Protection: Key to a healthy family and ministry
This year I am writing about Christian principles, or keys, that apply both to building healthy ministry teams and strong families. The first key is trust (See my previous article). The second is protection: guarding the congregation of Christ’s flock, shielding other members of your family, and safeguarding those under your care. Protection is a vital key to both a strong family and a healthy ministry.
Both ministers and parents are called to emulate their Lord as they care for Christ’s flock or their children. Psalm 23 tells us that our God is our shepherd who protects us even when we face danger. Those who serve others in the Lord’s name are to keep watch over the flock because savage wolves are around (Acts 20:28-31). Parents are to discipline their children and offer sound counsel to prepare them for the dangers they will face in life (Proverbs 4;10-13; 10:17; 13:18; 19:18).
The Apostle Paul charged the Ephesian church leaders with the responsibilities they had as ministers:
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Acts 20:28-32
Note two key words for pastors in that passage: watch and wolves. Ministers are to look out for any potential threat to the sheep in Christ’s flock. They are to protect the people from any threats to their faith. In particular, ministers are to look out for predators, “wolves” that feed off the sheep, especially leaders who teach erroneous doctrine and false ideas. In addition to everything else pastors are called upon to do, guarding the flock is a core responsibility of every minister.
There are many dangers that face Christians today. I’ll highlight two: the expectations of others outside the flock in a fast developing post-Christian culture, and false teaching dressed up as Christian truth. To protect the sheep the minister must identify the acceptable standards of the secular community that are destructive to their lives and call upon them to “put to death” that lifestyle and avoid God’s righteous judgement (Col 3:5-10). To protect the sheep the minister must do more than just exegete the Greek text in front of them and then (as some people say) let the Holy Spirit do the rest in the hearts of the sheep. He must do more than just declare the truth (for example 2 Corinthians 11:13). It is essential that he also refute error and clearly identify the wolves for the sheep. Sometimes he needs to name a wolf. He may even need to rebuke the sheep for believing false doctrines (Galatians 1:6).
To do so requires gutsy leadership because nothing opens up a minister for attack more (usually by some of the sheep) than the regular refuting of error. I once sat in a conference with 3,999 other delegates and listened to a modern day ministry guru tell us that if we wanted to grow a large church we would be wise to not touch controversial or divisive topics. People like to hear the positives not the negatives he told us. Speaking against things apparently drives people away. The fruit of sticking to that principle for a couple of decades is a mega church, where many of the members assent to the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine, plus all sorts of other beliefs! They have a confused and shallow Christianity partly because their shepherd shares ‘platform’ ministry with wolves, and also because doctrinal error is not identified or refuted from the front! In over 30 years of lay and vocational ministry, I have seen the offspring of some Christian parents, who many years ago allowed their children to experience seemingly more vibrant youth groups, get caught up with spiritual movements with all sorts of erroneous dogmas, partly because their parents failed to warn their children of wolves.
The Apostle Paul says in Act 20 that he warned the Ephesians about false teaches and distortions to the truth, night and day, for three years. He was constantly at it! If you are a pastor do you regularly warn your flock of dangers and errors? Do you regularly and clearly identify the wolves? Do you do so even if the wolves are popular among an influential group within your church? A faithful and effective Christian leader must teach the truth and also refute error. He must do both (Titus 1:9)! So should parents. Ephesians 6:4, among other sections of the scriptures, tells us that parents have a pastoral responsibility over their children. They too need to teach their children the truth and refute error. Parents are to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Part of that Christian training and instruction involves warning your children of wolves and false teaching. My wife and I starting doing that with our children before they could walk! By doing so children grow to be spiritually discerning and quickly identify the wolves that seek to prey upon them. If you are a parent, do you not only read the Bible to your children and explain the truth but also explain what “false-truths” look and sound like? As a loving parent please do both!
Both pastoring and parenting are tough ministries. May the Lord equip you to be strong as you protect those he has placed under your care.
Feature photo: Talba