Dear Fellow Disciple-Maker,
In the family of God, the relational foundation for any group are the leaders. These leaders must be godly and loving. A group of people, whether large or small, rarely rises above its leaders. It is the leaders who set the example and create the culture. It is the leaders who provide oversight, vision and direction. In a human family these leaders are called parents. In a church family they are called shepherds. In the Bible, one of the most common comparisons used to describe the relationship between God and people, and human leaders and people, is the comparison of a shepherd to his flock.
God has a shepherding heart. In the Old Testament, both Jacob and David referred to the Lord as their Shepherd. When God made Saul the first king over Israel, his primary assignment was to shepherd God's people. In future generations, when some of the Israel’s leaders failed God's people, they were referred to as worthless shepherds who deserted their flocks.
To turn this condition around God made a promise. "I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd" (Ezekiel 34:15; 23).
Jesus, the Good Shepherd
This "one shepherd" was Jesus himself, who was a descendent of King David. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me" (John 10:11; 14). As the good shepherd, Jesus genuinely cared about people. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
After Jesus raised from the dead, He directed the Apostle Peter to assume the role of shepherd. In other words, to look after, tend, and feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). Peter never forgot this God-given assignment, and toward the end of his life he reminded other leaders to assume the same role. Read Peter’s powerful words for yourself.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (I Peter 5:1-4).
At the heart of disciple-making is the heart of a shepherd. Regardless of your role, whether you are a small group leader, Sunday school teacher, or ministry coordinator, I encourage you to think of yourself as a shepherd. Don't view Peter's admonition as applying only to paid professionals. This is a mindset, not a job title. The art of shepherding is setting an example, being humble, and practicing hospitality. Apply these relational qualities to your situation. Shepherd willingly not out of duty. Help people with sincere motives. Guide with humility, not with a spirit of force and harshness.
Think of the people who are under your care. How well do you personally know them? Are you modeling hospitality? Have you ever had them into your home to get to know them better? Do you know what is currently happening in their lives? If you work alongside a team of leaders, do you see your team as a "shepherding team?"
Narrow Your Focus
No one can "shepherd" everyone, so narrow your focus. Ask God who He wants you to shepherd. These people are Christ's flock, His lambs. Feed, support and challenge them with the Word of Christ, in the Spirit of Christ. Shepherd them like Jesus would. He is our Chief Shepherd.
Author:Paul Schlieker www.bible-study-lesson-plans.com
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