Nothing feels better than when your children come home. I just experienced for the first time, my son coming home from Bible college for Thanksgiving weekend. It was an incredible Friday evening as he exuberantly shared with us all he was learning and what God is doing in his life. I listened. I laughed. I cried. I learned. I was challenged. My son on Friday evening, was shepherding me.
In the midst of many truths we discussed the role of the pastor to shepherd and teach. This resonates deeply with me as I have seen over the years how God changes hearts and grows people through shepherding and mentoring — Through caring. But what really stuck out in my mind is that the pastor can’t do it all, a pastor can’t personally shepherd 60 or 100 people. But if our lambs are to grow and our flock is to enlarge, people need to be Shepherded.
Another profound statement my son made was that all too often we are told the what and the why from the pulpit but we are seldom led through the how. How did this kid get so smart? And good looking to boot?
The definition of shepherding is to guide or direct in a particular direction. Not aimlessly or blindly but with both a direction and result in mind. As pastors we need to be intentional about who we shepherd, how we shepherd and in which direction we will lead. Leading by example. My son loves to learn and to teach, he loves to encourage, protect and guide people because he was led that way and now continues to be led by incredible men and women at the College.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 NIV
This verse is talking about God and how closely He tends His flock, carrying them close to His heart. I believe in investing in people, in loving them, in guiding them, in weeping with them and rejoicing over them just as our Lord does. But more than that I believe if we are to have an entire flock cared for, we must mentor and teach our church to become shepherds themselves.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:1-2, 4 NIV
Everyone in the church is an elder to someone! We teach our children in Kids Cove to become leaders and care for those who are younger than them. We teach our youth to help with children and our senior youth to help with junior youth and our college kids to help with youth. But all too often it stops there. Are we teaching our adults to embrace their callings to mentor and shepherd the young adults, the new parents? Are the seniors connecting with the different generations? Are they sharing their life lessons?
When I was a newly wed I was blessed with an amazing friend named Audrey, who was in her 70’s. Day after day we would have coffee and she would share “her life” with me. She told me a story once of how to keep your kids close and to know what’s going on in their lives so that you can pour in to them. Her son was 18, I believe, when he went on a motorcycle trip with a good size group of friends. After praying for him for several days they safely arrived home. Audrey welcomed them all with a large spread of homemade food which was gladly received by the travellers. They sat for hours around that table reminiscing, telling stories and sharing about the trip, their good and bad experiences, what they learned and how they would do things the next time. Audrey didn’t need to ask a single question. She simply sat in her rocker and knitted. She was present, she cared for and fed them and she listened. The door of trust and caring was opened for several conversations to follow.
Audrey kept her children close and taught me about caring, loving and shepherding both my children and my flock. She had a life of lessons and stories to give. We need to be teaching our congregations how to help shepherd and mentor so that everyone is being taken by the hand and led and so fewer will be lost.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 NIV As pastors we need to do our best to see that everyone matters and moreover that we have done everything in our power to go after the one. To care for the spiritual and emotional needs of those who are struggling. We need to go out on a limb and care. Take time out of our busyness to meet with people who are struggling, hurting, unsure, undecided, struggling with temptation, pain, and life choices. What is more important? The pew cushions being fluffed for the comfort of 99, the calendar, the planning meetings, the messy office or the one? When we as pastors care people into the Kingdom and we domonstrate it, our flocks will follow.