What a joy it is as a pastor of 40 years; 30 years at First Baptist Church Woodstock to talk about preaching as shepherding the flock.
One thing I have realized as a pastor is that I have the opportunity to connect with our people through the proclamation of God’s Word which is indeed exhortation especially within the context of my Romans 12:6-8 giftedness namely being that of exhortation. However I have found that God greatly honors the proclamation of His Word as I shepherd the flock by not only preaching to them but by feeding and leading them. This becomes more emulation; they not only hear my heart but they have an opportunity to see what is really important in my life. I have often said through the years that whatever is important to the pastor there is a very good chance it will become important to the people. As I connect with them through the pulpit their hearts begin to connect with me and it leads them to desire to know me better. Therefore, I have the opportunity of connecting with them outside of my ministry as preacher and now can do a major role of ministry as pastor. If indeed I am preacher and not pastor it does not give the people an opportunity to connect with me therefore it often times leads to a lack of realness that they sense as they think about the messages I will bring in the future.
I have often said to pastors there is far more to being a shepherd than just preaching. As I touch and lead the people through my understanding of Biblical principles it gives far greater hearing on the Lord’s Day when I find myself in the pulpit preaching as shepherd. I can honestly say that I not only love the people I lead but I believe in the people I lead. It has rightly been said that you cannot lead those you do not influence. As much as I love the proclamation of God’s Word and its transforming power during a time of longevity as a pastor of a people God seems to really connect us heart to heart and on a much deeper level when they see that the preacher is indeed the shepherd that is leading them.
Peter says it well in 1 Peter 5 when he says, “to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due season.” It takes according to Homer Lindsey 4-5 years to become the pastor of a church. So even though our name is on the marquee, even though we are referred to as pastor and in my context, Pastor Johnny, it took years for that name to take on the meaning that it does today after seeing emulation and hearing exhortation.
Let me encourage each of you to allow the Holy Spirit to use the Word of God to do a deep work in your own life as He molds you into the person He would have you to be. Then as your life takes on the position of being able to say along with the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “follow me as I follow Christ,” calling them to actually imitate your own life.
Oswald Chambers has said, “until the people really get to know God they will suck the life out of you.” That is where we do major shepherding which enhances the major preaching that we do week by week. I love being the preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but I must confess I love the role as shepherd, as pastor in leading and feeding and caring for our people. It is a well-worn proverb but one we must never forget, “we teach what we know, we reproduce who we are. Another way to say it, “people really don’t care what we know, until they know how much we care.”
Ministry will be exciting, delightful, encouraging, joyful and powerful when we connect our preaching with the heart of a shepherd. When we walk our people through difficult times. When we preach not just as a prophet but as an evangelist, as pastor, as a teacher and one who watches out for their soul. God will allow us to do it with joy and not grief for then it would not be profitable to those we minister to.
Be a preacher of the Word but make sure you are a pastor under Christ, the great shepherd to your people.
Johnny Hunt | Former President of the Southern Baptist Convention | Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock, GA