by Brandon Kelly
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Throughout this year we’ve been walking through a significant aspect of ministry and leadership in the Church. Often referred to as the Five-Fold Ministry, or APEST, it’s the description of roles given by God to equip and build up the Church for its mission which is found in Ephesians 4. This month and next, we’ll look specifically at shepherds.
As with all of the Five-Fold Ministries, a shepherd will land somewhere on the spectrum between immature and mature. As shepherds are just discovering their gifting, they most likely will lean towards the immature side. This means we have to disciple them, walk with them, and pair them with mature shepherds to help them grow. Below are three key signs of an immature shepherd. Use these as a tool to help the shepherds grow, but be cautious not to use these as a weapon the tear them down.
3 Keys Signs of Immaturity in Shepherds:
- Only Wanting Safety and Comfort. Perhaps the greatest issue of immaturity for shepherds is just wanting a community of safety and comfort. Shepherds can have a tendency towards avoiding risk because risk can cause hurt and pain. And, of course, hurt and pain is what shepherds naturally fight against as healers. To move towards maturity, shepherds need to see the necessity of risk as God calls His people into mission. They play a unique role in being healers for those who have taken daring action for the sake of God. Their mandate is not one, necessarily, of protection, but instead healing and rereleasing into mission. A change of mindset here can be a powerful tool.
- Caring for Too Many. Another issue for shepherds is the desire to care for all people. This is an admirable desire and indeed flows from their giftedness. However, no single person can care for a whole community. It takes a team to nurture properly and to heal a group of people and shepherd will run themselves ragged trying to do it all. In the process, they’ll not adequately care for anyone and burn themselves out. To be effective, shepherds should identify the few people they can care for really well, help them to the point of restoration, and then take on another person.
- Lacking Personal Mission. Similar to the first aspect of only want safety and comfort for their community, shepherds can also lack a personal mission. All Christians are called to be on mission, extending the Kingdom and making new disciples, for the Lord. In their effort to care for and build community, shepherds can forget about their own personal call to be on mission. They may also have a lack of vision in how their natural ability to care can be used for mission. One of the ways I’ve seen shepherds operate well on mission is to bring their desire to care and nurture to the people of peace in their communities. When someone new moves into the neighborhood, how can a shepherd show them that they’re welcome and create a place of belonging? When someone down the road is hurting, how can a shepherd display the love of Jesus through care and healing? When shepherds see their gifting as a useful tool for mission, it will help take on their own personal mission.
How can you help walk with the shepherds in your life to see them grow into maturity? If you are a shepherd, what’s the particular area of challenge for you and how might you step forward to overcome it?
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Don't forget, our ultimate purpose is to build the kingdom of God by aligning ourselves more closely with God, hearing his voice, and knowing his will. An essential component of this is rightly judging ourselves.
But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31)
May the body of Christ call within the body for a move of the Spirit in us.