God’s work can’t be done by one individual. It must be done together as a team called church. In any church, there are leaders and followers who are established and given by God to serve one another to fulfill God’s kingdom work. Leaders serve followers by leading them and followers serve leaders by following them. This is how leaders and followers are to serve one another. If leaders don’t lead and followers don’t follow, God’s work will not get done.
Who, then, are the leaders? A leader is someone who influences others to pursue after the ultimate good. And God is our ultimate good, the ultimate treasure. Therefore, a leader is someone who influences others to passionately love God and faithfully serve Him using their God-given time, talent, and treasure. This means, if someone tries to do God’s work all by himself instead of trying to influence others to love and serve Him, he is not a leader. Furthermore, doing things on our own is much easier than getting things done by a team of people. That’s why it’s tough being a leader. We must carefully choose our leaders who will influence us to love, and serve God, and get God’s work done as a team.
Several house churches are at the verge of multiplication. We praise God for using us in expanding His kingdom. Then, who should we choose as our shepherd? We look for qualifications in three areas of his life: spiritual, character, and fulfillment of New Life’s Bible study requirement. The spiritual and character qualifications of a shepherd are well spelled out by Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. When he came to visit Moses and saw how Moses was handling the work of God inefficiently, he gave him excellent advice.
“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.” (Ex. 18: 21-22)
A shepherd must have healthy fear of God because this will cause him to be trustworthy and to hate dishonest gain. Spiritual maturity will always produce character maturity. In fact, “spirituality” that doesn’t produce character maturity is not biblical spirituality.
In the past nine years of doing house church ministry here at New Life, I haven’t seen any house church that has failed to choose a shepherd who is qualified in spiritual maturity and character. Some shepherds may not look as mature as other shepherds. What I know for sure is that they were the most spiritually mature ones during the time of their house churches’ multiplication. People obviously know who are most mature amongst them and they naturally choose them to serve as their shepherds.
To spiritual maturity and character, I would like to add one more qualification in being a shepherd: the fulfillment of New Life’s Bible study requirement. Until recently, the qualification of being a full-fledged shepherd is to take all the basic classes from 101 to 401, two one-on-one discipleship Bible studies called Beginning the Journey and The Arrival Kit, and Experiencing God. And in order to become and serve as a deputy shepherd a person must have taken up to 201, both one-on-one discipleship Bible studies and Experiencing God.
The reason why these classes are important is that 201 teaches us how to grow spiritually, one-on-one discipleship Bible studies help us to be transparent with each other and deal with our strongholds, and Experiencing God prepares us for God-sized ministry. Shepherds who are not equipped with these materials will struggle in their house church ministry. Moreover, it is very important for all the leaders of the church to be on the same page going towards the same direction. Leaders can’t lead followers to a place where they personally haven’t been first. Without first taking these classes and experiencing the benefits, shepherds can’t motivate and influence their members to take them. To these Bible study requirement, we are adding Living Life Bible study. This is open to everyone who is a member or regular attendee here at New Life. It is also open to those unbelieving friends of New Life members who want to explore what Christian faith is all about. About 80 members of New Life have taken this class already. This class should be taken as soon as possible since there is no prerequisite.
So, this is the order that I would like for you to follow in taking New Life’s Bible studies:
- Class 101 and Living Life Bible Study
- Class 201 through 401 sequentially
- Transforming Life Bible Study (This will become a required course for full-fledged shepherds.)
- Experiencing God (Another required course for full-fledged shepherds / only those who are preparing themselves to serve as shepherds can take this course)
- Perspectives (Another required course for full-fledged shepherds / open to anyone who has finished all the basic courses from 101 to 401)
Those shepherds who have taken all four basic courses from 101 to 401, two one-on-one discipleship Bible studies and Experiencing God will be recognized as full-fledged shepherds since Living Life is just recently added as a required course. However, I encourage you to take Living Life and Transforming Life within the next one year.
From now on, anyone who is becoming a new shepherd must have finished up to Class 201, two one-on-one discipleship Bible studies and Living Life. Until the course requirement is completed house church multiplication will need to wait.
What will be the end result of building up people well and choosing them carefully to serve as our house church shepherds? God will be delighted and we will be satisfied!
“If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Ex. 18: 23)
Shepherding ministry is not easy because it deals with people such as ourselves who struggle with self-centeredness. However, it is not without reward from God either.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1 Peter 5: 2-4)
In a typical church, pastors do all the ministries which end up causing members to be mere spectators. But here at New Life, we encourage and expect all the members to love and serve God in and through the church even as lay pastors using God-given time, talent and treasure. If you stay at New Life long enough and have a serious desire to serve God, chances are you will be called to serve as a shepherd. I would like to encourage you to prepare for your future ministry by taking the appropriate classes right now.
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