As kids grow up, it’s likely that the adults in their lives encourage them to eat healthy food. Sometimes, eating all our vegetables wasn’t what we most wanted to do. But if we trusted those who set that good food in front of us, we eventually learned to eat up—and our growth and development benefited. A healthy, nourishing diet is an important part of enjoying a lot of good years in this world. Similarly, godly leaders need to feed God’s flock with the right kind of food—food that encourages healthy growth. Christians need food anchored in the written Word of God and our love for Christ, the living Word.
In a fast-paced world, the amount of information humans consume and the speed at which they consume it has accelerated. Instant access to media relentlessly bombards us to partake in “food” profitable for nothing. As the world grows technologically and relationally more complex, leaders face the daunting challenge of guarding the church against deception and distraction from the gospel and the truth of God’s Word.
Facing adversity to God’s Word is nothing new. Since Genesis chapter 3, the Adversary has introduced lies and compromises. He wants the spiritual nourishment of God’s Word to be rendered spiritual sludge. So how do leaders safeguard against the sludge? It begins with the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). The task of safeguarding the church begins with directing love first to God and then to others. Leaders devoted to loving God above all and without compromise will seek that same single-minded purity for the sheep in their care. This kind of love will make sacrifices for the truth of the gospel so that others might burn with passion for God. Ultimately, love compels church leaders to safeguard the church in truth, wisdom, discipline, and service to others.
After his resurrection, Jesus engaged Simon Peter in a simple yet powerful conversation (John 21:15–17). Jesus asked Peter three times, in various ways, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter declared, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” At Peter’s response, Jesus commanded him, “Feed my sheep.” Having been charged by the resurrected Christ, Peter’s unswerving commitment to loving Jesus became the foundation for feeding the flock God placed in his care. It compelled him to spread the gospel to the nations living in chaos during his day. This deep love for God translated into a deep love for others—that they might know the joy of salvation.
Loving God first also led Peter and the other apostles to stand firm in the face of cultural pressure to deny Christ. They did not capitulate to the evils of their age but instead focused on their risen Savior. The passion of Peter’s love for God emboldened him to stand firm, saying, “We must obey God rather than human beings.” His devotion led him to a life of witness that culminated in martyrdom.
The enemy wants to douse our burning love for God until it becomes lukewarm or cold. When feeding God’s flock, we must remain mindful of this opposition. Christian leaders must cultivate a pure, burning love for God and others to feed the church. By applying God’s word to safeguard God’s people from deception and distractions, leaders serve the church well. Leaders are called to provide the “food” the church needs to grow and thrive. A steady diet of God’s Word strengthens leaders to serve the church, and it strengthens the church to love others.
About the Contributors
Dr. Mark Yarbrough serves as the sixth President of Dallas Theological Seminary and is a professor of Bible Exposition. He has been in a variety of positions during his tenure at DTS: Research Assistant to the President, Executive Director of Information Technology, Associate Dean for External Education, Vice President for Communications, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
His love for the classroom draws him to the Bible Exposition department where he serves as Professor. Along with his responsibilities of leading DTS, he serves as an elder of Centerpoint Church in Mesquite and travels extensively leading tours and speaking at conference centers. Mark has recently authored Jonah: Beyond the Tale of a Whale and Tidings of Comfort and Joy. He has been married for thirty years to Jennifer, his high school sweetheart. They have four adult children, one son-in-law, and reside in Sunnyvale, Texas.