This article appears in the May edition of Tabletalk magazine.
Shepherding the church has the singular focus of feeding God’s people with His Word. Yet this work is not as easy as it may sound, for the church has a varied nature. Church leadership must recognize how vastly different are the people—and their needs—that make up a local congregation.
This point is at the heart of Martin Bucer’s classic pastoral work Concerning the True Care of Souls. Though Bucer develops the doctrine of Christ’s headship over the church as its true Shepherd, that teaching does not come until his second chapter. In the opening chapter, Bucer cites numerous Scriptures to establish the variety within Christ’s body. He taught that in addition to a pastor, congregations need other lay shepherds who are “entrusted with the whole of pastoral office.” In so doing, Bucer establishes the need for ruling elders.
Bucer bases this work of shepherding on Ezekiel 34:16, where the Lord says, “I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.” Bucer uses this verse to describe caring for the varied flock of God in five ways that church leaders do well to observe.