[Reprinted from 2020]

My Dear Shepherds,

I’m more of an Aaron than a Moses, a spokesman more than the leader. “Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses.” Like that. For years I recruited a group of people in our church to pray for my preaching every week. I called them Aaron’s Army.

Shepherds of God’s flock are called to be Wordworkers. “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip God’s people for works of service …” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Each bring God’s Word but with different voices, like a sacred choir singing gospel in four-part harmony.

When Paul said farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 he began, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you.” His humble, tear-stained, battle-tested service gave Christlike credibility to his Wordwork among them.

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:20-21).

I’m sure Paul had other tasks to do, like all pastors, but none of those defined his ministry. What matters most in our ministries is delivering God’s Word to both believers and unbelievers. All good shepherds, if indeed God has called them, have a Spirit-given instinct, affinity, and capacity for Scripture. After all, a shepherd who cannot handle the Bible is like a shepherd without rod and staff, helpless to feed, lead, or guard the flock.

We don’t go about our work merely spouting Bible verses. Our Wordwork requires us to target from the Bible, “anything that would be helpful,” as we are led by the Spirit.

The other day I asked an elder of a rural church, who has asked me to fill their pulpit, what their church needs. “Our pastor has left and we’re worried about declining population,” he said. “How do we lead now?” So with that need in mind, I must pray, listen, push into my Bible, and think. Then I will know how to bring God’s Word to them.

Remember: everything in Scripture is counterintuitive. None of it comes naturally to us or to our people. All of it, every word, is God-breathed. And all of it spells out what was once only unimaginable mystery, that “grace and truth came through Christ Jesus” and “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory.”

So at every pastoral turn—pulpit, counseling, coffee shop, board meeting, fellowship dinner, small group—we must be ready to declare “anything that would be helpful to you,” sometimes teaching, other times rebuking or correcting, or basic training in righteousness, but always “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I know you face incredible pressures, distractions, and duties, but I must remind you again: nothing pastors do matters more than our Wordwork. We enter people’s lives, both believers and unbelievers, like heralds with long brass trumpets, like physicians carrying scalpel and ointment, like nursing mothers and watchful fathers, like sowers with seeds, and sentinels with sword at the ready.

We declare the plain gospel: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. We bring Scripture’s assurance of mercy for those whose sins are burdensome and toxic. We open our Bibles to quiet fears and to instill God-given hope. With the rod and staff of Scripture we walk people away from the tempter and the pit, meet prodigals far from home, introduce brothers and sisters to life in God’s household, direct the distracted to see the chariots of fire guarding us, and the path of righteousness illumined by the lamp of God’s Word. We deliver God’s covenants, the lyrics for our praises and laments, the stern summons of the prophets, the astonishing stories of witnesses to the past and the future, and the love letters of the Bridegroom. All because God gifted us to his church as Wordworkers.

Be ye glad!

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