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“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:17-18

Highly merited praise for ELDERS (synonymous with shepherds or bishops) and DEACONS  who personally take care of their spiritual sheep, especially during crises such as the Coronavirus Pandemic

In such a way that the sheep of the congregation hear their VOICE, by telephone or through personal visits. The latter conducted in accordance with legal and/or heath care directives, such as social distancing and the use of masks in the case of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The unique voice of a true elder-shepherd.

The comforting, compassionate, tranquilizing, and firm voice of a live and present elder-shepherd who is personally

Photo closeup of a sheep held in the hands of a man, illustration for Highly merited priase for elders.

concerned for each and every one of the sheep under his care in the sheepfold that is his congregation.

Especially during times of crisis and danger, such as the "Time of Covid-19," which was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization and continues as of the present (14 August 2022), with 589 million cases and 6.43 million confirmed deaths by 13 August 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_pandemic

The mature voice of the wise elder-shepherd-bishop (synonymous terms in the New Testament. Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7) strong and calm in the Lord, whether there be, or not be, pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, sicknesses, surgeries, threats of imminent death, or other misfortunes, whatever their nature.

The voice of the elder-shepherd who loves“in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18) all the sheep, without exception. Who does not limit his personal contact to a favorite group of the sheep he knows best, nor to those with the most abundant, lustrous, and valuable wool.

On the contrary, who is concerned even more for the weak sheep, for those that quickly wander astray, for the sickly ones, for those of a somewhat indomitable nature who feel little loyalty to the flock. 

Photo of an elderly man bending over to hold the head of a sheep in his hands, for the article Highly merited priase for church elders.

Who reaches out to such sheep with an even greater, personal striving and zeal.

For he is their shepherd and to watch after them is his very personal DUTY, more than that of any other person associated with the flock. Take care of them. Feed them. Keep them in line. In close collaboration with fellow elders-shepherds. Acts 14:23; 20:17-31

The one that gets lost, diligently and tirelessly search for it! “…on the mountains,"  wherever those mountains are. “And if he finds it,” bring it back to the flock! Matthew 18:10-14; John 15:3-7

Search for it in the confines of secular homes.

Along the twisted and dark byways of misleading

“philosophes and empty deceit,” “human traditions, according to the elemental spirits of the universe,” (Colossians 2:8), and different gospels. Galatians 1:6-20

In the venues of worldly, sensual entertainments, carnal passions, and vices contrary to nature.

For, “it is not the will of” the “Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:10-14

Nevertheless, if the shepherds “the Holy Spirit has madeoverseers, to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Peter 5:1-5) do not personally fulfill, each one of themhis divinely given charge, and with even more earnestness and diligent work in the "Time of the Coronavirus Plague" or any other danger or crisis, be it material, physical, or spiritual, then, even a substantial percentage of each congregational flock may possibly be lost!

“PERSONALLY” is the key adverb.

The good elder-shepherd-bishop calls his own sheep by name,” and “the sheep hear his voice.” “…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

He knows all his sheep well, personally; and they know him. A very easy, personal relationship, without barriers.

For them, he is not almost like a stranger who does not inspire trust. Even less like a “hired hand. On the contrary, they perceive him as a spiritual protector and provider, easily accessible, kindly, affable, discreet, wise, and quick to serve. John 10:1-27; 2 Timothy 2:24-26

What tenderness, love, and trust between shepherd and sheep are projected in this photograph! A close relationship, and not distant, impersonal, through third parties.

The sheep need to hear the voices of their elders-shepherds, especially during times of unexpected, strange, disorienting, dangerous, and persistent crises, such as those unleashed by the Coronavirus Plague.

And also, the voices of the deacons of the congregation. For, although they have not yet reached the grade of experience and wisdom, the strength of spirit and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7) that distinguish the good elder-shepherd, it is nevertheless certain that those who “serve well as deacons” must, by the very nature of their principal ministry, take physical and

Photo of a sheep with his head on the leg of a man standing with his hand on the sheep.

physical and material care, precisely, of the sheep1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-7

And this special care puts them, necessarily, in direct personal contact with the sheep, it is assumed. Not limiting themselves to the fenced-in area of the sheepfold, that is, to the meeting place, but exercising their ministry wherever and whenever it is needed, including private homes, clinics, hospitals, homes for the elderly, orphan homes, emergency shelters, courts, the streets…

The special care that, according to biblical guidelines, should be administered with true, spiritual love, friendly attention, and ready willingness.

To be sure, such refined, selfless, precious Christian treatment benefits not only the physical body but also the heart, mind, and spirit of the favored recipient, bringing consolation, well-being, and security.

Given that the Coronavirus Plague has scattered, alarmingly so in not a few cases, the sheep of congregational flocks around the world for more than two and half years, not coming together even at this time (August 2022) up to 30%, 40%, 50%, or more, of the sheep that were obeying the voice of the elders-shepherds before this diabolical phenomenon, there arises the following strong inquietude: 

Many sheep looking at the camera, with some scattered farther behind, illustration for the study on elders in the church.

Is it conceivable that the sheep still scattered out there have not yet even heard, in a personal way, the voices of their own shepherds-elders-bishops, neither those of their deacons, during a whole year, two years, or more? Perhaps because those shepherds and deacons have not made any personal contact with them?

Perhaps thinking they had fulfilled their duty by simply planning and implementing regulations that would keep the sheep that do come to the sheepfold from becoming infected with the coronavirus.

Or consider they are doing enough by using the virtual mediums to make announcements and exhort, in a generalized way, the straying sheep to return.

Or because they are counting on staff, already contracted and in place, to maintain personal contact with all the sheep, for that responsibility is stipulated in their work description. An agreement which, by the way, would effectively relieve elders-shepherds-bishops, perhaps to a very high degree, of a responsibility that is basically theirs, according to texts such as Actos 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-5, and Titus 1:5-9. Is that not true? A paradigm that, in reality, nudges the elders in particular into a secondary position in the congregation, though the New Testament paradigm has them in first place as those charged specifically with personally feeding and protecting the flock. Or is that a wrong assessment?

Well, and if it happens that the staff itself makes, in reality, little or no personal contact with those scattered sheep that show scarce interest in returning to the sheepfold. Not by telephone, Messenger, WhatsApp, e-mail, Twitter, or any other digital media. Nor by personal visits. Only, perhaps, by printed or electronic bulletins.

Backview of a shepherd with arms raised standing before his sheep, illustration for the study on shepherds in the church.

Really, wherever organizational concepts, perceptions of personal responsibility, attitudes, and circumstances of that nature prevail, it would not be surprising that a permanent loss would be eventually registered of 15%, 20%, 30%, 40%, or more, of the sheep on the tally record before the abominable Coronavirus Plague exploded across the world. Applicable also to any other plagues, natural disasters, or crises, whatever their nature might be, such as violent social upheavals and wars.

Whatever the case, relevant texts of the New Testament surely make it quite clear that true elders-shepherds of the sheepfold-congregation are biblically qualified Christian men charged by God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to personally carry out the very special and glorious ministry of “the office of bishop.”

“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desiresnoble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1. Obviously, by its very nature, a “task” to be exercised personally, the qualifications necessary for the job enabling the bishop for its full and holy personal execution.

Perhaps the scattered sheep would respond to the live voices, loving, encouraging and mature, of true elders-shepherds-bishops. To the voice of the biblical shepherd, profoundly spiritual, deeply concerned for the sheep in his care, affable, gentle, desirous of doing everything necessary to rescue the sheep in danger of being lost forever.  

Photo of an elderly man with staff in hand carrying a very large sheep on his shoulders, illustration for a study on shepherds in the church Christ built.

“Brother Shepherd called me! Inquiring about how the Coronavirus Pandemic may have impacted me, spiritually as well as materially. Asking me if I had been vaccinated, about my health, that of my family, and if I have a need of any kind. Talked with me 5 for 6 minutes. Putting himself at

my disposal. This is very, very significant for me! No longer do I feel overlooked, forgotten. Next Sunday, I am going to return to the sheepfold!”

Your evaluation of this message will be highly appreciated. hshappley@yahoo.com

Category. The Spiritual Family of God. His spiritual kingdom. The church Christ built.