The Undershepherds

THE pastor is the shepherd of the flock, the local elder the undershepherd. Together they have the responsibility of caring for the sheep. On the Sabbath day they help to provide proper spiritual nourishment, inspiration, and encouragement through Bible study, worship, and fellowship. The Sabbath should be a high experience for every Seventh-day Adventist Christian. . .

-Managing Editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

THE pastor is the shepherd of the flock, the local elder the undershepherd. Together they have the responsibility of caring for the sheep. On the Sabbath day they help to provide proper spiritual nourishment, inspiration, and encouragement through Bible study, worship, and fellowship. The Sabbath should be a high experience for every Seventh-day Adventist Christian. Each Sabbath should be a step in spiritual growth, another milestone on the road to holiness. Each service should contribute toward the great objective: "To make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

In previous issues we have discussed some of the ways in which we can make the Sabbath services more meaningful and helpful. However, we can never feel that our responsibility to the flock begins and ends with the Sabbath. What happens through the week may actually determine the salvation or loss of many souls. Here is where the care of the shepherd and his undershepherds becomes exceedingly important.

The Missing Sheep

The anxious shepherd will be very careful to notice on the Sabbath day which of the sheep are missing. His heart will go out to the absent ones, particularly to those whom he knows to be experiencing spiritual struggles and reverses.

It is easy to report to the church board that Brother Blank has not been in church for six months, a year, or perhaps several years, but what has been done during that period to encourage the missing member to return?

Visiting among former members reveals that many of them could have been rescued if they had been contacted, prayed with, and encouraged during the earlier periods of their declining experience. Eternity alone will reveal how important have been some of the visits of the faithful pastors and 'elders in saving members for Christ and His church.

My Experience

There was a time when, as a teen-age lad, I had become unsettled and careless. I began slipping away during the church service, then finally skipped Sabbath school as well. This was a country church without a pastor, the full responsibilities being borne by the local elders. I shall never forget the night the head elder, who was a farmer, and one of his associates called at our home. They soon made it known that they had come to see me. Mother directed them into the back bedroom where a friend and I were having a good time together. It so happened that the friend was also on the list to be visited. So they made a most ear nest appeal to both of us. They let us know how much they missed us at the church, and explained how we could be a help, especially to other young people. They pleaded with us to return to Jesus and the. church, assuring us that our loving Saviour was very willing to forgive and stood eager to help us in our Christian life.

The words touched my heart. I loved the Lord. In fact, as a junior I had already felt the call to the ministry. But then the devil had lured me into the broad and popular way. Now I knew that I must change, and the decision for change was made while these humble lay leaders of the church talked and prayed.

A number of years later I learned that this head elder, who for years had given spiritual leadership to my home church, was seriously ill in a rest home near where I was then pastoring a church. I seized the first opportunity to call on him. What great encouragment came into his life, then ebbing away, as I expressed to him my great appreciation for the visit that dark night! Tears of gratitude flowed from each of us. I have often wondered just what would have happened to me if he had not come, if he had not had a personal concern for my soul, if he had not made that direct personal appeal?

Brother elder, how is it with you? Do you have that same concern? Are you willing, after a busy day at the office, or in the shop, or perhaps on the farm, to leave the comforts of your home and go out on a night call to search out a missing member of the flock, perhaps a teenager? What efforts are you putting forth to encourage discouraged souls? What are you doing to bring them back to the sunshine of God's love?

The care of the flock has been entrusted to the pastor and elders of the church. This is not an option. It is a decided responsibility. It can be neglected only at the loss of some dear souls. In the larger churches some sort of undershepherd plan should be in operation by which the church member ship is organized into groups with undershepherds over each. Where this plan is followed the prime responsibility for seeing that this plan is actually a functioning process rests with the elders. The deacons and deaconesses should be involved, but the leadership by precept and example must come from the elders.

Do Not Neglect Your Responsibility

This phase of responsibility is too often neglected, and as a result we have the wrecks of human souls strewn along the highway to the kingdom. Just recently a dear woman came into my office to discuss with me her problem. She had been disfellowshiped for lack of attendance. There were extenuating circumstances. Admittedly, she could have put forth a greater effort to contact the church, but through the experience that continued for quite a period of time there was very little effort made to contact her. Finally the postman brought her the news that her name had been dropped from the church records. Thankfully, she is going about to have her membership reinstated in a church in the city to which she has moved. She loved the Lord enough to take the initiative. It would have been much easier for her to have grown bitter and turned completely away from the church.

May the Lord bless both pastors and elders as together prayers are offered, plans laid, and efforts put forth not only to win new souls for the church, but to hold those who have already been gathered in. It is part of the self-sacrificing but rewarding labor that God has called you to do. And in thus looking after the flock you are fol lowing in the pattern of the Great Shep herd of us all.

My prayer: Dear Lord, forgive me where I have been unfaithful in my concern for the spiritual welfare of every member of the flock, and where I, as an undershepherd, have failed to search out and encourage the faltering and the weak. Bless our church, every member, and particularly those in special need, and give me wisdom and grace as I seek to be a greater help to them. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
-Managing Editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

December 1971

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Apples of Gold in Baskets of Silver

New words seem to be capturing the minds of men and women every day. Every new dictionary is bulging with words not used or understood fifty years ago, yes, even ten years ago. . .

Futility or Utility?

NEWSWEEK recently reported a study of the American clergy made by Notre Dame sociologist John Koval which estimates that one in four U.S. Roman Catholic priests is ready to forsake his vows and one out of every eight Protestant ministers is seriously thinking of resigning his pastorate. . .

No Man Has Ever Converted a Soul

NOT long ago I sat with many others listening to one of our ministers trying to inspire the audience with his message. Although he was a very good man, well liked and highly respected by young and old as a Christian, somehow he did not succeed in communicating very well. The response was meager. He tried very hard, and perhaps that was his difficulty. . .

Good Listening is Enlightening

CAREFULLY cultivating the practice of good listening—really paying attention to what is being said, no matter who is saying it—is one of the best shortcuts for a church leader who seeks to accumulate current information that is pertinent. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that persons in leadership positions often are poor listeners, largely for these reasons. . .

Phaseout or Emphasis

ISN'T the Bible work gradually being phased out?" This question was recently asked of a conference Bible instructor by a layman of the church. . .

Does a Seventh-day Adventist minister have a Health Obligation?

THE Adventist minister has in his possession a wonderful gift—a gift that the Jewish people once treasured greatly. What is this gift? The health laws given to Moses by God and the health reform message as given to Ellen G. White. . .

Three Angels' Messages Personal and National

IT DOESN'T matter whether you are spraying roses, taking medicine, or exterminating termites, if the instruction on the label advises, REPEAT TREATMENT, you cannot blame anyone but yourself for the mediocre results you will get if you neglect to follow this direction. . .

The Spirit of Prophecy

WRITING on the Spirit of Prophecy and its continuing influence as God's guiding gift to the church, Elder W. A. Spicer in his excellent and enlightening book, Certainties of the Advent Movement, page 227, makes the following statement of assurance: "The gift still speaks its messages, its counsels covering even future times, and out lining experiences yet to come before the movement reaches the Land of Promise. . ."

Hastening the Day of the Lord

"You should look forward to that day and hurry it along."

Thoughts on Colossians 2:14-17

THE objection is sometimes raised by those who do not wish to keep the seventh-day Sabbath that this passage teaches that the Sabbath was nailed to the cross and that, therefore, Sabbath-keeping is no longer binding upon Christians. . .

This is Life!

NO ONE—not even a tightrope walker, whom I would think knows all about exciting experiences—could say that life in the mission field is dull. . .

Is There a Way to Control Costs and Morals in Denominational Schools?

EDUCATORS, lend me your ears! There is no doubt that today an ever-lessening commitment to Christian education is found on the part of church leaders and church members of all denominations. Both leaders and laity have ceased to promote the principles of Christian education with the vigor exercised only a few years ago.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600