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Tending God’s Flock

by Stanford Chambers

This is a  reprint from the 1916 Word & Work. It is our aim to have an article from that  year each month commemorating the 100th anniversary of Word & Work coming to Louisville

[caption id="attachment_3678" align="alignleft" width="203"]Stanford Chambers (1877-1969) Stanford Chambers (1877-1969)[/caption]

“Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops to feed the Church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of throe years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31).

“Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight not of constraint but willingly according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you but making yourselves en- samples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

‘Obey them that have the rule over you and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls as they that shall give account.” (Heb. 13:17).

The Lord saw how like sheep men are, and provided for the needs of His people by giving them shepherds and teachers (Eph. 4:11). The necessity for shepherds is occasioned by wolves without and perverters within; also food and discipline are required. With good shepherds the church may perfect the saints, build itself up in love and witness to the world. A most important function have the Lord's shepherds and a grave responsibility. A very much emphasized duty of the shepherd is to “watch,” “take heed” He must watch in behalf of souls as one who must give an account. The flock is constantly in danger. Wolves come in the guise of sheep. Ungodly men creep in unawares to devour and to destroy, and the shepherd must be on the lookout for them. They may come from the alien class; they may come from the erring, back-sliding class, or they may come from the excluded or disciplined class. Strangers especially from other parts may impose themselves upon a church... The repentant are always to be received. Such is the divine instruction and such is the will of all whom the Holy Spirit has made bishops, but their responsibility to the chief Shepherd and for the flock is so great that they are warranted in satisfying themselves as to the sincerity of any, especially of suspicious ones and as to the standing of strangers applying for membership.

Designing men take advantage of the open door of the Lord's church and by various shrewd methods creep in. They may forge a “church letter.” They may shrewdly frame and offer a confession. They may feign repentance. Shepherds nave a perfect right to verify “church letters.” Confessions in order to avail must be specific. Love may be allowed to cover a multitude of sins but vague generalities should not. “Ifs” and “buts” have no place in genuine confessions of sin. Repentance toward God brings with it unmistakable signs in fruits meet for repentance. If a man has carried away some of the lambs of the dock and afterward returns saying, “I repent,” the shepherd has a right to require the return of the stolen property. Genuine repentance requires it. Refusal would only demonstrate that repentance was pretended and the admission of such a one could work no good to the flock. It is a mistake to think that every candidate for membership has to be admitted. “Try the spirits . . . whether they be of God.”

It is quite plain to be seen from the Scriptures, that the Lord would have His churches well disciplined. The work of course devolves chiefly upon the shepherds. They are to teach, rule, warn and set examples. They are to restore the erring if possible and to discipline those who are perverse. Exclusion should be a last resort but it should then be made effective. Excluded members may be restored to the fold upon their repenting which is one of the ends of withdrawing from the disorderly, but ordinarily disciplined members should first be required to satisfy the overseers as to their sincerity before being allowed to come before  the congregation. Usually it will bring far better results for the “backslider” to do likewise. No one truly repentant will object to such procedure, and on the other hand it is a safeguard the shepherds owe the flock. Congregations whose discipline is thus made effective are in little need of help from without. Their help comes from above, and in the very midst of disciplinary word they may be winning souls for Christ. “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor.”


      Stanford Chambers  (1877-1969) was an Editor of the print Word and Work magazine.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10