An Author Interview from Books At a Glance
Just what is it the pastor is supposed to be doing? What ought to be his goals? I’m Fred Zaspel, editor here at Books At a Glance, and we’re talking today to Paul Tautges about his new book from Shepherd Press, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding.
Paul, welcome, and congratulations on your new book!
Thanks, Fred. I appreciate being on Books At a Glance again.
Tell us first what your book is all about. What is the contribution you are hoping to make?
The book is about the need to balance the public ministry of the Word to the gathered church, with the personal ministry of the word to individual sheep.
My hope is that God will use this little book to nudge pastors and elders back to the immeasurable privilege and indispensable task of shepherding the flock of God by means of teaching the Word of God and caring for the souls of men and women.
I’d like you to address the specifics of chapter 2 in a minute, but first, give us a broad overview of what “faithful shepherding” is. What is it you are after?
According to 1 Peter 5:2, the main function of pastors and elders is to care for the flock of God: “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” Addressing the Ephesian elders, Paul says essentially the same thing when he exhorts them to be “on guard for yourselves and for all the flock.” Faithful shepherding consists of caring for the overall spiritual well-being of God’s sheep, which requires feeding them the Word of God, leading them by example, and protecting them from spiritual hazards.
A faithful shepherd is committed to leading God’s sheep toward maturity in Christ. This means we view our divine assignment under the umbrella of the Great Commission to make faithful disciples of Christ. This is a stewardship which requires intensive labor. This is modeled by the apostle in his words to the Colossians,
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
Okay, tell us briefly about the particulars you address in chapter 2. First, what is “responsible” shepherding?
By “responsible” shepherding, I mean we view ministry as a stewardship and ourselves as undershepherds of God’s flock. We need to serve with the constant awareness that one day we will give an account to the Chief Shepherd. Therefore, we must seek to first please Him.
This is important for us to realize since success, in modern day ministry, is typically measured in superficial ways. The realization that we are merely stewards of God propels us toward faithfulness, which is ultimately the issue at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
What is “servant-like” shepherding?
Paul says his stewardship from God was for the benefit of believers. He was clearly saying, “My ministry is for you, not for me.” The posture of his ministry was that of Jesus, who picked up the pitcher and towel to wash the filthy feet of His disciples.
Even when Paul faced intense conflict from false brethren in Corinth—and he was forced to defend his ministry—he made it abundantly clear that gospel ministry is a matter of sincere service to God. It is not for personal profit.
What is “word-saturated” shepherding?
Like Paul, the calling of a shepherd is to fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God. Therefore, our ministry should be characterized by confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit through the written Word to accomplish both salvation and sanctification. The heart of our stewardship is the Word. We must faithfully preach and teach “the mystery that was once hidden,” which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We cannot lift up the Living Word if we are not faithful to minister the written Word to the minds and hearts of God’s sheep.
We must keep the Word of God central to disciple-making. The Word is what the Spirit uses to generate saving faith. It is the Word that He also uses to renew the minds and transform the lives of believers.
What is “Christ-centered” shepherding?
“We proclaim Christ” was Paul’s 3-word philosophy of ministry. His habit was to announce Christ as the solution to every sin struggle. He always used the written Word to draw attention back to the Living Word—Jesus Christ.
This was an important piece of his argument to the Colossians, who had fallen prey to human reason and philosophy. As man’s so-called wisdom threatened to replace biblical faith, Paul sought to bring Christ to bear upon every belief and every behavior.
Jesus Christ is God’s solution to our need for both salvation and sanctification. It is through obedient faith in Him as our Redeemer that we are saved from eternal punishment of sin. However, it’s also through a walk of obedient faith in Him as our Master that we are progressively set apart to a life of holiness, being remade into His image as we “put on the new self.”
This next one sounds dangerous. What is “corrective” shepherding?
Faithful shepherding includes warning disciples of the danger of false ideas and confronting sinful attitudes and actions. The word “admonishing” means “to correct through instruction and warning.” We must do this with patience and grace.
Faithful shepherding recognizes the variety of struggles and levels of maturity within God’s family and ministers with great patience, consideration, and instruction, accompanied by sensitivity from the Holy Spirit. There will never be a time before Jesus returns for His church when this kind of personal care and corrective discipleship will not be needed.
What is “theological” shepherding?
Paul’s model for ministry includes the high priority that he places on teaching doctrine so that disciples learn to think theologically. Of course, this is an echo of the indoctrinating aspect of Jesus’ command to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:20).
Sadly, evangelical churches today rarely have the same priority. Instead, there is a noticeable shift away from theology toward therapy, which is having disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. The rock-solid foundation of the Word is now actively replaced by the shifting sand of man’s philosophy, and believers are being washed out to sea.
As shepherds, we must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our teaching ministry. As believers are grounded in the Word, and taught to think of everything in their lives from a God-centered perspective, their minds will be renewed and their faith nurtured.
What do you mean by “wise” shepherding?
Paul said he taught “with all wisdom.” By choosing this word, Paul is making reference to the manner in which he carried out his ministry. In other words, he sought always to reflect the grace and kindness of God in how he treated people. This kind of wisdom recognizes that not all disciples are ready for equal doses of theological truth. Jesus’ teaching is an example for us to follow: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
Every word we choose in preaching and the personal ministry of the Word should be to help or correct others for their good. This reflects the patient, shepherding heart of God.
Just briefly, what is the picture of ministry the apostle Paul has in view in Ephesians 4:11-16?
God’s design for the growth of the church is the hard work of discipleship. It is a labor that is characterized by the progressive maturing of believers in Christ, who learn to govern their lives by sound doctrine, to obey Christ, and to serve one another in love.
A key ingredient in this kind of growth is the spiritual care of church shepherds who are not content with church members warming pews, but instead tirelessly give themselves to the work of
- publicly teaching the Word
- personally ministering the Word
- and equipping them to minister to the body of Christ.
All of this effort is aimed at the goal of the entire body becoming like Christ.
As church shepherds model this serious kind of approach to discipleship, believers are adequately prepared to discipline themselves for godliness and a life of effective service to the rest of God’s flock.
We’re talking to Paul Tautges about his new book, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding. It’s brief, it’s to the point, and its massively important. We encourage you to get a copy for yourself and for all your church leaders.
Paul, thanks for your good ministry, and thanks for talking to us today.
You’re very welcome – thanks for the honor.
Check out these other titles from Paul Tautges –
- Pray About Everything: Cultivating God-Dependency
- The LifeLine mini-book series from Shepherd Press
Buy the books
Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding