Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.
Three negatives follow as qualifications to shepherding. A positive contrast follows each negative by using the word “but.”
not by compulsion
Some people are in the pastorate out of obligation rather from a heart’s desire to do the will of God. The person who serves the sheep of God under coercion is a resentful person. This shepherd will never serve his sheep properly. A true shepherd serves, not because he must, but because he wants to make an impact on their lives. No one should draft a pastor into the ministry. The pastor should volunteer with no need for anyone to urge him to do what he does. To him the ministry is no burden.
2 Co 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.”
Some of the pastors in Asia Minor felt it was a good career move to go into the pastorate. They went into ministry because of their image in the community.
The pastor who must be shanghaied into the job while he drags his feet is not in God’s will. In the army the widespread scuttlebutt is, “Don’t volunteer for anything.” The Christian army has many generals of these types. They volunteer for and initiate very little.
“Willingly” means without compulsion, deliberately, intentionally, voluntarily. This person leads his congregation without being forced or pressured into leadership. He leads his congregation of his own free will. No one imposes this desire on him. Leadership is in his heart.
Phm 14, “But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.”
1 Cor 9:16-17, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.”
Ministry requires deliberate intention. Pastors must serve not because he must but because he wants to make an impact for Christ. Therefore, the leadership is no grim and unpleasant duty to him.
according to [the norm or standard] of God
The New King James Version does not translate this phrase.
The pastor needs to operate on the same norm and standard of leadership that God does. He should have the same spirit as God as in leading his flock. Eagerness of the fleshly leadership will not do. He leads his church as God would have him pastor the church.
No pastor should pastor as a job.
No pastor should lead because it is his job. He does not lead because he has to do it. He does not do it because he someone forces him into it. He eagerly and enthusiastically assumes the initiative for the direction of his flock.
No pastor should serve as a pastor unless God called him. No one should pressure someone to go into the pastorate. The mother who wants her son to be a preacher probably does not realize the pressure nor the capacity for leadership that is necessary for the pastorate.
The pastor forced into serving will not be an effective leader. If he leads by obligation, he will not be creative and will not establish a vision. He will not see the potential for his ministry. An unwilling servant who operates by imposition will not be effective.
Any pastor who has a pure heart accepts the pastorate with some reluctance. He knows his unworthiness for such a high office. He knows his inadequacy for such a role. However, he also knows that God is sufficient to enable him to serve as a pastor.