A shepherd’s primary responsibilities are to feed the sheep sound, biblical truth as the Bible reveals it to us and to equip the saints for the ministry. I think faithfully teaching the whole counsel of God in view of both God’s gracious, global plan and its purpose to transform will yield a people engaged in mission by the Spirit’s help. I am persuaded a shepherd’s job is to let the Word have its way among the people God is recreating in Christ Jesus, the church. God's Word exerts its influence on the congregation as the pastor publicly proclaims its message, disciples the members, and models its transforming power in his own life and family.
An eagerness to share the gospel stems from an exuding confidence in the gospel and its power to save (Romans 1:14-17). This faith creates love (Galatians 5:6). As a shepherd faithfully proclaims the gospel, the congregation learns to lean more heavily on Christ’s sufficiency and that posture creates a more loving people. We are released from the burden of having to be our own “saviors.” We can lay down our lives in the service of others in the confidence Jesus has secured our future. The shepherd will need to guide this love into a broadness that embraces the nations and into its more narrow expression to include those around us in our communities and particularly our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our role as shepherds should be to help the church see the sufficiency of grace in such a way that they are released from self-preoccupation and self-preservation in order to lay down their lives for the progress of this grace among the nations (2 Corinthians 4).
This sacrificial lifestyle will take different shapes among the congregation. Some church members may be affirmed to go to the frontiers like Paul, some may be sent to strengthen the churches like Timothy, some may live purposefully overseas to come alongside other laborers like Priscilla and Aquila, and some may stay in their local context and support those who are sent (like the church at Rome, etc.). As a shepherd, my hope and prayer would be to see the Spirit use the Word to realign our ambitions and agendas with God’s global mission.
Shepherding people faithfully will involve exposure to this grand plan for the church to “contend together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27b). But for a church to embrace this plan sacrificially, I think another obstacle will need to be overcome. As I have lived overseas, I have seen how the idolatry in my own heart shrinks my ambitions to the level of my own perceived needs. Idols turn all of us inward toward a narrow, self-interest. These idols hinder us from embracing risk for another's good. I think faithfully shepherding church members toward global disciple-making will involve letting God’s Word expose our idols so that we are brought into the light together. That light is where He cleanses us from these idols by the blood of Jesus and releases us to the nations for the glory of Jesus.
I believe the local church plays two crucial parts in God’s redemptive plan. First, the church’s existence embodies a miraculous unity that brings glory to God. The main goal of mission is the praise of the glory of God’s grace in Christ from diverse peoples (Revelation 5,7). This glory finds visible expression on earth through planting churches that embody this grace. The church then becomes the platform for displaying the glory of Christ (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14, 2:1-3:10). Making scattered disciples among the nations will not embody this glory in the same way that planting disciple-making churches among the nations will.
Secondly, I also believe the church plays an irreplaceable role in how the mission advances. Thankfully, sending organizations abound. In my opinion, these entities exist to come alongside the local church. They need to be careful not to replace the local church as the means by which laborers are sent and sustained. The church should be actively involved in asking the Lord of the harvest to raise up more laborers and sending them out from their midst and through them as a means. Sending churches join the struggle of frontier missions through prayer and support (Philippians, Romans 15). Local churches need to take seriously their sacred responsibility to affirm and train laborers so that they are equipped for this good work.
My prayer is that we will continue to carry out this work, building on the culture of intentional global disciple-making that already exists here and moving forward on God’s mission together.
Chip Bugnar is the candidate to serve as our Global Pastor here at Brook Hills. He and his wife, Rebecca, have been married 18 years and have four children: Emma (13), Owen (12), Ben (10), and Simeon (9). For the past 7 years they have served in Central Asia. Prior to that, Chip was a College Pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, where he was instrumental in mobilizing many students to commit their lives to gospel work for the sake of the unreached. Learn more at brookhills.org/globalpastor.