Paul loved the church of Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly he gave his time, energy, and life’s blood in order to preach the gospel of King Jesus, plant churches far and wide, and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Therefore, when Paul speaks a warning about twisted teachers who would war against God’s people—we must pay close attention.
In Acts 20:28-30, we find Paul in the midst of a passionate address to a group of fellow elders who served the church at Ephesus. Paul had served alongside them and ministered with them. However, he’s preparing to depart and continue his work of pioneer missions as God had directed him, but before he began his journey, he addressed the men he loved regarding their responsibility as overseers of a local church he loved.
Acts 20:28–30 – Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.  I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;  and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Guard the Elders
As Paul addresses the Elders, he encourages them to “pay careful attention” to themselves—namely the elders. In other words, this is one of the clearest passages in Scripture regarding the need for a plurality of elders in the local church and the rationale behind it. It’s a dangerous endeavor to seek to oversee a local church as a lone ranger pastor. Even more dangerous is the ministry model of a CEO pastor—opening wide the door for prideful leadership which often results in a fall.
The Church is God’s Church and he alone sets the rules, regulations, and boundaries for the functionality of local churches. If we will see a true reformation of healthy churches in our day, we must begin with a careful eye upon the leadership structure and a commitment to holiness for the glory of God.
Guard the Flock
A man who is incapable of carefully guarding the flock of God from fierce wolves has no business pursuing eldership within the local church. Paul writes the following in verse 28:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
The word “care” is the Greek term, “ποιμαίνω” which has means to “herd, tend to animals, shepherd.” From this very term is where we derive the English word—pastor. Notice how Paul weaves the work of pastoring with guarding against fierce wolves.
We’re living in an era of history where it’s unpopular to call out the wolves and warn God’s people of error and danger. That work is often viewed as insensitive, mean-spirited, and rude. In order to be a popular pastor in our day, you must be engaging in your personality, willing to entertain people, and always be positive. Interestingly enough, that might work in the world of insurance sales, but it doesn’t pass muster when it comes to the calling of a pastor.
Wolves Outside the Church
The faithful pastor will look for wolves who oppose from outside the church in various spheres such as government, entertainment, and education. Consider the dangerous voices from within the circles of government who spread misinformation and false data in order to gain the upper hand in politics. We have witnessed this in recent days regarding COVID-19 in America and other places like Canada where pastors are being jailed for opposing the tyranny of governmental control.
As lawmakers in America prepare to push for the legislation of the Equality Act, it will open the gates wide for public school education curriculum to include the normalization of the LGBTQA+ as a class of people to be lawfully recognized and accepted—or suffer the consequences. Faithful pastors must be watching and warning the flock of God.
Wolves Inside the Church
Not only do fierce wolves come from outside the church, but they sometimes arise from within the church speaking twisted things that contradict the Word of God. In his book, Acts 20: Fierce Wolves Are Coming; Guard The Flock, Alexander Strauch observes:
These wolfish shepherds speak “twisted things” (v. 30), distorting and perverting apostolic, orthodox doctrine. They tie the true teachings of Scripture into false, complex knots that even confuse learned scholars. They are slippery creatures who cannot be easily pinned down; they are experts at double-talk and diversion. You cannot have an honest discussion with them because they lack intellectual honesty. Masters of subtlety and novelty, false teachers mix truth with error, and confuse people with half-truths and complex ideas. Like Satan, confronting Jesus in the wilderness, they can quote the Scriptures with great ease. They have a way of wearing people down with their arguments so that most people capitulate, weary of trying to argue. 
Even within the most conservative circles of evangelicalism in recent days, we have witnessed men take a left turn when they should have continued down the straight path. They have begun speaking twisted things, promoting others who twist the Scriptures, and platforming dangerous wolves in their local churches, schools, and conferences.
As Paul rightly points out to the elders in his day, the tedious work and labor of a pastor involves feeding the sheep good food and protecting the sheep from dangerous wolves. This might not be attractive to certain groups within evangelicalism, but in eternity we will not answer to certain groups within evangelicalism. We will stand before the Lord of glory and give an account of how we served in our leadership of the local church which involves the food we provided and the protection we offered.
Recently, as concerned pastors and messengers at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention raised concern regarding critical race theory and intersectionality, they were called down by men like James Merritt, who served as the chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Addressing the concerned messengers from the platform, Merritt said:
I want to say this bluntly and plainly: if some people were as passionate about the gospel as they were critical race theory, we’d win this world for Christ tomorrow.
The problem with such a statement like this should be obvious. First of all, the job of a pastor is to do far more than merely evangelize the lost. Secondly, the calling of a pastor is to protect the sheep by contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. In other words, both evangelism and defending the faith are both necessary aspects of the calling of a pastor. They are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
At times, we need to call out the names of ideologies like CRT/I as well as the names of false teachers in order to warn God’s people. When soccer moms and concerned citizens seem to have more passion for warning people about cultural dangers and fierce wolves than pastors and theologians—that’s indicative of a great downgrade within evangelicalism. There are many teachers in our day who are laboring for the attention of God’s people in both the secular and religious spheres and we need faithful pastors to stand up and speak up.
When the Lord returns, may he find faithful pastors feeding and protecting the sheep for his glory.
- Alexander Strauch, Acts 20: Fierce Wolves Are Coming; Guard The Flock, (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 2021), 145.