Shepherding In A Five Fold Peer2Peer Relationship

The Five Fold = Peer2Peer Relationships – Part III

Ephesians 4:15 - As a result, we are no longer to be children tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming, but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head.

After ten hours of intense labor contractions, a decision was made to have a Cesarean Section. Since completing Child Birth Classes together, I was allowed in the O.R. to witness the birth of my first son. With his birth, the job of the Obstetrician was finished; he was now placed in the hands of a Pediatrician who would monitor his growth as a baby, a toddler, and a child with the goal of keeping him healthy.

There are parallels to the five fold. With a spiritual birth, the evangelist’s job is done, for he majors in birthing. A spiritual pediatrician is needed to nurture this newborn’s growth in ”the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,” and to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head.” Obstetricians and pediatricians perform two entirely different functions. The same is with the evangelist and shepherd. It isn’t that the evangelist doesn’t care about a new convert; it is that he is just driven to win the lost. His passion thrusts him immediately toward finding another lost soul to save.

What do we, the church, do to these “newborns”? We baptize them “into the church”, make them “church members”, and indoctrinate them to our theology in a “New Believers Class”. Seldom are they taught what it means to be “baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection”, or being a member of “the family of God”, or how the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and remind you of everything I (Jesus) have said to you.” - John 14:26 because He resides in your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Just as the building of personal relationships as peers was important in the evangelistic stage, the building of personal relationships as equal peers in Jesus is monumental in the shepherding stage.  “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:26-29

In the natural, my son grew in size, weight, and strength over the years. Developmentally, he did certain things as an infant, a toddler, an elementary school age child, adolescent, etc. with each year of growth. Spiritually, it is different, because you only grow if you, personally, choose to grow. Some people choose to stay as spiritual infants.  Paul recognized this with the Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” - 1 Corinthians 3:2

As a young adult, my son desired to have a man of God other than his father or his pastor from our local church to stand beside him and shepherd him, someone he could relate to as a peer and respect. All our church could offer was a “men’s mentoring” program which basically was a book/Bible Study on the topic of “5 Steps In Becoming A Godly Man”. He was not looking for a good Christian book read, but for another male peer to walk in faith with him, modeling the spiritual walk in Jesus. He was seeking a I Timothy 5:1 man, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers.” There were no takers to my son’s challenge.  He has suffered greatly because of it.

Every evangelistic church must have a spiritual nursery composed of common believers whose passion it is to nurture newborns in the faith and be willing to walk with them in their spiritual walk as Jesus did with his disciples. The church needs true elders by spiritual age who are willing to walk with new babes in Christ, who are willing to put up with their failures by extending grace, who are willing to “carry their cross” when their burdens are to heavy to bear, and who are willing to invest in other’s lives by “equipping them for service” then releasing them to walk on their own. Like teaching your own child how to ride a bike, you must be able to run along side them until they get their spiritual balance, then release them for their own free flight!

I believer that there are common believers, like you and me, whose passion is to serve Jesus through nurturing and caring for others as “spiritual parents”. I have written a book, I Was A Stranger And…, about Joyce and Morgan Ilgenfritz who have taken in over 350 people into their home to live for a month or longer over a 35 year period. Their passion allowed them to become spiritual parents to over 350 people of all ages from all around the world. The Ilgenfritz’s aren’t pastors or on a church staff. Morgan, an electrician, and Joyce, a nurse, are everyday parents who raised four children, all who attended college. Living by faith was their testimony. They required everyone who came through their door to be a member of their family. That acceptance proved to be the open door.

Pastoral shepherding in the five fold process is about Peer2Peer, the building of relationships with people, equals, peers in Jesus walking together in faith, building up one another in the Spirit, encouraging one another in times of difficulty, believing together for a supernatural God to move, and praying together and watching God answer those prayers in practical ways.

Shepherding is the process of teaching an individual, a newborn believer in Jesus Christ that this walk isn’t just about them, but about others too!  It is about becoming a family, a family of God. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” There is the power of “two” in the Peer”2”Peer process of the five fold!