How Do You Prepare God’s People For Works of Service? Part VI
Bottom Line: Pastoring/Shepherd is as simple as caring. Everyone wants to be cared for, loved, and accepted. Shepherding is all about caring for the sheep, their nurture and development. A good shepherd lives with his sheep and knows each individually. Shepherding is all about relationship, a relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. Jesus is our chief shepherd, and he has a personal relationship with each of his sheep. In the five fold sense, we too can be shepherds if we invest individually in the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ who we get to intimately know, nurture, develop, and build up a bond around caring.
You don’t have to be a professional Christian to be a shepherd because it is not about position but about relationship. “Investment in others” is the key ingredient to shepherding. You continue to pour yourself into others to help them develop into becoming a more Christ-like Christian. It is imperative that Christian elders, those older in the faith, give out, invest, and pour into younger Christians for their spiritual development.
Spiritual development does not necessarily mean formal academic religious education. It just means helping someone along to “mature” and “grow” into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Just practical things are important like: how to get through tough times, how to handle grief, loss, and setbacks, how to develop and independent prayer lifestyle, how to develop a disciplined life of Bible reading allowing the Holy Spirit to be one’s teacher, how to hear the voice of God for oneself and be obedient to that voice, how to receive from the Lord and others as well as how to be a giver, how to build proper, healthy, relationships with others that builds trust, honesty, and integrity, how to love unconditionally, what it means to “live by faith”, how to trust the Holy Spirit, etc. All these can apply to practical daily applications, and we need older, practical, experienced Christians who have wrestled within themselves and gone through these issues in their personal lives to help other younger Christians walk through their journeys.
As I have discussed in an earlier blog, there is power in walking out one’s faith in pairs like the 70 disciples Jesus sent out or the Road to Emmaus experience. Jesus invested in only twelve intimately for the purpose of their spiritual development that would be the foundation for this new group, the Church. As the Church grew, elders, older Christians, and the Apostles invested in others in developing them toward the maturity of Jesus Christ individually to bring unity to the body corporately.
Finally, what is the cost? We cannot determine the cost in dollars and cents but in time. Shepherding takes time, commitment, and availability. To shepherd you have to keep your time flexible, for your commitment is to the sheep, and when they need you, you need to be available. Commitment to your sheep will demand unconditional love at inconvenient times over unconventional circumstances. Godly parenting takes time, commitment, and availability. Children demand their parent’s time, their loyalty or commitment, and their availability at all times. The proper development, nurture, and care of your children all hinges around the time your willing to give, the commitment of unconditional love at inconvenient times in unconventional circumstances that you are willing to give, and the availability of your time to them. Christian parenting, Christian shepherding is no different. It is the responsibility of the family structure to reproduce itself from generation to generation through developing, nurturing, and caring for the next generation.
In most churches today, we believers do not take or offer our time to shepherd others because we are too busy. We won’t commit ourselves to developing caring relationships that build community because we will not commit our priorities in developing the kingdom of God because we are too busy with secular life. We aren’t available because we feel that we are already over booked! As parents we have to some times quit taking our kids to soccer practice to keep them active, to the library to keep them reading, to their friends to develop a social life, to youth group to keep them in the church, to grandmas to build family relationships, to school center activities and after school activities, so our children don’t “miss out”, but rather stay home, cuddle up on the couch with them, read a book to them, discuss their day, let them tell their stories of their day from their point of view, hug them, accept them, listen to them, and just unconditionally accept them for where they are at in the developmental stage of their life in their present conditions. That is shepherding: spending time investing in them.
A wise financial planner teaches his clients how to “invest their money” wisely to earn good dividends; a wise Christian teaches younger Christians how to “invest their time” wisely in others developing, nurturing, and caring for others while building lasting, intimate, meaningful relationships bonding together the Body of Christ into a community. That is shepherding.