It is recorded in the Gospels that Peter received two commissions from the Lord. The first of these was given at the sea of Galilee as the Lord spoke to Peter and his brother Andrew: "I will make you to become fishers of men" (Mk 1.17), and the second when the Lord Jesus was present at the Sea of Tiberias and commanded Peter to "Feed my lambs", and "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21.15,16,17). His work, therefore, would not only be that of an evangelist but also as a spiritual shepherd feeding and caring for "the flock of God" (1 Pet 5.2).
Today there is great need amongst assemblies of mature spiritual leadership. The requirement is for Godly men who have studied the Word of God and are accepted by the saints as having a good character and a caring heart. The work is demanding and those who engage in it must be prepared for times of "plain sailing" but also for "stormy seas". This is a day when leaders in many walks of life are continually challenged and indeed often not fitted for the responsibilities with which they are charged. Assemblies must be led and guided by those who are recognised as being fit to do so and are able to lead.
It is of interest to note that three men who went on to do great things for God learned how to shepherd a flock before they moved into the sphere of leadership. The first of these was Joseph who, while only seventeen years of age, "was feeding the flock with his brethren" (Gen 37.2). We note, therefore, that from youth he had been taught to feed the flock. It is encouraging to see young brethren who show an interest in the Word of God and give themselves over to reading it, studying it, and practising it. Only by so doing will they come to know the spiritual gift or gifts with which they are endowed. Feeding the "flock" is not limited to those who can teach publicly. Others who have given themselves over to being well taught in the Scriptures are able to teach, help and encourage the saints on a person-to-person basis. Saints who are not fed are in danger of becoming spiritually weak.
Moses, after leaving Egypt and fleeing to Midian, was responsible for the flock of Jethro his father-in-law. He "kept the flock...and he led the flock to the backside of the desert" (Ex 3.1). Note the distance he was prepared to go to keep a healthy flock - to the "backside of the desert". He had proved himself to be reliable for it was about forty years since he left Egypt and his care for the flock had not diminished. Overseers with these features are greatly needed. To persevere in the work over the years and to be spiritually intelligent enough to discern what is a healthy environment for the assembly and what has to be avoided, are the signs of a true shepherd.
David, prior to the triumph over Goliath, was interviewed by Saul. Speaking of his proven ability to preserve his sheep from danger he states, "there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth". He follows this by stating that he had slain a lion and a bear (1 Sam 17.34-36). This shepherd was well able to guard the flock. In our present age there are many who preach a false gospel and engage in false teaching. Notions and ideas contrary to Scriptures can capture the minds of untaught believers. The shepherd must be able to discern what is of the enemy and act to deal with it.
Peter is careful to point out that those who engage in this vital work must carry it out "not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily" (1 Pet 5.2, JND). This is not a responsibility into which one should be forced, neither must the motive be doubtful. Assembly testimony is challenged today. The clarion call is for overseers to continue meeting the challenge through healthy gospel preaching and Biblical leadership so that it can be said of them that they fed the flock, they led the flock, and they guarded it from enemy attacks.