When we instituted house churches many years ago, some members were hurt when I announced that my role was just to be a pastor for house church shepherds. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just wanted to boost the authority of our shepherds and let church members understand that it should be their shepherds, not I, who took care of them.
It’s now time for me to make a similar declaration which may hurt house church shepherds: I am no longer a pastor for shepherds. I am only a pastor for shepherd-overseers.
Actually, I need to be a pastor for shepherd-overseers for the sake of our shepherds. We now have around 140 house churches. This means almost 200 shepherds and their spouses need pastoral care. I cannot provide this by myself without neglecting everyone. So it became necessary to appoint experienced shepherd-overseers to care for shepherds.
For a shepherd to become a shepherd-overseer, he or she needs to serve as a shepherd or deputy shepherd (those who haven’t completed the required courses for shepherds but are in charge of a house church) for at least 3 years and must multiply their house church at least once.
Shepherd-overseers will have regular meetings with me once a quarter and discuss how to serve shepherds better. I will counsel them and they will have free access to me at any time.
If a person serves as a shepherd-overseer for more than 3 years and their house church multiplies 3 times (or once after they are appointed shepherd-overseer), they will no longer be required to lead a house church but concentrate on their shepherd-overseer ministry. Our new deputy shepherds are primarily new Christians. They need a lot of help in conducting their duties as shepherds. So shepherd-overseers will focus on helping them.
When shepherd-overseers are freed from the responsibilities of leading a house church, they can help shepherds in various ways. They can visit house church meetings and coach shepherds on how to improve the meetings. They can become members of struggling house churches and help them grow. They can help house churches multiply when there are no candidates for new shepherds by becoming new shepherds themselves. They can invite house churches to meet at their home and help relieve shepherds of the burden of hosting meetings every week when their house church members are all new Christians and not ready to host in their own homes.
Although the responsibility of caring for shepherds is transferring from me to the shepherd-overseers, this does not mean that the relationships between me and the shepherds will be completely severed. I will still help shepherds through weekly visitations of their house church meetings, presiding over the monthly meetings with all the shepherds and their spouses, and reading the shepherds’ weekly reports.
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