“The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. “Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone.” (Numbers 11:16–17, NASB95)
The installation of Marshall and “Sonny” as new shepherds over our flock marks a new era in the pastoral ministry of Christ Covenant Church. Their grit and gumption were a tremendous help during our session meeting this week, and I know some of you have already felt the kindly touch of their shepherd’s hands as they begin their service in our midst.
The office of elder has deep roots extending back beyond the New Testament Church (1Timothy 3; Titus 1) to the time of Moses and Israel’s wilderness wanderings. God Himself intends these men to help Moses bear the burden of leadership, to be the Spirit’s earthly hands leading God’s people to the Land of Canaan.
We don’t often like to think of leadership as a burden. Our culture thinks of leaders as celebrities, the frontmen who get all the credit, who make the “big-bucks,” those lucky few who get to make all the decisions, and who, consequently, get to have things all their own way.
God, however, thinks differently. He sees leaders as men who bear burdens, who take responsibility, and who solve problems; men who move things forward. This almost always involves sacrifice.
For the elders this means we are to be men of vision, strategy, and tactics. Vision: Where is God calling to lead the congregation? Strategy: how are we to get there? Tactics: What skills, tools, and resources will we need along the way?
We are also to be men of pastoral care and compassion. People are our business. God isn’t just calling us to take the church to a particular destination. He holds us responsible for her spiritual condition when she gets there. In practical terms, this means we need to know how you are doing in your souls: What problems you are facing, what burden’s you are carrying, what major areas of weakness dog your steps.
With two new men expanding our total number of elders to 4, to make this a manageable task, we have recently redivided the congregation into under-shepherd groups, with each elder responsible for one quarter of the congregation. The session chose not to give me a particular group so that, as your pastor, I can be free to act throughout the length and breadth of the congregation. In the upcoming weeks, be on the look-out for your elder, he will be contacting you to introduce himself as your particular shepherd. As time rolls on, he will be particularly responsible for each of the families in his group, reaching out to you by phone through the year, soliciting prayer requests from you, and praying with you as opportunities present themselves. Needless to say, none of this undermines my role as the pastor of the whole congregation. Please continue to feel free to reach out to me with any questions, prayer requests, or pastoral needs you might have.
What can you do to help us? First, pray for us that God would furnish us with wisdom, a Spirit of prayer and supplication for the flock, and growing love and concern for the souls of men. Second, embrace our pastoral efforts in the spirit in which they are intended. In his letter to the Hebrews, the writer says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17). I know I am speaking to the choir here, because y’all have been a remarkably easy flock of sheep to Shepherd. May God give us all grace to press on forward from strength to strength.