This article may be about shepherding but it is not just for shepherds. All of us can shepherd the soul of another, whether or not we are official elders, teachers or pastors.
A youth leader can shepherd the youth. A Sunday school teacher can shepherd the children. An older couple can shepherd younger couples in the way of marriage and parenting. Some are official shepherds with a capital “S”, while others are shepherds with a small “s”. But everyone can be a shepherd to someone.
No two sheep are alike
As you shepherd, remember this: no two sheep are alike. That is why everyone needs to be shepherded differently. If you are a parent, you know this intuitively. Your kids are not all the same. One is introverted, the other extroverted. One is sensitive, the other domineering. One is older, the other younger.
The same principle that applies to parenting is the one that applies to shepherding in the church: people need to be ministered to according to their needs, personalities, and various experiences of life.
One size does not fit all
When it comes to shepherding, one size does not fit all. Some respond well to group Bible studies. Others may need a more one on one approach. While some need affirmation in their roles and responsibilities, others may need challenging. Some may need to be rebuked, like Paul did to Peter (Galatians 2:11) while others may need to be encouraged, like Paul did for Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12).
Good shepherding has always been more of an art than a science. Each person needs to be studied, understood and befriended in order to receive love in a unique way. To connect with someone is to know them as an individual, and to know them as an individual it takes effort, time and a personal touch.
Follow Christ’s example
If you are shepherding from a distance, chances are, you are not having that big of an impact on someone else’s life.
Observe the ultimate Shepherd and follow His example: the Lord Jesus knew His sheep, and they were known by Him (John 10:14). Christ was not anti-social. He was not stand-offish. Impersonal shepherding has no place in a kingdom of love.
Let’s go one step further. The Lord Jesus, the chief shepherd of our souls, gave His life for His sheep (John 10:18). May we all learn from His example. Have you given your life for one of His sheep? Do you give up time, prayer and effort in order to see them grow?
As a father, I know I am constantly investing in my children because my heart’s desire is to see them grow physically, socially and spiritually in the Lord. I have that desire for my own children, but do I have the same desire for God’s?
Christ’s last words
The last words of Christ in Matthew’s gospel are known as the Great Commission: “Go…and make disciples of all the nations.” Mark’s gospel ends the same, saying, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” In Luke’s gospel we hear that echoed in the words “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.”
But the gospel of John ends differently. The last words the Lord Jesus written there are “feed My sheep.” (John 21). So important is feeding the sheep of God that the Lord Jesus Christ told Peter three times to fulfill this mandate.
Obviously shepherding the sheep is near and dear to Christ’s heart. The question is, “Is it near and dear to ours?”