God’s Good Undershepherds

Phil. 2 19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, 30because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

I hope I don’t seem like a broken record repeatedly recommending sermons. But the Lord has used this particular sermon series from Philippians to draw me to Himself again and again. In this sermon from Phil. 2, the pastor deals with the characteristics of good shepherds, those leaders in our lives serving under the One Good Shepherd ministering His gospel to us. First, he points out how we all long for spiritual parents to speak into our lives. No one’s problem is that they don’t want guidance. No one wants to be an orphan. The problem is that we’ve been burned by leaders and therefore we don’t know who to trust and then close ourselves off to our need for someone to speak into our lives. Pastor Haralson makes two good points here. First, God’s good undershepherds are recognized by their humility, not their giftedness. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Beware the shepherd whose personal burdens and needs drive the agenda or eclipse the needs of the sheep. When the needs of the sheep must submit to the needs of the shepherd, this is not leadership like Christ (or Paul or Timothy or Epaphroditis). Second, when God has brought the humble undershepherd into your life, like Paul’s words of Epaphroditus, welcome them with joy and receive them with honor. The imperfect but humble undershepherd still exists! God didn’t abandon us to only poor leaders after Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus passed on. And it is to our BENEFIT not detriment to receive them and honor them in the name of Christ.

4 Responses to God’s Good Undershepherds

  1. Wenatchee the Hatchet September 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    One of the points that stuck with me is that the most telling part of a shepherd's attitude is how he views the weakest of the sheep, the ones in the flock he can't get anything out of. It's the flip side of point 1, and ties to Ezekiel 34 that Haralson mentioned in the sermon. The good shepherd feeds the sheep, not off of the sheep.

  2. Wendy September 26, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    Yeah, that struck and convicted me. Jesus leaves the 99 and seeks after the 1. It's the exact opposite of a worldly philosophy of ministry and completely counter cultural. I have a lot to evaluate about myself and how I think about ministry. God's grace filled methods continue to challenge me and my preconceived notions of ministry.

  3. Anonymous December 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    In Jonathan Edwards 'Salvation of Souls' (Crossway) he deals with these matters of the requirements for Church officers and is as biblically relevant today as when it was written. Many 'hard-line' elders have left deep emotional scars on those they were supposed to oversee in gentleness and tender loving care. Scripture makes it clear that these men are not worthy to be named as 'elders'. Self-control must come first, then appropriate management of his household, then an officer in God's church.

  4. Weary Traveler January 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    I agree with the comments anonymous made. I've been deeply scarred by church elders who harshly responded and judged me when I most needed help and protection from my abusive (ex)husband. While I still attend church I have panic attacks almost every week as I drive up and I do everything I can to avoid talking to the leaders. It's hard to worship God when I'm surrounded by doubt over whether the leaders are trustworthy and why God doesn't replace those leaders who harm the flock.