Pastors Feed and Lead their Church


1 Peter 5:1-4

The title ‘pastor’ comes from the biblical picture of ‘shepherd’. Pastors fulfill their role as shepherds by Feeding, Leading, Protecting and Caring for the flock (we will look at the first two in this message). Understanding the pastors’ role helps guide our expectations of pastors and our responses to them


God calls pastors to feed his people

Feeding is essential to the biblical intention of shepherding

The KJV even translated “shepherd the flock” as “feed the flock”

In John 21 Jesus restores Peter who had denied him 3 times, with the 3-fold charge of “feed my lambs . . tend my sheep . . feed my sheep”

Feeding is our primary responsibility, leading and protecting flow out of it

The only food we have to feed God’s people is God’s Word  2 Timothy 3:16-17

God’s word needs to be continuously Exalted – it is to be honored as being “God-breathed”

God’s word needs to be continuously Loved – more than simply revered

God’s word needs to be fully Trusted – as the highest truth, and as completely sufficient for our lives

God’s word needs to be continuously applied – that is how it “profits” us

Our spiritual diet has to mature if we are to mature  Hebrews 5:12-14

v12 we must start with the basics and be firmly rooted in them

vs 13-14 but we should not stay there

To shepherd a congregation to fully health, the teaching diet must be healthy

Pastors need to challenge how we think; because we  don’t believe as fully as we think we do

We need to dig in more by reading and thinking more deeply

We saw in 2 Timothy 3 that pastoral teaching is not merely presenting info biblical truths are to transform and mobilize our lives

Word ministry is a serious responsibility  2 Timothy 4:1-4

Pause to digest the magnitude of this “charge” (v1)

Pastors dare not hold back by avoiding or minimizing God’s word

Listeners dare not push off what they don’t like, or receive it casually


God calls pastors to lead his people (v2)

Christians are people in motion, we are going somewhere

(1)  We are headed for life in a kingdom that is not of this world

(2)  We are being transformed into the image of Christ

Pastors ‘shepherd’ God’s people in the direction we are to be going  Ephesians 4:11-13

They are to help everyone under their care to become more like Christ, which includes engaging everyone in service to his kingdom

This is Challenging!      

If everyone is to participate in all that maturity requires, there need to be church programs and processes to guide them

If everyone is to participate, those who are lagging must be challenged in the areas where they need to move forward

Pastors answer to God in how we fulfill the role he has given  Hebrews 13:17

It is hard to stay fully and unyieldingly biblical; so it is important that congregations encourage their pastors to remain faithful and as they are faithful

How we lead is as important as the fact that we lead (vs 2-3)

Peter presents 3 contrasting ways pastors can serve

1.  Our Attitude is not to be as under compulsion (drudgery), but willingly for the gospel

2.  Our Motive is not to be shameful gain (money, notoriety, power), but eagerly serving Christ

3.  Our Approach is not to be domineering, but as examples of godliness. We cannot lead where we are not going

Any God-given authority or responsibility is built on God-shaped character (who we are), and desires (what we want)

There is mutual accountability in the church

How the pastors lead and how the congregation follows

“Submission to pastors is not subservience, it is living orderly under the leadership of the pastors”  Scott McKnight

The entire church must be abounding with gospel truths for one another to both correct and encourage

All of us are under the leading and care of the “Chief Shepherd” (v4)

We will never truly understand the church or have a healthy church, unless Christ is our exalted head


On January 3, we will begin preaching through the New Testament book of Philippians.

Philippians is known as one of Paul’s prison epistles, because he wrote it during his Roman imprisonment.

The word most often used to describe Philippians is joy, because the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used 14 times. Joy is a topic all of us should be excited to dig into.

There are many encouraging themes and famous statements found in Philippians:

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” 1:6

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” 1:21

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” 2:3

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” 2:12

“I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” 3:8

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” 3:13-14

“Rejoice in the Lord always” 4:4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” 4:6

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” 4:11

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” 4:13

Philippians is known most of all (at least at Greentree), for one of the most important theological passages in the Bible. Philippians 2:5-11 contains the great declaration of Christ’s pre-existence, humility, incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection and exaltation!

In order to gain a general sense of this wonderful book, start reading through the book of Philippians. This will help you to benefit more deeply as you hear the messages preached.

I also encourage you to consider reading Matt Chandler’s book on Philippians, “To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain”. Some of our small groups have enjoyed working through it. You can read my blog review here.

For those who like to spend the week before each message review that Sunday’s text, here is our schedule for preaching through Philippians:

January 3        Philippians 1:1-11

January 10      Philippians 1:12-18

January 17      Philippians 1:18b-26

January 24      Philippians 1:27-30

January 31      Philippians 2:1-4

February 7      Philippians 2:5-8

February 14    Philippians 2:9-11

February 21    Philippians 2:12-18

February 28    Philippians 2:19-30

March 6          Philippians 3:1-11

March 13        Philippians 3:12-16

March 20        Philippians 3:17-21

April 10          Philippians 4:1-9

April 17          Philippians 4:10-13

April 24          Philippians 4:14-23


Sermon on the MT

I love preaching to our church family at Greentree, because you love to hear God’s Word!

This is pleasing to healthy for you – pleasing to God – and a gift to your pastors

One expression of your love for Scripture, has been an interest in further study –particularly concerning our new sermon series from the Sermon on the Mount, “Living for Christ’s Kingdom”.

There is an avalanche of material available on this part of the Bible. Here are some recommended resources that are helpful for the general reader:

The Whole Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount  by Sinclair Ferguson
Sermon on the Mount  by James Boice
Sermon on the Mount  by Kent Hughes
The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple  by Daniel Doriani
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount  by John Stott

Parts of the Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes for Today  by John Blanchard
The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character  by John Stott
The Beatitudes  by Thomas Watson   A Puritan writer

The Lord’s Prayer

The Prayer of Our Lord  by Philip Ryken
The Lord’s Prayer for Today  by Derek Prime
Praying the Lord’s Prayer  by J.I. Packer
The Lord’s Prayer  by Thomas Watson   A Puritan writer

Most of these are not carried in the bookstore of Greentree Church, but you can find them at Amazon or you can search on one of these online Christian book stores:

Cumberland Bible Book Service  My favorite book store, located in Carlisle, PA
Westminster Book Store
Christian Book Distributers


This Sunday we begin preaching through Matthew chapters 5-7

a.k.a. The Sermon on the Mount

This is the most famous of Jesus recorded discourses, and it is probably the most hard hitting.

Over the history of the Church some have actually tried to minimize it’s call on our lives by coming up with reasons why it is not really God’s expectation for regular Christians.

Part of why the Sermon on the Mount is so challenging, is the way Jesus refuses to let us ignore heart issues. John Calvin wrote:

“The Sermon on the Mount rescues the law of God from being seen only as external acts and not internal attitudes.”

While the Sermon on the Mount can be challenging to us, God’s Word is always good and brings wondrous fruit into our lives. This should be seen as an exciting section of the Bible because it points us to being more like Christ!

The bottom line is that the Sermon on the Mount is a sermon by Jesus! 

To spend time studying Jesus most famous sermon is truly a privilege and a reason for our church to be joyful

Other praise for this sermon by Jesus:

“The Sermon on the Mount is new law for those set free and becoming like the glorious King we serve. It is showing us the glorious heart of the Kingdom in which we now live.” Charles Quarles

“The Sermon on the Mount is the moral portrait of Jesus’ own people. It is instruction that becomes indictment, because our lives don’t fully fit that picture.” Scott McKnight

We have entitled this series: “Living in Christ’s Kingdom”

This is because the Sermon on the Mount is describing what it means to live as someone who loves Christ and lives in his kingdom.

In many ways, Jesus is inviting us to live in a Heavenly manner, for he is describing what kingdom members look like.

The reason why parts of the Sermon on the Mount seem hard to us, is because we still have much of our own kingdom in our hearts.

These chapters will walk us through important topics such as:

How should we pray?

What is a blessed life?

What is our role in the world?







Judging one another

The ‘Golden Rule’

Who should we believe?

How to have stability in life

If you are part of Greentree start reading and praying through these three chapters.

If you don’t attend Greentree, you can still follow along through my Monday Sermon Leftover blogs or listen on our website

Jesus not only preached the Sermon on the Mount – it is how he lived.

Jesus rejoiced in these truths and he shares them with us so we can live and rejoice in them too!

In the weeks ahead we will learn together what the beauty of godliness looks like.


The Power and Potential of Words

James 3:1-12

James is concerned about how we live in biblical community.  He now addresses another area that hurts biblical community – another area where we need to put our faith into action.

Our words are among the “works” which show our faith (James 1:26)

James makes a big statement about controlling our words (v2)

The “perfect” person, refers to someone who is blameless and godly 

Control over what we say is evidence of a general godliness of life

Our words reflect our heart, whether they are planned or spill out

Has James exaggerated about our tongue?

1.  The tongue is powerful in how it guides our life (vs 3-5)

Our words are like a ship’s rudder that leads the rest of our actions

Angry words inflame us and proud words entrench us  

Our words can also lead those around us

Words impact the listener who responds to our words

Words create a tone for others to follow  

James points out that our tongue is a small instrument, yet, just like a single flame, it can cause an inferno

Our words become wise guides when we use them to preach the gospel to ourselves

2.  The tongue is powerful in its potential for destructiveness

James builds on his flame illustration to show the harm words cause (v6)

Our words stain our whole person

How many people’s opinion of you is based mostly on your words?

Words affect the entire course of life, because words often fill our day  

Unless our words are God inspired and God honoring, they are hellish

Our words have greater potential for godliness Holy Spirit can fill them

3.  The tongue is hard to control (vs 7-8)

Our words don’t merely have a wild nature, they have a sinful nature 

We can stop certain words, but a “restless evil” lies within

The power to fully fix our tongue is not in us, we need the Holy Spirit

In this world, we will always have an untamable sinful nature

So we need to seek an ongoing dependency on the Holy Spirit

Gaining control of our tongue will flow out of God having control of our heart

4.  The tongue can cause our life to be marked by inconsistency (vs 9-12)

In the same conversation, we can claim to love God and then defame a fellow believer

There is an inappropriateness about this – God hates it

We deceive ourselves to think we are good while our words are uncontrolled

We have a weakened witness and influence for Christ

Who would use a spring that alternates between being clean and polluted?

v2 says ‘we all stumble’, but we should not be doubled-minded

This is especially true in our home – there is a difference between our family seeing us fall, and them watching us change paths

If we consistently fill our heart with godly influences we will bear consistent fruit

Our words can have wonderful effects:

1.  When we change the subject of our words

Make God the focus of your words: what God is like, what He is doing and what He loves to do

Nothing is more worthy, wise, powerful, lasting, and needed than God focused words

2.  When we change the purpose for our words

Rather than words that are critical, shallow or self-focused, choose words that encourage people with Christ’s agenda 

We live amidst the rain of foul, foolish, empty and godless words

But Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news”



“How do we look at people?”                   

 James 2:1-13

James continues to address how we live in community, as believers. He now warns us treating one another according to the external standards of the world

Partiality is when we make unbiblical distinctions between each other

Partiality can take the forms of either Discrimination or Favoritism

The Church is not immune to ‘celebrity-itis’ or cultural prejudices

The word for “partiality” in v1 literally means “receiving the face”

It is referring to treating people based on external matters

The example James uses, is when we treat one another according to social status

Our perspective is to be radically different from the surrounding culture

We need to make a couple clarifications

1.  We need to distinguish between Discerning and Discriminating

Discrimination is treating people differently based on their group

Discernment responds accurately to people as wisdom requires

For example, in Children’s Ministry we do not let just anyone teach; this is for reasons of physical safety and biblical safety

Discernment can show love even though it requires trust to be earned

Discrimination is a preloaded opinion that fails to show love, or wisdom

2.  As Christians, biblical standards must overrule personal standards

The world places personal choices first, so they consider the Church’s rebuke of them to be discriminatory

The church must operate under the standards of God’s word, which means we must confront sin. Sometimes that will involve restrictive action (church discipline)

This is not discrimination and it is not judging – as long as we are using God’s judgments and not our own

Three reasons why partiality doesn’t belong in our hearts

1.  Partiality stands in contradiction to God’s own evaluation (v5)

God saves by his ‘choice’; if we treat people with a bias, we are contradicting God

In addition, when God saves someone, he also adopts them as heirs of his kingdom

How do you feel when someone mocks or disdains one of your children?

2.  Partiality ignores basic human realities (vs 6-7)

People of status often are those who misuse the rest of society

They often blaspheme (or disregard) God who we cherish

3.  Partiality violates our guiding principle of loving neighbor (v8)

God has given us a new agenda, which is to show love toward every person

Love looks at people’s best interest

Love takes action that reflects how God cares for us

One form of partiality we often don’t recognize in ourselves, is when we assume bad motives for people

It is internal slander and violates the Bible’s teaching on Love 

1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things” 

James wants to press upon us the seriousness of the matter

1.  This and every sin should be taken seriously (vs10-11)

His point is that we are responsible for all that God requires

His purpose is to keep us from minimizing partiality as a small sin     

2.  Partiality is a serious departure from biblical thinking

It is inconsistent with our faith in Christ (v1)

All people are sinners, condemned and helpless. No one in our church received salvation because they were better people

In v1 James refers to Christ as the Lord of glory. He is reminding us that He alone deserves to be exalted by us

Partiality is inconsistent with Christ’s agenda. We are called to always pursue people, not set up prejudices

In v4 James adds that the motivation behind partiality is evil thoughts. This is because we are using the world’s way of thinking

A couple important implications:

1.  The Word of truth is meant to influence every aspect of life

Everything is under the authority of God and His word

It is too easy for us to think we are pretty good at following God’s word

Being connected in a small group helps us to think through biblical truth and holds us accountable to it

2.  The Church is meant to be a community of vibrant love in action

The biblical community in our church should show the transforming reality of God that we see in the Acts 2 church

But this will only take place if we are “doers” of what the Bible says about the Church

People regularly experience partiality; so w have an opportunity to demonstrate something different

Is there anyone you should treat differently? 


Earlier this month, I gave you this background on our new preaching series from the New Testament book of James.

I included a schedule of when each section would be covered so you can read along and pray through these portion of James as we go along.

However jury duty has jumbled up that schedule. I am in the midst of an estimated three weeks of this civic responsibility.

So here is the updated breakdown of how we will preach through James:

October 5    James 1:12-18 

October 12    James 1:19-27

October 19    James 2:1-13

October 26    James 2:14-26

November 2    James 3:1-12

November 9    James 3:13-18

November 16    James 4:1-12

November 23    James 4:13-17

November 30    James 5:1-6

December 7    James 5:7-12

December 14    James 5:13-20

And don’t forget that this Sunday, our preaching guest will be our good friend Tim Shorey from Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA


This Sunday we will begin a new preaching series at Greentree on the New Testament book of James.

James is probably the earliest of all New Testament writings.

The author is not the Apostle James (who was martyred in Acts 12). It is written by James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15 & 21).

This book is somewhat unique among New Testament writings, as it mixes a variety of literary forms.

Major themes in James:




The poor


Significant Applications of James include:

An accurate analysis of sin

Our responsibility for others especially in the church community

The virtues of adversity

If James has a “key verse” – my choice is 3:13:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

For those of you who like to read and study along, here is the breakdown of how we will preach through James:

September 7    James 1:1-4

September 14    James 1:5-11

September 21    James 1:12-18

October 5    James 1:19-27

October 12    James 2:1-13

October 19    James 2:14-26

November 2    James 3:1-12

November 9    James 3:13-18

November 16    James 4:1-12

November 23    James 4:13-17

November 30    James 5:1-6

December 7    James 5:7-12

December 14    James 5:13-20

And if you are not part of Greentree Church, you can still follow along through the “Sermon Leftover” blogs on Mondays!


Joe Lechner had written an article for the Sovereign Grace Blog on the topic of ‘The Holy Spirit and Preaching”. Afterward that got him thinking about how some of those truths apply for us when we listen to the preaching of God’s word:

“I think there is as much, if not more, application to be had here for the hearer of God’s Word than the preacher of God’s Word. It is the hearer that is desperate for the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit just as much as the preacher.”

The whole point God has for calling men to preach is that He also calls people to listen. Since Scripture says faithful preaching is precious and should be honored, the implication is that faithful listeners are precious and that habit should be honored.

“I think a lot of people have a category for Spirit-empowered preaching, but I wonder how many people really have a category for Spirit-empowered listening.”

The person in front of the congregation gets the most attention, but those who are listening have an opportunity to honor God by the way in which they listen. Since we are all aware of how much we battle to live in ways that please God, we should grab every opportunity we have with both hands . . or in this case, both ears!

 “I wonder how often the average person arrives on Sunday morning having sought the Lord to be freshly filled with Holy Spirit so that they might hear – truly HEAR – the Word of God preached that morning.”

I am very thankful that I preach to a church family that is filled with good listeners. Whenever we have a guest preacher, I can confidently say they will find the people easy to preach to. But before we puff out our chests in self-congratulation, we have room for improvement as hearers and doers of God’s word. We all have left some truths and applications on the floor which still need to be picked up and put into use.

An encouragement to take with us, is that if we failed last week, we can freshly seek the Holy Spirit’s involvement in how we listen this week. And with the magic of sermons online, we can even go back and get a redo on messages we need to hear again.

God is looking for His people to serve Him with faithfulness, but that is not fully possible until we first become faithful listeners!

If you would like to read Joe Lechner’s entire article you can find it here



I have often enjoyed preaching to good listeners in Belarus

Yesterday’s blog dealt with ways to pray for the Sunday sermon, as well as why that is so greatly needed. Today let’s go a step further and consider How to Better Listen to Sermons.

Again there are many reasons why we should want to become increasingly better sermon listeners.

1.  Since you are already there, shouldn’t you want to use the time as well as possible

2.  Hopefully you will end up spending a lot of time in your life listening to sermons. Again why waste hundreds or thousands of accumulated hours in your life

3.  God has given pastors to the church in order to preach (Ephesians 4:11), which means He expects you to listen. Good listening is simply part of biblical obedience

4.  We all need the challenge, insight, correction, refreshment and help that God provides through the careful listening to preaching

5.  A poor listener is a poor learner.   Do we really want our life to suffer loss because we were careless listeners?

Philip Ryken is the President of Wheaton College. Prior to that he was pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. I have heard Pastor Ryken preach and he is worthy of attention when it comes to any discussion on that subject. And having grown up in the church, he has worth while things to say about how to listen to sermons. You can read his thoughts in this article.