Ray Van Neste: Pastors, shepherd the flock
JACKSON, Tenn.-The primary task of the pastor of a local church is not preaching the Word, crucial as that is, but the oversight of the souls of his congregation, Ray Van Neste argued in his address Wednesday afternoon at the Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the future of denominationalism conference at Union University.
Van Neste, who serves as assistant professor of Christian studies and as director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union, called pastors to regain the lost discipline of the personal pastoral oversight of souls.
"The heart of pastoral ministry is the care of souls, not the management of the congregation," he said.
"The priority is not preaching. Preaching is an outflow of oversight. We preach in order to guard souls, not vice versa..Our central task is shepherding of souls as they pass to the celestial city from the city of destruction... Careful oversight may not make us famous, because they cannot download oversight on their IPods."
Van Neste, who pastors a church in Jackson, said it is far too easy for a modern-day pastor to focus on things other than developing intimate relations with his flock, but God will judge him based on how her shepherded the people placed in his charge.
He pointed out that the apostle Paul's teaching was done both in public and house-to-house. Thus, the shepherd is the a man who teaches and encourages his members in their homes as well as through faithful biblical preaching from the pulpit.
Scripture teaches the centrality of a minister's shepherding the flock in numerous texts such as John 10:11-15, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:1, Acts 20:18-21, 28
1 Thessalonians 2:1, 7-12, 19-20 and Colossians 1:24-29, he pointed out.
"May it never be said of our churches that they were harried and harassed because they had not shepherd," Van Neste said.
"We have been entrusted with a group of people who are feeble and frail, who still struggle with sin and get frightened and overwhelmed. Our task is to guide them faithfully on to heaven, fighting off the wolves, warning of snares, even chasing out false sheep."