By Brian Croft
What motivates a pastor to shepherd well, be faithful, have integrity, and do the right thing?
There are many passages of Scripture that should stir the hearts of divinely called shepherds to be faithful in this task.
And yet, the passage that brings a consistent weight for the pastor is this aspect of a pastor’s call to give an account to Jesus for the souls under his care.
This is most powerfully reflected when 1 Peter 5: 1-4 and Hebrews 13:17 are bridged together:
“Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4 NASB).
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 NASB).
The joint power of these two passages reveals with profound clarity the call of a pastor. The pastor is called to shepherd the flock (v.2) in a certain way (v.2-3) on behalf of the Chief Shepherd (v.4), and he will give an account for the souls of those he shepherds to Jesus (Hebrews 13:17).
Pretty weighty stuff! This biblical paradigm for pastoral ministry not only sets a pastor’s call and labors clearly before him, but it also reveals the pastor’s ultimate accountability to Christ—where his faithfulness stands or falls.
We are responsible for the souls of God’s people on behalf of Jesus. Hence, it is Jesus alone who will evaluate and determine our faithfulness to this task he has given us.
Not our church. Not those who follow our ministries online. Not other pastors who weigh each other’s ministries with worldly scales. Jesus alone.
Consequently, it is the reality of this ultimate accountability to our pastoral task that is the key for a pastor to be faithful in these other areas that “character” so well defines.
We know we are called to preach, counsel, lead, confront, exhort, visit, and many other public tasks as part of the pastoral office.
But it is when we convince ourselves that no one can see us that we are tempted to compromise the more subtle areas of character, such as honesty and integrity.
A great place of danger for the pastor is to hide in the shadows of our subtle sins convincing ourselves no one saw us stretch the truth or bend our conscience.
But the Chief Shepherd who knows all and sees all is watching his under shepherds. He always knows. He always sees.
The Lord Christ, the Son of God, who reigns on his throne over all the nations and our lives, sees all we do in this noble call to shepherd the souls of his people.
Although he looks upon us and our sins with mercy because of his sufficient atoning sacrifice and resurrection, his mercy should not cause us to overlook the weighty and unique call of a pastor that demands we seek to honor him both publicly and privately.
The ultimate accountability for a pastor to cultivate consistent, God-honoring character is that Jesus is watching for the purpose that we care for his sheep well until he returns (1 Peter 5:4).
BRIAN CROFT (@PastorCroft) is the pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and is the Founder of Practical Shepherding. Excerpted from Before We Forget: Reflections from New and Seasoned Pastors on Enduring Ministry with permission from B&H Publishing.