I read Acts 20:13-38 today as a part of my daily devotion. This is an emotional passage. Paul gathers the leaders of the church in Ephesus for a tearful and solemn farewell. Predicting his own demise, he shares with them that he will never see them again on this side of heaven. With that burden, he charges them with three duties every lead pastor must do: LEAD, FEED and sometimes WEED!
The first law of leadership is integrity. Paul tells them plainly how his life was his greatest legacy. It is simply amazing all of the declarations Paul makes in this passage by way of reminder. He tells them, “while I was with you I…”
- never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear
- kept my message clear
- watched over you day and night
- wept for you
- worked for you
- never asked money from you
- and was a constant example to you
He sums up his leadership in verse 26, “I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault!” Paul is saying, “you had to try really hard to go to hell on my watch!”
The second thing he tells these leaders is to, “Feed and shepherd God’s flock (28).” Pastors are first and foremost shepherds. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). When he restored Peter, he charged him three times to feed and take care of His sheep (John 21). Peter must have gotten the picture because in his old age he writes to church leaders telling them to, “care for the flock that God has entrusted you with.” (1 Peter 5:1).
Unfortunately some “sheep” have twisted this metaphor to mean that feeding is solely the responsibility of the shepherd. As though the sheep is a passive participant in the process. They complain about not being “fed” by their pastor when in truth they are ignoring the fact that a good shepherd guides the flock to the food, but doesn’t force feed them. In biological development, the only stage that actually needs to “be fed” is an infant. Come to think of it, that’s often the case in the spiritual realm too.
“Weed” may not be the best term to use here, but hey, it rhymed! Paul warns the Ephesian church leaders that “wolves” will come in and attack the flock and that it is up to them to take action (v.29). Psalm 23 reminds us that shepherds carry two sticks (a rod and a staff). One is for gently nudging wayward sheep back into alignment with the direction of the flock, and the other stick is to beat the crap out of any wolf threatening the health and welfare of the flock! Both are corrective actions. Both are absolutely necessary in order to shepherd a flock.
Paul tells these pastors that leading the church may not be the most glamorous career; it certainly is not the most lucrative, and we may never be acknowledged for our efforts this side of heaven, but there is nothing he would rather give his life to. He sums it up in verse 24:
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24, NLT)
Pastors, if we will lead our flock by our godly example, feed them with God’s word, and weed with God’s authority, then we will succeed by God’s grace.