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Feeding the Flock | What is True Spiritual Food?

A few weeks ago I jotted down five areas where a pastor should spend most of his energy, time and passion.  As promised, I wanted to come back to these five things and talk about them a little more detailed.  The first of the five was “Feeding the Flock” and in my opinion, is the primary reason pastors are called, equipped and breathe air.  Putting aside my opinion and dogma, let’s visit the scripture in regards to this thinking.

Let’s peek into John’s gospel for a brief moment:

John 21:15-17 (ESV)
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

In the New Testament, we see the calling of Peter to feed the lambs and the sheep.  To tend to their well being and secure their existence through proper food.  In John’s gospel we can discover what a pastor is actually supposed to feed the sheep.  Some would say that feeding the sheep is ministry programs, good leadership skills, etc., however, Jesus has another thought about food.  After Jesus radically saves the woman at the well in John chapter four, the disciples come back with food.

John 4:31-34 (ESV)
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

As Jesus explains later in John 6, He is the food and His food is to “be food” per se.  We see that after Jesus feeds the multitudes in John 6, He escapes and they find him the next day in Capernaum.  After they catch up to Him, this is the dialog.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?
John 6:25-30 (ESV)

Jesus exclaims that HE is the true bread that comes down from Heaven.  He is the only real food that matters and that His food, bread (words) will bring life to the dead and joy to the down trodden.  Thus, we must greatly understand that the primary and over-arching purpose of the pastor is to feed JESUS to the sheep.  Everything else is way down the line of importance.  Christ is the preeminent one in all things, thus, He is the preeminent food for the church.

Why Jesus?  Because He is the bread of life and is the only one who can do the work of God and give belief and life to the dead of heart and mind.  How does one feed Jesus to the church?  Through His word.  After this dialog with the multitudes, they leave and stop following Jesus because He says that one must eat of His flesh and drink of His blood and be satisfied to find the Kingdom of Heaven.  (He is the kingdom)  After the majority leave, Jesus turns to the disciples and asks if they desire to leave.  Peter replies, “to whom shall we go, for you have the words of eternal life?”  Sadly, though most pastors would say they believe this, they do not live their lives nor do they tend their flock as though it is true.  There are more heros and business men leading churches than true pastors.  Many so-called pastors get excited and declare a passion for the lost, so they devour themselves in programs and “administry” instead of the ministry of the word.  Sadly, this is also an indicator that they do not believe the true food is Christ Himself.

Paul teaches that all eternal life begins through Christ alone and that the only hope that the dying world has to hear and believe is if someone goes and preaches the word of God to them.  The word of God!  Not a summation, not a commentary, not a story about it, but the real and ready teaching of the word of God to all ears.  Only through the right and constant teaching of the word of God does anyone ever truly come to faith and only through the Word does the church sustain her glorious grace and power and affection for her Lord.

Romans 10:17 – Faith come by hearing and hearing by the words of Christ.

So feeding is simply the word of God alone.  Nothing else will do.  The Word aside another dish is no gospel at all.  The true power of eternal life is the power of God, His gospel, of which true men who are called to shepherd the flock are not ashamed.  Are you ashamed of the gospel?  Are you disturbed by the premise that you should be leading by learning and teaching the word above all things?  Friends, a true pastor is one who administers the word of God properly for the glory of God and the edification and encouragement of the flock.  One who calls himself pastor and does not do this is no pastor at all.

For His Glory By His Grace,

James H. Tippins

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Excerpt from the original article.

Feeding the flock.  This sounds very trivial, but the primary role of a pastor is to feed the people who God has put under his care.  This feeding is through the right teaching of the word of God for their joy, edification, doctrine, exhortation, admonishment and maturity.  Everything that the church is supposed to do comes primarily through the teaching of the scriptures from the pastors.  A church that is not fed the truth is malnourished and finds other meals to eat.

1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV) 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

**Another article in relation to this can be found here: http://ryanburns.me/what-should-a-pastor-do/  It details John Owen’s thoughts on the matter.

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