The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:1-2, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow-elder…Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care”.
The King James Version of the Bible renders it like this, “the elders which are among you I exhort…feed the flock of God which is among you”.
Peter probably wrote these words with the words of Jesus ringing in his ears. Three times in John 21 Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep”. In 1 Peter 5:2 the word for “be shepherds” is the word “poimaino” which generally means to take care of, but has the particular meaning of feeding or nourishing. In fact, in John 21, once Jesus uses the word “poimaino” (v16) and twice uses the word “bosko” (v15, 17) which means to feed (Cf. the same word in Luke 15:15). All this to say that the primary task Jesus gives to Peter is to nourish his sheep on the deep truths of God’s word and this is the task Peter reminds his fellow elders of.
Thus pastors and elders are to care for the church of God by primarily diligently and carefully and prayerfully teaching them the Bible in big groups, small groups and one-to-one. This is why Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to preach the word and why Paul envisages the pastors and teachers in Ephesians 4:12 as equipping Christians for various forms of service and ministry.
Church is for Christians and is made up of Christians. Christians are encouraged to meet regularly to encourage one another. Pastors are called and gifted to teach the Bible so that Christians may grow in their faith, live transformed Christian lives, be aware of false teaching, be equipped to live in a fallen world, and be trained to share their faith with non-believers.
Of course our church services are open to all to attend, so there will always be non-Christians present. Even some of the church members may be non-Christians as we cannot know their hearts. Therefore it is always wise to seek to explain the implications of any given passage in the Bible for non-Christians as well as God’s people. We also know that the same gospel that grows the Church is the same gospel that converts non-believers. I am not arguing that pastors should not engage in evangelism, we should (2 Timothy 4:5). But we engage in evangelism because we are Christians, not because we are pastors. The pastor’s or elder’s primary task is to teach, protect, nourish and feed the sheep. We seek also to train the flock of God to reach lost sheep and bring them into the fold. We also pray for ourselves that the Lord will give us opportunities to speak the gospel to non-Christians and demonstrate to God’s people what authentic Christianity looks like.
What do you think?