By Maynard H. Belt
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” II Timothy 4:1-2
“What is the greatest thought that has ever passed through your head?” someone asked Daniel Webster. He answered, “My accountability to God!” I think that is what Paul was trying to teach his son in ministry, Timothy, when he challenged him with II Timothy 4:1-2. I have often spoken from these verses at the installation of pastors in their new charge. It is good for a pastor to be reminded of his accountability, especially of his accountability before the Lord for his care of the flock which has been entrusted to him. May I place before you some questions and texts (please take time to look them up) by which you may examine, before the Lord, your ministry?
How well fed and spiritually strong is each member of your flock?
Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2
This challenge alone is enough to keep a pastor “put” for years. Also look for different ways, besides your pulpit ministry, to strengthen your people spiritually. Know where each member is and what they might need spiritually. It’s a challenge to make people want to grow, but that is a major portion of our accountability before the Lord.
How well indoctrinated in Bible truth is each member?
II Timothy 2:2; 4:2; I Timothy 4:3
We are living in an a-theological age. Denominational walls are being set by theology. Today’s trend is to remove denominational barriers. In Acts. 2:42 we read that they continued steadfastly FIRST in doctrine, then fellowship. Do you have a systematic program for teaching doctrine to your people?
What efforts are you making to heal those who are spiritually ill?
Do you know the spiritual hurts of your flock? Are you sensitive, or desensitized, to the needs of your people? Paul said in I Thess. 2:7 that he was gentle among them, even as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. Are you an attentive pastor, or is that something that you need to work on?
To what extent do you exhaust all efforts to restore backsliders?
When was the last time you went after a “wayward” sheep, seeking to bring them back into the fold? Or was your response, “It’s good to see them go!” Do you practice church discipline when biblically required? And if so, with what purpose in mind (Hebrews 12:10)?
To what extent do you search for lost sheep outside you flock?
I Cor. 9:19-23; James 5:20
Do you consistently set apart time for seeking the lost? Do you keep a prayer list handy in your Bible or prayer notebook with names of unsaved people? Do you motivate your spiritual leaders and people to do the same?
To what extent do you intercede for your flock by name?
John 10:14; Col. 1:3-10; II Tim. 2:19
Do you pray through your membership? Do you know the names of all of your flock, especially the children? Do you pay special attention to the shut-ins, elderly, and those with physical problems, and let them know that you do pray for them?
How well do you know your flock and their needs?
Do they feel that they could call upon you at anytime, day or night? Do you tell them that from the pulpit? Do you keep good records of your visits with your flock making personal notes that might help you in future visits? This is especially important to do if the person is elderly and you might have their funeral in the near future. Personal notes of one’s favorite verses, personal testimony, or interesting experiences bring great comfort to a family when they lose a loved one.
To what extent do you as shepherd keep assertive members of your flock from discouraging or discriminating against more passive members?
Every church has them! Be prayed up! Involve your deacons in tough situations. Sad to say, but most churches have a Diotrephes, or Alexander the coppersmith, or at least, the potential of such, that has to be dealt with from time to time. Do it biblically, lovingly, but forcefully! The church belongs to the Lord, not some assertive member who likes to campaign for his cause.
As a shepherd, are you faithful in warning of spiritual and doctrinal error?
II Timothy 4:2-5
When the Mormons hit town, do you preach and teach on Mormonism and what they believe? Do you keep up on the religious news of the day so that you might keep your people informed of trends that might not be biblical?
As a shepherd, do you have a reputation of scattering the flock?
Jeremiah 12:10; 23:1-2
Are you always right, others wrong? Is the agenda in the church, “your way, and no other way?” Do you run off more people than you reach? Sometimes it might be justifiable, but if there’s a pattern of “the flock being scattered” in your ministry — beware!
Some closing thoughts
Have we not all felt at some time or another, just like Moses, who said to the Lord, “Why have you afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?” We must always remember that He does not give us more than we can bear, and we can meet the needs of the flock that He has placed under our care. The Pastor’s accountability is awesome, we must not treat it lightly. God’s grace will be sufficient for us to be all that we need to be, in the place where He has chosen for us to be.
Maynard H. Belt
Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches
Reprinted with permission from THE BARNABAS FILE, Volume 2, Number 21, 7/12/02