elders. In every relationship, each of you must wrap around yourself the apron of a humble servant. Because: God resists you when you are proud but multiplies grace and favor when you are humble.”

When God calls someone into the office of a shepherd, they must understand that they are oversees of God’s heritage because His inheritance is His people. If a shepherd wants to receive a crown of glory that is eternal and never fading, they must fulfill their responsibility to the best of their ability, which includes feeding and not fleecing the flock of God, take oversight of and care for the flock, serve the flock willingly, serve readily and not for personal gain like hirelings, not lords over God’s heritage but serve in humility, and be examples to the flock. As shepherds, we are to not exercise lordship over the flock, making ourselves as or equal with God, but we are to humbly serve just as Jesus did. We are to never act like that we are better than the sheep, but we are to communicate with them. Do not abuse or misuse your leadership and authority to dictate everything in order to fulfill your selfish ambitions. Fulfill the law of Christ by serving in humility and love.

The vision of eldership is to conquer the American perversion of pastoring, bring protection, healing and accountability to all pastors or shepherding elders, to the share the burden of ministry so that it is not all on one person’s shoulders, and to mirror the Book of Acts model laid out in scripture, which consisted of apostles and elders as the leaders of the church. They were not perfect, but their heartbeat was for encounters of the presence of God and winning souls! Eldership is not the church police. We have to break out of the “system” of the church and go and make disciples. 

If you have to tell someone you are in authority and use a title to exemplify your power and strength, then you are demonstrating a lack of confidence in how you are, and you want to be respected based on a title. If you have to go around the room and tell someone you are the boss, then more than likely you are not the boss! You demonstrate your leadership not through lordship, but through humility. Authoritarian rule has no place in the church. That is the perversion of pastoring.

When you are struggling with entitlement, it shows that you feel like you are not being respected enough, and you are unwilling to serve from a place of love, but be controlling from a place of ambition. Entitlement coupled with selfish ambition is the most dangerous aspect of any self-proclaimed believer. We seek to fulfill our own agenda rather than walk in a spirit of unity. We think ministry is about us rather than winning souls, and we form it solely as a business and career choice instead of allowing it to flow out a place of devotion. We pass by those who are in need instead of seeing through eyes of compassion for the lost simply because we feel as though it does not fall under our title in the ministry. Therefore, we are not obligated to serve and help. For example, a pastor may ignore the voice of God in witnessing to someone in the mall because his title is not “evangelist”, or, even further, he may not help someone in need simply because they attend another church. Instead of seeing them as “brothers and sisters in Christ”, they enter this competition mode with an “us against them” mentality, forming a divisive wedge and missing altogether who the true enemy is, which is not a denomination but Satan himself. This shows how the church has fallen short in simply becoming an organization in hopes of gaining popularity rather than truly helping people and changing lives! We must be repent and allow the Holy Spirit to break the bonds of entitlement, laying down our selfish ego at an altar and following Jesus with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Then, we may reflect the real church of the Book of Acts! It is time we do as Jesus did: lay down the mic for a towel! We must break entitlement! You do not have to possess a title to serve, or let alone a title possess you!

What were the purposes of elders in the Book of Acts? Elders must be able to teach the validity of scripture while tearing down any false idea or agenda that opposed the will of the Father. They also meditated disputes and brought healing and unity according to the will of God! A good example of this in scripture is found in Acts 15. Everyone involved in discussing the debate on circumcision presented their point-of-view to the apostles and elders (15:6), who then applied the teachings of Scripture to the issue as well as experiences and encounters of the Holy Spirit (15:15-18). The elders and apostles derived to the Biblical truth, who then taught the church (15:25), the congregation came into agreement, and action was taken that was consistent to the teaching! This displays the importance and necessity of eldership in the Body of Christ. It is not determined by spiritual age, but rather by spiritual maturity!