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Discipling the Flock

What do most pastors think is the foundation of their chosen vocation? God’s calling? Preaching the Word faithfully? Ability to grow a church numerically? Influence? Faithful service? Meeting the needs of the community?

How many pastors would list ‘counseling’ as a foundational requirement of pastoring? Fewer still, no doubt, would cite ‘suffering’ as an essential quality to the task of shepherding. Paul Tautges seeks to rightly restore the truth to the hearts of pastors by succinctly presenting an explanation of the biblical requirements for faithful shepherding. He accomplishes this by utilizing two principle passages: Ephesians 4:11-16 and Colossians 1:24-29.

Tautges begins his work by challenging contemporary pastoral leadership with Jeremiah’s words to the leaders of Israel. The priests didn’t know God, the prophets prophesied falsely, and the people loved it (Jeremiah 5:30-31)! Indeed, it is not difficult to see the same perversion happening in our churches today. Far too many pastors are seeking influence, power, and celebrity status rather than humble service for the glory of God and good of the flock.

Tautges outlines his goal by stating, “what I am calling for in this book is a new crop of teaching shepherds who are both tenacious and tender: tenacious in their study and application of the whole counsel of God, and tender in their application of its promises and demands to the lives of God’s sheep through the personal and pastoral ministry of counseling; that is, discipleship targeted at specific areas of life where biblical change is necessary.” (p. 13-14)

In the first section of the book, Tautges looks to Colossians 1:24-29 to provide the framework to flesh out his thesis. In this short passage of Scripture, the apostle Paul reminds us of what is required for authentic ministry. Tautges starts with the most unpopular element of all: the willingness to suffer for the ones we are called to serve. I believe to begin this way is sobering for many who wish to enter ministry for carnal reasons. However, it is exactly why Tautges expounds on this idea. He gives three amazing positives from suffering. One, suffering results in deeper growth. Two, undergoing pain ourselves gives us the means by which we can comfort others. Three, pain and struggle provide a measure of humility, thereby keeping ministers from exalting themselves.

He goes on further to detail the responsibility that shepherds have to please God and not man by focusing on serving, the Word of God, Christlikeness, and a theology that is both deep and wide, saturated in the wisdom that only comes from His Word; not from popular culture. Tautges goes on to state that the purpose of this authentic ministry follows from Colossians 1:28—to present everyone mature in Christ. This is no easy task, but requires strenuous striving, the understanding of spiritual opposition, and a full reliance on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to complete the task.

If spiritual maturity of the flock is one outcome for the faithful shepherd, effective service is the other twin goal reflected in the second passage Tautges uses: Ephesians 4:11-16. He clearly states, “Authentic biblical shepherding works toward the goal of seeing the local church function as a healthy body of believers running the Christian race as a unified team while being intentionally equipped by Spirit-gifted men” (p. 51). It is not the job of the pastor to do the work of the ministry while the congregation consumes in the pews and cheers them on. Rather, it is Jesus’ design that the local church grows up through the investment of its shepherds.

The church must be equipped for works of service to build up the body into a healthy, living, moving spiritual organism full of the love of Christ. This healthy body, Tautges remarks, is to be mature, united, and continuing to strive to the fullness of maturity in Christ, which protects it from heresy and empowers it for faithful testimony to those outside of the body. The faithful pastor is again reminded that Jesus is the head of this body, the church, His bride.

Tautges finishes his exposition by briefly talking about the fact that every pastor will stand before God and receive what is due him by His holy hand. This simple fact “should cause every minister to approach his God-given responsibility with great zeal and sobriety” (p. 69). This faithful ministry should be voluntary, with eagerness, not for personal gain, and through leading by example. These markers truly qualify a shepherd to faithfully disciple the flock God has entrusted to him.

With his work, Tautges does a fantastic job of crisply and concisely calling church leaders to realign their hearts with the mission that God has given them according to His Word.