The Sower and the Seed, The Mustard Seed are all parables Jesus taught. Nurturing is like growing a plant. You need the right fertile soil, proper growing conditions, weeding and maintenance. It still amazes me how you put a seed in a pot of soil, water it, give it sunshine, and it grows on its own.
Spiritual nurturing, of shepherding, has many of the same parallels. The spiritual shepherd has to create the right environment for growth, feed the new believer, develop growing conditions, “see over” his journey to aide when needed. Then just sit back and watch one grow.
You can just plant a garden and produce fruit, but if you “nurture” your garden with T.L.C., your fruit will so much better. I once had a garden that I nurtured. I grew some huge well-watered Charleston Grey watermelons that I would use as wave offerings of thanks. We never canned so much as when I took care of that garden. In fact, my wife still does not want to do any more canning. She suffers from “canning burn out”!
Often we refer to a gardener as having a “green thumb” because everything they nurture becomes extremely fruitful. We need people, believers, who are pastor/shepherds who have “spiritual green thumbs” because they have the passion to see believers grow in the likeness of Jesus Christ. They have the point of view of always seeing how they can help other. The Ilgenfritz family that I previously blogged about is a perfect example.
Once our church planned on offering small groups, training leaders, but became frustrated when no one in the congregation would open up and offer their home for a place to meet. Hospitality is a strong gift a shepherd must have.
The cross is all about being exposed and vulnerable. A person driven a pastoral, shepherding passion must be a person who is willing to expose his daily walk in Christ as well as be vulnerable to those whom he disciples.
The evangelist births, but the shepherd nurtures, develops, and cares. Together the garden is planted, nurtured and grows.