Sovereign Grace churches share a common value of being “elder-led,” or “pastor-led” in our form of church government. What this means for us as we live this out at Cross of Grace Church is that pastors have the primary responsibility to care for the spiritual health of God’s people.
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God…” (1 Peter 5:1–2)
Peter commands elders or pastors to “shepherd” the flock of God. Just as a shepherd cares for his sheep, God has called pastors to shepherd and care for God’s people, the church.
Elders are commanded to “exercise oversight” (1 Peter 5:2). This means to lead, and leading means they are to see a destination, set a course, help others get there. As believers, we have a destination in this life – and that is maturity in Christ.
When we are rooted in him, mature in the faith, we will be able to withstand temptation, and help others to grow in the faith as well. A pastor is to lead in this, by humbly leading his own home first, then leading the congregation in growth and maturity in the gospel.
Before Jesus ascended, he took Peter aside and said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Shepherds have the responsibility to provide food for the sheep.
The familiar passage of Psalm 23 reminds us that Christ—the Good Shepherd—is the one who “makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” God cares about our spiritual nourishment. And he’s called pastors to prepare and serve God’s word to his sheep.
Ephesians 4:12 tells pastors to “…equip the saints for the work of ministry”. Pastors are not to be the only agents of ministry. Pastors are to equip believers to minister to each other by being trained in Scripture, and taught how to apply the gospel to their own lives and to each other.
Part of a shepherd’s responsibility is to protect sheep from wolves. As elders, we are called not only to provide sound doctrine, but also to guard against and warn against false doctrine and those teaching false doctrine. Pastors or elders are to hold fast to the biblical standards of godliness, in word, in doctrine and in action.
Jesus came “not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Therefore, Christ-like leadership functions best in serving. Jesus cares for His sheep by appointing under-shepherds to serve and care for his flock.
Our prayer as pastors is that we will joyfully serve Christ and his church by loving and caring for His flock, teaching the gospel faithfully, and by always pointing fellow disciples to Jesus.
And as a pastor-led church, we long for the day “…when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) May pastors and the congregations they serve hold to that glorious promise.
At Cross of Grace Church, pastors lead through a plurality of elders, with three pastors sharing the responsibilities of praying for, leading, and ministering the Word to God’s people. As pastors, we are aware that we, too, are sheep of the Great Shepherd, who not only give care to the church, but also receive care from the church.
For more on this topic, listen to a message Scott preached on being elder-led as part of a sermon series on values at Cross of Grace Church.
Scott Crook serves as Lead Pastor at Cross of Grace Church. He is a graduate of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and received his Masters from Crown College. For 20 years, Scott has taught the word of God is some capacity—serving as an educator in a Christian school and in pastoring the local church. A native of Georgia, Scott and his wife, Angela, moved to Minnesota in April of 2003. They have one daughter.