Can we assume that similar guardianship duties are in view as those entrusted to Old Testament priests? To keep the worship of God pure, and according to what is pleasing to Him? To instruct the people in approaching the Lord, and to lead them faithfully in worship, according to the pattern revealed in God’s Word? To watch over one another, lest we begin to drift from what God has revealed and fall into practices of ministry and life more characteristic of the surrounding culture than the revelation of God’s Word? To guard the flock against false teaching? The ravages of the devil? The ways of temptation and sin? The practices of paganism, worldliness, and unbelief?

I don’t see why we should not take these ideas as central to the work of pastoral ministry, more important than casting vision, running a smooth operation, or being entertaining in the pulpit. Pastors are called to guard the flocks of God entrusted to them. No amount of anything else can substitute for this most foundational aspect of our calling.

To Guard the Flock of God
In Acts 20:28 Paul mentions that, if they are going to be effective guardians of God’s flock, pastors and elders must first be careful guardians of themselves, and of one another. They cannot protect the people of God from the subtle allure and the traps and snares of ungodly living if they are not careful above all else to guard themselves.

Ministers need much time for prayerful introspection, waiting on the Lord in prayer for Him to reveal the motives of their hearts and to shape His priorities in their souls. They need long hours meditating in God’s Word, letting the Scriptures wash back and forth over them under the cleansing and renewing impulse of the Spirit. They need to establish means of self-evaluation, and to practice accountability with other ministers and elders, lest they should, wittingly or otherwise, lower their guard against the suave, sophisticated, and slippery temptations of our secular, sensual age.

The potential of drifting away from the things of the Lord under the powerful influence of the spirit of the age is very real (Hebrews 2:1). Ministers who fail to take up a guardianship attitude toward themselves and their churches will not be able to fulfill the Lord’s calling for them, and may well become a source of their congregation’s drifting into unbiblical practices and ways. We must not be naïve about the importance of this matter. The work of guarding themselves, and guarding the flocks entrusted to their care, must be of first importance on the minds of today’s pastors.

For Reflection
How does your pastor exercise the role of guardian in your congregation? Who is guarding your pastor, so that he may faithfully exercise his calling?

T. M. Moore is dean of the Centurions Program of the Wilberforce Forum and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are The Ailbe Psalter and The Ground for Christian Ethics, (Waxed Tablet). He and his wife and editor, Susie, make their home in Concord, Tenn.