Ministers of the gospel must prepare their own souls for the good of their congregations, Afshin Ziafat said yesterday in Southern Seminary’s chapel service. The goal of an elder is to preach God’s Word, encouraging believers to follow Christ in all things, he said.
“What is truly profitable is to teach the whole counsel of God’s Word,” said Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. “My aim isn’t to get people to follow me, but to follow the Word of God.”
Ziafat, who grew up in a Muslim home in the United States, became a Christian in high school, preached from Acts 20 on the role of elders in the local church, prioritizing the character of an elder as they lead the people of God.
“Elders are to be speaking the gospel and living out their faith in a way that’s contagious,” he said. The elder’s job is an essential part of shepherding a flock, understanding that “As the elders go, so the church goes. The elders are that important and that influential to the spiritual health and life of the church.”
Ziafat emphasized Scripture’s imperative to shepherd the church while remembering the church is about Christ, not the pastor.
“The church doesn’t belong to me. The church belongs to God — it’s his church. It’s precious to him, he obtained it with his own blood. What’s precious to God must be precious to me.”
From the passage, Ziafat encouraged seminary students to evaluate their words, their example, and their faith as they train to shepherd congregations. As elders preach, the content of their message includes the gospel as most important, he said. Many people sitting in the pews each Sunday believe in their own works for salvation, which makes preaching repentance and faith in Christ essential. He warned that if anyone believes their salvation is of their own works, the gospel is missing.
“If you think your salvation has anything to do with a sentence that starts with “I,” unless it’s ‘I did the one work required of me, which was to believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ,’ then you’ve missed the whole gospel.”
Ziafat also reminded students that as elders teach the Word of God, they should lead by example, showing their congregation how to follow the Lord, regardless of their circumstances. He also discussed the importance of personal soul care, especially during difficult seasons of life. Elders lead best, he said, when they continue to follow Christ and trust him during hard times.
“You’re going to become the greatest example for your flock and for anyone who is watching not when things are going great and you’re following God, but when things are going horrible for you and you keep following God,” he said. “You become an example when life is bearing down and hardship is coming and you keep following Christ.”
Audio and video from Southern Seminary chapel is available at sbts.edu/students/chapel.