Sunday, November 6, 2011

Caring for the Church

This is a summary of a seminar taken on Caring for the Church by John Groves at TOAM 2011, Bangalore.
It’s good to have pastoral leaders. While we love to talk about the prophetic and evangelism, we need the patoral ministry. Its important in order to bring people to maturity. Pastors are caricatured into being “nice but not effective”. That’s not true. 

Pastoring is for men and women.I prefer to use the word Shepherd – the bible talks a lot about it. The Bible refers to Shepherd a lot and not “leader”. One can have a very romantic view of shepherds.

Shepherds live dangerous lives – they are strong and rough characters. He has to handle wild animals. It’s a demanding job. It’s not routine – you have to keep finding good pastures, protect them , count them in and out and know them by name. Shepherds in those days were on the edge of society and treated with contempt and seen as quirky. It’s amazing that the angles appeared to the Shepherds. This is the sort of picture of Shepherds that the Bible is referring to – not polished and professional. It requires courage and initiative. He receives criticism and sometimes treated with contempt.
But God loves the word Shepherd.  In psalm 23 he calls himself our Shepherd. The Old Testament god uses it to describe himself a lit. Those who lead his people will be like shepherds according to the Bible.
Psalm 77:70-72 “.. To be a shepherd to his people...he shepherded them with integrity of heart.”Under shepherds can be men and women –there will be different levels of Shepherds – not all are at the local level.

The big difference between us as under shepherds and God as our Shepherd is that we are not perfect.We are meant to reflect God’s Shepherding heart – but we do fail at times just like Moses, Aaron and David did. God gets angry with them but he did not rid himself of the principle of using under shepherds.
In the New testament, God comes as a man – Jesus. Jesus is the perfect man – the archetype of a Shepherd without any flaws. He is the good shepherd/Great shepherd. 1Pet4:4 he is the Chief Shepherd. He is the supreme example.
In the N.T – local church leaders are described as Shepherds. Twice when local church leaders are described in an interesting way 1Pet5:1-3, Acts 20:17, 28. Local leaders are also describes using three terms for the same people – Elders, overseer, and Shepherd. Elder – spiritual maturity and experience. Overseer – manages things well and leads. Shepherds – gifting of God, he has His  heart attitude. Eph 4: Pastors is one of the gifts.
The risen Lord Jesus gives gifts – how does shepherding come? Like all gifts, as you do what comes into your hands – as you show an interest and concern for people, people will recognize the gift in you.
It comes out of being what god made you to be and serving others. That is what we do – serve the leaders and the people. Let God do the promoting. You do what you have to do – that’s all.
There are 6 aspects of biblical shepherding.
  1.       Prophetic – It has a prophetic element. You will not always hear this. The Old Testament prophets were shepherds. They confronted sin, warned of consequences of sin. They pointed the way, restored and brought renewal. They proclaimed God’s truth, rebuked, challenged and confronted the people. Jesus shows this element – he challenges religious bigotry and legalism. He challenges the disciples for their lack of faith. He asks penetrating questions. Confronts the hypocrisy and sin.

New Testament is full of care for the people but carrying a prophetic element of exhorting, comforting, confronting and challenging sin.
This is very important – our words will challenge and confront people. It will ask penetrating questions and thought provoking questions. We are accountable to God – we should never be aggressive but don’t avoid the difficult challenges. This may not fit the modern world. There is a strong individualism, emphasis on personal choice, political correctness is important, you can’t criticize an opinion. However we cannot avoid the physical element of confrontation. We cannot avoid that what we sow, we reap We must tell people what God thinks about certain things, we should teach taking responsibility, teach repentance and seeking forgiveness. We should emphasize the corporate aspect of our faith. “Modern pastoral care has too much consolation and too little confrontation". Although we must love we must not be afraid to confront. This is one on one and in groups.

2.Provision – A good shepherd is concerned that people are well fed. This is a major part. You should take your Bible with you when you visit people. This is the food – it carries its own authority. Sometimes people are eating “junk food” and will listen/read nonsense and we should be able to explain why that is not good. It’s important to understand that God’s truth changes people. If we get people to understand what (1Cor60 has done for us it will be life changing. Paul draws attention to their relationship with Christ in order to confront sin. This is called task theology – putting theology and truth into pasturing. This is a good way. A lot of people are in a mess because they do not believe the truth – they believe the lies of the culture or about themselves. They need to know “who am I in Christ”

3.      Priestly – we don’t have priests. That’s Old Testament. In the New Testament we are all priests. But there is a priestly element to a Shepherd – he intercedes for the people he cares for. He prayers for the, He stands before god for the people. The only high priest we need is Jesus but there is a priestly element in what we so. We pray for the people we look after, we receiver things from God for them pictures, words etc. We work at reconciling them to God. We help them to understand that Jesus reconciles them to God.

4. Physical concern for the whole person – spiritual and physical. All through the Bible it shows he is the Lord who heals you. Jesus healed a lot demonstrates God’s heart for our well being. Real Shepherd’s care will be concerned for people’s health, marriage, children, jobs etc. It’s clear in John 5:14-15. They will pray for the sick, bring deliverance for the demonized. The church has always been on the fore front of leading social reform and practical care, education, hospitals, prison ministry etc. It’s part of the King of God. Its works out in any context. It’s the Shepherd’s heart.  You will try and help them be better workers, employers, etc etc.

5.Protection- This is truer of a church leader but true for all leaders. Acts 20:28-30. There are two types of attack that come on the sheep, external i.e the wolves come in and Internal i.e division n the church. A good shepherd will try and protect them from both i.e false ideas and teachings, demonic. But he ensures peace and unity between the people. If you are a local church Shepherd these are major responsibilities we shoulder.

6.      6.Purpose – the flock need leading. They took the flock somewhere. We need to lead the people with what God gives them. Don’t be too democratic – we need to lead.
7.      We need to give vision and direction. They need guidance about where you want to take them. We do not lord it over them or micro manage but we give leadership and vision through the Word of God and our own faith, what we’ve heard from God, our own example . We also need to explain things so that the understand what you are doing. People want to follow and do what s right but we need to communicate. It’s a lot easier if they can see what you are seeing. It makes it easier. Rom 8:12 – use the gift diligently i.e with a lot of care and effort. It’s not a lay man’s gift. Biblical leadership is hard work.

8.      One of the ways you lead is by example – we must live with purpose and direction if we are asking others to do that. Explain some of your weaknesses ( sensibly). When you are leading, lead from a place of relationships as much as possible. There should be friendship. Keep yourself in the grace and love of God. Be motivated by grace and out of what you know what Jesus has done for you. Legalism is motivating out of a sense of duty, fear and to show what I am. You might slip into that but try and keep yourself fresh in your won motivation. When you are shepherds and care for the needy – don’t forget the strong sheep. Keep the mature Christian informed, inspired and involved.

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