"And here we would ask, What benefit can one who is called to fill the position of overseer of the flock or pastor of a church be to them if he is not with them “coming in and going out” under every circumstance of life? If in his orderly walk and daily ministrations of the gospel he is “going in and out before them” as an “example to the flock.” will he not make their cause his care? Will he not show in all his bearing toward them that he comes in full touch with them in all the fiery trials or heavenly joys through which they pass?"
THE GOSPEL MESSENGER—February 1899
Elder David Montgomery / PB-History
This is what is said of Saul of Tarsus after his conversion. I have often desired to know what is meant by “going in and out before the people” or “before his people,” as it is sometimes expressed in the Scriptures and other writings. But in the above text it is said, “he was with them coming in and going out.” Now, if this does not mean that he was fully identified with the apostles and with the mother church at Jerusalem—what does it mean?
Saul of Tarsus had been one of the most bitter enemies and persecutors of the church then known in all Judea; verily and honestly thinking he was doing God’s service, he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church of God. But when it pleased God to call him by His grace and reveal His Son in him that he might preach Jesus, he was not disobedient to the heavenly calling, but immediately and boldly preached that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour of sinners, of whom he claimed to be the chief. A most marvelous change had taken place in him, so that now he preached the faith he once destroyed and was so identified with the other Apostles and with all the church at Jerusalem that he was “with them coming in and going out.” That is, he was with them in all the vicissitudes and conflicts and trials of faith to which they, as servants of God were incident. He was with them in the fellowship of the gospel, whether that fellowship subjected him to joy or sorrow, he had them “in his heart to die and live with them.”
And here we would ask, What benefit can one who is called to fill the position of overseer of the flock or pastor of a church be to them if he is not with them “coming in and going out” under every circumstance of life? If in his orderly walk and daily ministrations of the gospel he is “going in and out before them” as an “example to the flock.” will he not make their cause his care? Will he not show in all his bearing toward them that he comes in full touch with them in all the fiery trials or heavenly joys through which they pass?
It is said of Christ, that He is the door by whom if any man enter he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture. John x. 9. If any man enters the sheepfold by Christ as the door therein, he shall go in and out and find pasture---that is, he is cared for feed, sheltered, and protected by The Good Shepherd. He finds pasture for his hungry soul while within the sheepfold. Coming in or going out, in darkness or in thought, be walks in the footsteps of the flock, and finds rich pastures of living and soul-cheering gospel promises and gospel blessings. Thus, after the marvelous conversion of Saul, he was with the saints of God under all circumstances of trial, and he admonished young preachers to “be not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, but be thou a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” He also admonished the church and brotherhood generally that “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, that ye fulfill my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love.” Philip. ii. 2.
When a gospel minister and pastor of churches can thus feel toward the flock of his charge, and they thus feel towards him, is he not then going in and out before them as one fully identified with all their joys or sorrows? And it is really difficult to see how one who has the oversight of the flock of God as pastor of a church, can properly fill the place unless he is with them ‘‘at all seasons.”
There are in the experience of a church as well as of individual members, seasons of joy and sorrow, seasons of great affliction, despondency and grief, as well as seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. There are seasons of coldness, carelessness, negligence and general indifference that are calculated to make the faithful pastor weep and groan, fearing lest he has not been so fully with them in all things as he should have been, going in and out before them in his everyday walk and life as a “pattern of good works” or as a living example to the flock. How blessed it is for that faithful under-shepherd who has so walked and talked and gone in and out before the flock of his charge at all seasons, that he can in truth before God say, “I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Acts xx. 27.
We must conclude that in the pastoral care of churches, there are hardships to be endured, oppositions to encounter for Christ’s sake, and difficulties to arise in the church requiring much patience and long-suffering, for it is impossible but that offenses must come. All these things, and a thousand others, are very trying to the faith and patience of a minister and pastor of churches. But they must be met with fidelity and firmness, as well as with meekness and forbearance. He who goes in and out before the church of God as a living example in word and doctrine at all seasons and under all circumstances, may expect to serve the Lord “with many tears,” as well as in many trials and supplications for the Lord’s help. The Apostle, who had been with his brethren “coming in and going out,” as one fully identified with them in faith and practice, appealed once to their personal knowledge of his life as a minister in this way, “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many tears and temptations which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews.” Acts xx. 18. When by the grace of God a gospel minister is enabled to serve the Lord with all humility of mind, though it may be with many tears and temptations, he will be useful to his brethren, going out or coming in before them. He will feed the flock of God, taking the oversight thereof, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, as one who is fully harnessed for his work. He is not as a lord over God’s heritage but is to be an example to the flock, in all things approving himself as the minister of Christ in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, or in distresses. 2 Cor. vi. 4.
And now, dear brethren, there is a great consolation to you who have faithfully spent your life in the ministry and walked in all humility before the Lord and before His people. Coming in or going out you have been with them at all seasons, and the blessed promise now awaits you that” When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”