Sheep need a shepherd

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


I’m an ass who spends too much of my life online, so I don’t give Tim the encouragement he deserves when he writes a helpful post, like the one last year about Boomers meeting God, which I was very touched by.

But brother, this post was so very helpful. And it describes me to a tee. But I promise you, I’m trying to be better. Can I share a funny anecdote?

All last year you were writing that it was improper for Christians to “rail” at our civil authorities. You exhorted us to pipe down about our misgivings about this or that. I chafed at that, and thought it was very out of character for a longtime reader of Joe Sobran to say such a thing. But out of respect for you, I sort of followed your advice. I piped down, but I wasn’t happy about it.

Then a few months later, my elder Aaron Sabie exhorted us in exactly the same way during our corporate confession of sin. And because Aaron is Aaron, his rebuke stung more than yours, and he coupled it with his big, booming voice. But because Aaron is Aaron, and I know him, and he feeds me week after week, when he rebuked me I took it and was grateful, and talked with him about it afterward. Not thrilled about it, but I had a softer heart toward Aaron.

So yes, I was delightfully inconsistent. But…also giving heed to the man in front of me rather than the man online. Trying to repent and often failing at it.

And may I add that Aaron is scarier than you. I mean, really, have you seen him?



Wait, you don’t read Pastor Tim’s posts hearing them in his big, booming voice?? You need to listen to more sermons from him! Btw they’re all online :wink:

I’m kidding around. I’ve heard Tim preach several times, in person and by podcast.

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I would hope so

I just want to, along with @bencarmack thank you for writing this and for your other published writings. Many of my friends think of me as that crazy guy who tells them not to “follow” the celebrity “pastors,” all the while I read and weigh what you write.

Honestly though, my church body is really struggling right now, feels like sheep without a shepherd. I won’t say more on the Public Square forum, maybe another time. But your words over the past year have been helpful to say the least.

Thankful to God for you,


On a not-unrelated note (bear with me): who shepherds the shepherds? I get the point for the sheep to have shepherds, and I’ve been in churches where that has been sorely lacking, but there is a wider picture.

Generally there should be a body of elders and the lead-pastor is one among them. One of the elder’s voices will sort of be the leading voice. Someone will be the “lead-dog.” That is usually going to be the lead pastor. (And I think it probably should be.) But he needs to be able to submit when he is outvoted (or however things are done in that elder body).

My impression is that a shepherd/leader/pastor/elder is asking others to submit to him. He should demonstrate his willingness to submit to others or else find himself disqualified (?).

Thats what I’ve learned from reading about such things. I’ve never really seen it modeled. The closest I’ve seen it come is in a small country baptist church where the elders are called deacons and everyone was a little bit confused but it seemed good to me when I was a kid.


Generally speaking, the shepherds shepherd the shepherds. Having a robust plurality of elders in a church is very important. By robust, I mean that the pastor can’t just be surrounded by yes-men, and the eldership can’t just be a nepotistic affair. Men who know one another well and are deeply involved in each other’s lives. The kind of men who will love you enough to go Galatians 2:11 on you if it becomes necessary.


If I could speak for a moment as a…ahem…Baptist (who is also a closet Presbyterian…so there’s that).

The congregation also shepherds the shepherd. Please know this comment is not aimed at a godly Presbyterianism, but the idea that pastors can only be shepherded by fellow pastors or elders (either within a congregation of outside of it) is one I find completely foreign to scripture (no one had said this as such here, but it’s a view unfortunately prevalent among reformedish pastors). Galatians 6.1 has no such limitations. The Pastorals insist on no such thing. Of course fellow elders will be the chief source of exhortation and encouragement to a pastor, but a pastor doesn’t only sin against or in front of his elders.

The local congregation also shepherds the pastor.


Sheep need the pastor to keep watch over their souls. The elders and their families need the same. The deacons and their families, also. All through Scripture and church history, we see this happening. It’s more seen than taught, and this because it’s a fact of life everywhere and always. One leads the many, including the leaders. Bucer is good on this, especially in pointing out its inevitability.

So there is a man who leads the church as its shepherd—including other pastors if the church has them (and Baxter recommended he take a pay cut to afford them because of the importance of solid and consistent pastoral care for the flock, and the pastor’s need for help providing it).

When the question is asked “who shepherds the shepherd,” what’s hovering dangerously around this question are the egalitarian assumptions of mutual submission. The wife and husband should submit to “one another,” just as Scripture says. And thus the parents should submit to their children as the children submit to their parents and teachers to their students as students to their teachers and deans to their faculty as faculty to their deans and elders to their sheep as sheep to their elders and elders to their deacons as deacons to their elders and pastors to their elders as elders to their pastor and senators and congressmen and public health officials to their citizens as citizens to their senators and congressmen and public health officials and presidents to their people as people to their presidents and zookeepers to their lions as lions to their zookeepers and falconers to their falcons as falcons to their falconers and tornadoes to their double-wides as double-wides to their tornadoes…

If what is meant by “who shepherds the shepherd” is who cares for his needs, no objection. But if the idea implicit behind this is that a shepherd needs to be submissive to those he shepherds, uh-uh. The Elders don’t need the care of the people in the same way the people need the care of their elders. The same holds true for the shepherd or “pastor," as we refer to him in Presbyterian polity. He doesn’t need the care of the elders in the same way the elders need his care. After all, the gifts shepherds must have and receive from the Holy Spirit in ordination are what enables them to care for themselves in the same way they care for their fellow shepherds and sheep. Knowledge of Scripture. Discernment. Authority. Prescience. Meekness. Humility. Prayer. Wise counsel, and so forth.

Now men who have imbibed of egalitarianism will not accept this, judging it as an attempt to place the pastor above the elders in such a way that they are unable to rebuke or discipline him, but this is not the case with me in this comment. I have absolute confidence in the session of churches being used by God to help the pastor grow in humility and meekness and wisdom and discernment, etc. But the norm is the pastor pastoring the elders too, as he does the flock, and the exhortations and rebukes of the elders to him privately and corporately notwithstanding. That’s always how healthy authority works, as I recently pointed out in my tweet concerning Priscilla and Aquila correcting Apollos.

Finally, though, we get back to the central fact of pastors and elders in a presbytery needing to be the ones who examine and correct and discipline pastors. I believe in the plurality of the eldership, and if you men haven’t read “Elders Reformed,” I wish you would do so. It would be very helpful to you if you’re open to the idea that you could use a pastor’s help in understanding your calling or the calling you are aspiring to.

But in the end, it’s really impracticable for fellow elders in a local church to deal with serious doctrinal and moral failures on the part of their own pastor. It usually ends up a vacation-assassination, a Texas standoff, or a mess. In the book, I try very hard to be helpful to Baptists working towards having a plurality of elders in their congregation. I make a lot of suggestions about implementation and practice and try to encourage it vigorously.

Still, Evangel is unlike the SBC and the CREC precisely in the fact of its Presbyterian polity, including especially holding ordination in the presbytery and not in the local church or session. Yes, presbyteries can go rotten, as we see across the PCA right now. I was a member of a number of PCA presbyteries and there was almost never any substantive accountability of churches, elders, or pastors to the presbytery. They all gabbed on about accountability, but it was mostly a big joke, just as we’ve all watched with Revoice.

Nevertheless, there are such strengths to companies of pastors and elders outside and larger than the local church, and it’s my personal conviction this is what we see in Scripture (Acts 15) to good effect. Appellate jurisdiction is critically important, as Moses implemented with tens and hundreds and thousands and, finally, himself. All upwards.

So what I personally would recommend is that all of you who are congregational affiliate with Evangel Presbytery (or take our documents and form a presbytery of your own) where you hold ordination and discipline of pastors. Because they have the calling and gifting of shepherds, they won’t need shepherds themselves as the sheep do, tit for tat, but they will need it and it’s much more practical (and I think Biblical) for these occasions to be helped by larger groups of pastors and elders than by any local church or its elders’ board.



Though you clearly do not mean such things in your very helpful answer (or your own practice), a great many pastors do. Either implicitly or explicitly.

I’m arguing for the sort of mutuality you have encouraged in your examples of being correctable with your wife. Matthew 18 mutuality (unless the situation reaches a 1 Timothy 5.19 threshold).

Of course there’s rampant egalitarianism today. Just as there’s rampant tyranny in the hearts of many who eschew egalitarianism. Especially within congregational churches.

Shepherding the shepherd needn’t only include care for material needs. Nor does it necessarily undermine his pastoral authority or his unique responsibility in the congregation. Urging the pastor to be able to be confronted/exhorted/encouraged (when he sins or needs encouragement) by those in the flock, in an appropriate and respectful way, needn’t be ‘tornados submitting to double wides.’

In other words, isn’t there plenty of scriptural space between ‘no one can confront the pastor’ and ‘the presbytery is the agent primarily responsible for confronting the pastor’?

I thought I was clear on this. Love,

You probably were.

I’m frustrated by the question ‘who pastors the pastor?’ from quarters where Presbyterianism isn’t an option, and in which the pastor has effectively become a mini pope. Congregational quarters? Where the local church has a valid role to play in this discussion. Quarters where any perceived criticism is taken as an attack on pastoral authority. Where authority is abused. From pastors who then still complain that one is the loneliest number. Maybe that wasn’t where this question was coming from.

Maybe I felt defensive and needed to explain I’m not an egalitarian! I’ve overcorrected at times, if I’m honest. That’s not my own struggle, and I know plenty of men who also need to be wary of exercising too much their own authority in ministry. Men who need a good dose of 1 Peter 5. As I do.

That, and I just finished a book by a professed Presbyterian who complained extensively on this theme and neglected to mention the presbytery once (I mean this humorously!).

Dear Aaron, never thought you were an egalitarian. Don’t know how anyone could survive here, thusly. But we can’t be careful enough abt the prevalence of this corruption. Concerning mini-popes in congregational churches, are they really any more prevalent there than typical churches of presbyterian polity? And are oppressive boards harrassing the pastor any more prevalent in congregational than presbyterian polities? I’m not sure. I would never argue that both aren’t problems, but if we just discuss and design for the problems, we are permanently stunted, I’m afraid. So I’d rather focus on what is right and good and can be documented to be from Scripture. This is not to lack sympathy for those harmed by, and living under, tyrannical authorities, whether the board of deacons, elders, or some pastor. Funny last comment. Love,

This was so refreshing. Thank you.

When the question is asked “who shepherds the shepherd,” what’s hovering dangerously around this question are the egalitarian assumptions of mutual submission.

A few years ago, at the previous church we attended, there was a man there who put forth this question and thought a number of times, always during bible studies outside the corporate gathering. I met with him a couple times and gathered that something had happened between him and the pastor before we got there, and he seemed embittered. We had a men’s bible study through Hebrews which he led. When we got to Hebrews 13:17 he wrested it to pieces, arguing that it did not mean obey nor submit; that there is no distinction between clergy and laity (that’s a Roman relic); and that the priesthood of the believer somehow, someway, eliminated ecclesiastical hierarchy—he emphasized this during another study in 1 Peter.

No surprise, he didn’t submit to the elders on not baptizing his young daughter, and he baptized her himself in his own backyard around that time with his family present. He would always talk about how preaching was not a monologue, and that’s not the picture we have in Scripture, that it is a dialogue. He would even argue that discussions during bible study were preaching. In some strange irony, however, he loved Lloyd-Jones and he even accepted offers to preach at local churches.

It was all bizarre to me and I couldn’t understand it at the time. I had considered seeking him as a mentor, because in other areas he was solid and I even think had the gift of teaching. That never came to fruition. Looking back, I see it was the Lord protecting me. The man absolutely hated authority and was flattering me. But he did so with finesse and cunning. His idea of church was some hippy home version where everyone is equal and we all learn from each other in a nice discussion. He had asked the exact question when we had a conversation about our then-pastor’s authority: “Who shepherds the shepherd?”


One of the “tells” about whether or not we have hearts of submission toward various authorities in life is to see how we are prone to manipulate and contort various passages to say something different than what they obviously say.

But on this very point, what does a congregant do when he sees his pastor is doing this very thing? What if, for instance, you have a pastor who is rock solid on hammering passages concerning the authority of elders, or of husbands or parents, but then bends 1 Peter 2 and Romans 13 to argue that our subjection to civil authorities is really only subjection to the “good laws” that those rulers are implementing, or the “good things” that they are doing; so as to carefully avoid the conclusion that we are supposed to actually honor the persons in positions of civil authority?

I mean, really, who shepherds the shepherd in this? If the shepherd starts to model and teach a little subtle rebellion against the civil sphere, and eisegetes key texts in order to get there, who should deal with that? Do the scrupulous churchmen in the congregation (you know, those mini “popes of their household” dudes who are concerned that they may be subjecting their children to false teaching) seek to appeal respectfully to the pastor, personally? Is it to be left to fellow elders to be watching over the teaching?

Whose role is it to appeal to the pastor if his teaching is starting to go off the rails a bit, in such a way that all propriety and honor for the pastor is maintained, and we don’t end up with a “vacation-assassination” or schism?

Give me some time. Good questions. I’ll get to them with maybe some helpful thoughts. Love,

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As the contributor who raised the question, “who shepherds the shepherds?”, may I explain why I did so. When I was a young man, my father pastored a Pentecostal church. Ever since then, I have always wondered, “Who shepherds the shepherds?” Or, more precisely, “who pastors the pastors?” (itself prompted by the Latin, “qui custodiet ipsos custodes?”).

Now, the challenges I saw were in a Pentecostal (=Baptist) polity; different polities will deal with this in different ways, but we all agree how much it needs doing.

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The congregant must oppose him. This is such a foundational matter—this matter of authority. We are not able to let it slide in the way differences over eschatology or (even) the extent of the atonement can be. But I find myself wondering if it’s really true in almost any church that the pastor hammers home the importance of both the authority of the husband/father/parents of the home and also the authority of the pastor/elders? My observation is the Church today is all about family values and authority while not ever mentioning Church authority. There may be some implicit understanding and some minimal practice of authority by the shepherds, but it’s unstated and the least intrusive it can possibly be, thus avoiding the charge of inconsistency as the pastor rails against masks/civil authorities/tyrants.

I mean, has there been even a single pastor who has preached against the civil magistrate and his tyranny and followed that up with the command that his flock submit to him in his belligerating because he keeps watch over them as a many who must give an account for their souls. Am I explaining my thinking on this?

In the Church today that is in any way Biblical or theological, family values of father-authority and children submitting to parents are at the heart of things held most firm and dear, but almost always along with that goes the deference of the pastor (usually at the behest of the elders) to the dignity and authority of those fathers; deference to The Patriarchy, that is. This is the heart of the recovery of what I refer to as the Church’s emphasis on “family values” which goes with paedocommunion, homeschooling, classical education, anti-vaccers, anti-masking, agrarianism (meaning at least hens and eggs out back—or even out front—in a chicken coop), etc. (And for those thinking I’m being mean, this is the pic of my eldest daughter and her husband’s home two houses down the street from us.)

What I’m asking is how often, though, a recovery of father-authority in the home is cheek-by-jowl next to recovery of pastoral authority in the church? I would say almost never. But to those who would want to argue with me, I’d ask how many of those families holding firmly (and often, starting fairly recently) to father-authority understand that pastor/elder/shepherd authority trumps father-authority? Specifically, that when the wife is beaten by the husband or the husband rapes the daughter, it is the required thing to do to go to one’s pastor/elders/shepherds and request reporting and discipline?

Yes, this is difficult, but the fact of it is inarguable across Scripture and Church history. So I am encouraring the man in a congregation whose pastor is attacking the authority of the civil authority in a way that is not nuanced, but clear, to oppose his pastor (and the elders if they are similarly belligerent and rebellious). Why?

Because authority is of a fabric so that those who pull on this thread destroy the whole. The reason the Church is so vulnerable to every wind of false doctrine today, and particularly disrespect and rebellion against civil authority while sucking in the teaching of celebrities so rich and proud and wrong, is that the sheep have not been discipline and rebuked and admonished and exhorted by their shepherds, day and night, house to house, with tears. Which is to say very personally in a way that bonds them to their own shepherd (which is really the only kind of shepherd there is).

If a pastor belligerates and disrespects and pronounces anathemas against nameless “politicians” and “tyrants,” he is sowing the wind and will reap the whirlwind. It may start slowly, with anger over quarantines and masks and vaccines and those “tyrants” mandating them, but trust me when I warn that such a church giving herself to such rabble-rousing and rebellion will soon find how difficult it is to discipline the patriarch who demands to baptize and commune his own children, and the wife who demands not to be talked to by the older women of the church concerning the filthy condition of her home and the absence of any schedule or requirements in her homeschooling and her denouncing of sugar at church potlucks…

Then she will divorce her husband claiming he “abused” her and her children; she will come out as a homeschooling liberated feminist; she will divorce her husband while refusing to submit the matter to her elders; she will join the host of similar women on the host of blogs attacking the host of male abusers of authority online, and her god will become manifest as the idol he has always been.

So no, we should not put up with preaching and pastors and elders who undercut authority whether that authority is civil, familial, or ecclesiastical. As the Apostle Paul declares, authority is of a fabric and that fabric is God. Pull on the thread here and God topples from His throne. It’s that connected, direct, and clear.

The man in such a church should first go to his pastor, then to his elders, then leave. Or, if his church is presbyterian or episcopal, after going to the elders/church council, he should go to the presbytery or the bishop asking them to intervene. And no, it is not to be left to the elders to deal with it, but the father is to ask them to deal with it.

But here you say “little subtle rebellion” and that is not what I have been talking about above. Any wife can (and many do) find countless failures of action and communication in their husband quite close at hand and convenient for her purposes of disrespect and rebellion, so why not do the same with our pastor and his sermons?

Because authority is of a fabric and because love covers a multitude of sins. Much of wisdom consists of knowing when to back into the tent with a blanket and when to ring the alarm. Be wise in knowing the difference or those watching will see what is clearly true: that this man leaving his church because his pastor has voiced a few criticisms of civil “tyrants” is really doing so because he believes in masks and thinks his pastor should shut up about them. Which is to say he is a weak and insecure leader in his home and wants no competition for authority over his wife and children from his pastor because he has a sneaking suspicion that, in the great contests for truth and meaning and God and Scripture, he’ll lose. And being a small and weak man, he finds another church that doesn’t threaten him at all.

All for now. Love,