The Ministry of a Shepherd

Acts 20:1-16


Jerry A. Collins


  1. What does it mean to be a shepherd?
  2. In what ways does a shepherd do shepherding?
  3. What is the heart of a shepherd like?

I will never forget what Prof, a nick name for "Dr. Howard Hendrickís" at Dallas Theological Seminary said to me and others. You can impress people at a distance but you can only impact them close up. In other words, if life change is ever going to take place in a personís life, it will require another person getting close enough to bring it about. Parents will never impact their childrenís lives like this from a distance. You have often heard it said that it is the quality of time I spend that is important. As if the amount of time is inconsequential. How many pictures does a photographer take in order to ensure that he ends up with just the right picture? Many of them! I would suggest that it is out of the quantity of time that you spend with your children that the quality is derived. If a parent, an athlete or a brain surgeon want quality they also must spend a lot of time to get it. This was also true in Jesusí ministry. In John 3:22 it says, "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea and there He was spending time with themÖ" Jesus spent time with the people He wished to lead. You will probably lead and be led by the people you spend time with one-on-one and in very small groups. So will your husband, your wife and your children. It is significant who you choose to spend time with. The same holds true in our ministry to others. Ministry requires four things. (1) There must be a need to meet. (2) There must be a desire for the need to be met. (3) There must be adequate resources available to meet the need. (4) There must be the necessary time given to see the need met. In our passage the writer gives us a portrait of a man who did not impress people but did impact them. He made an impact by getting close up. We see him as a foe of Gentile idolatry in Acts 19. We now see him as the friend and shepherd of Gentiles who have turned from that Idolatry to God in Acts 20:1-12. Here we see what kind of man he was. How can we make spiritual impact in others?


The word exhortation is key here and repeated twice for emphasis. Possibly the uproar just past precipitated Paulís decision to leave. Before leaving he deliberately gathers his disciples together and gives them a word of encouragement, a kind of code word for imparting Godís truth. Then passing thru other districts during his journey he is also a source of spiritual comfort and consolation to the believers there. Further, the phrase given them much exhortation suggests how full his heart was with the truth he feels constrained to impart to his converts. An essential component to a shepherding ministry is a compulsion to spiritually comfort, console or encourage another with Godís truth. You become driven from within to pass on truth about God and His Word because that is what will bring about the life changing impact God wants in their lives. Do you have that? You need that. I want this with my children. I want this with my wife. I want this with you. I want this with the ones I teach overseas. You never retire from this. Jesus and Paul did not.


(1) After 3 months in Greece he contemplates going to Syria and from there to Jerusalem (19:21; 20:16). His travel plans were changed by a renewal of Jewish antagonism toward him and his ministry vs 3. The exact nature of the plot is not given but it deterred him from an immediate visit to Jerusalem and so goes back once more to Macedonia. The point here is to mark again the way in which the messenger of Christ is compelled by Jewish hatred to be among the gentiles rather than in the city which above all should have welcomed his message. A true child of the Jewish faith, his nation insists on driving him onward into gentile regions eventually all the way to Rome. Christianity is now centered in the Gentile world, because the Jews persist in driving it there (28:25-28).

(2) Accompanying Paul is a representative selection of converts from the fields he has labored in. They are seven in number. The first three are fruits of the Macedonian call and his second missionary journey. Gaius and Timothy are from the region visited on his first journey. The last two represent the results of his third journey. They all arrive at Troas (on present coast of western Turkey) and this becomes the place where the entire fruit of

Paulís labor is representatively gathered to hear his word. What Paul is at Troas, in word and deed, in ministry, message and miracle, he is everywhere among the Gentile believers. Of course, that impact starts in the home, your marriage and your family. But it broadens out into your spheres of relationships where you live out your faith and share the gospel and disciple people. (1) It is intentional not accidental. You must deliberately intend to make this impact. (2) It is personal. It is one person dealing with another person personally. Christ did this even in a crowd. He would call out individuals and have personal ministry with them. (3) It is Christlikeness. In other words our investment in their lives is motivating them to move in the direction of Christlikeness. The result is that our lives become surrounded not just by converts but by disciples whom we are building our lives into.


(A) The story at Troas now begins to unfold. Luke has apparently rejoined Paul and sails with him to Troas. The Christians gather for the Lordís supper on the first day of the week vs 7. In this midst of assembled believers Paul ministers Godís Word, his burden motivating him to continue until midnite since he will be gone tomorrow vs 7. There was instruction but also dialogue and conversation. The reference to Ďmany lightsí may mean (1) the hot, oily atmosphere resulting from them facilitated the slumber of Eutychus and (2) part of the spiritual portrait here. Here is another of the upper rooms prominent in Acts (1:13; 9:37, 39) each connected to the quickening power of Pentecost. And that room is well illuminated. The ministry of Paul is there. And wherever the church gathers today faithfully proclaiming Paulís teaching, believers have been enlightened. (B) But even then some may fall asleep vs 9. In a deep sleep he fell from the window three floors down to his death. Luke was a doctor and would know. Paul falls upon this fallen one embracing him he miraculously recovers his life. What he has done physically typifies what he has been doing spiritually with people imparting his own warmth and life at the same time he embraces them in Christís love. (C) The effect of this incident is spiritual encouragement and comfort of these believers. Behind the literal reality is Lukeís type. The ministry of Paul. So full of burden for those who needed divine truth. So full of compassion for those needing spiritual growth. A Christ-like shepherd to pick up the spiritually fallen, comfort the spiritually weak and strengthened those growing spiritually.

1. A ministry of a shepherd is surrounded by the Word of God.

2. The fruit of that ministry is changed lives.

3. People become more important than programs or procedures.