Lunch With Shepherd Candidates

When we implemented the house church system about 10 years ago we started with only 23 house churches. Our church membership was not large either. So at that time, I had the luxury of being able to rotate through the shepherds and having lunch with one of them every other week.

Now, as the church has grown, it has become impossible to do that. Our church membership is several times larger, there are now more than 100 shepherds, and I have become much busier. When I have lunch with someone I need to set aside 3 to 4 hours, including driving time. It is impossible to do this more than twice a week. And I generally use these two days to have lunch with pastors, missionaries, or shepherd candidates.

I have made it a rule to have lunch with all the pastors and missionaries who visit us. And there are quite a few of them. Pastors come to participate in our house church intern program, and missionaries come to visit the members of the house churches who have been supporting them.

I also share lunch with shepherd candidates and their spouses to explain the house church ministries and their duties. I enjoy this time because that’s when I see the results of my ministry as a pastor. Many candidates are new Christians. It is personally gratifying to see them grow spiritually in a short time to be ready to become a shepherd who takes care of a flock.

I also enjoy these meetings as a preacher because I find out my sermons made an impact in their lives. Many confess that they didn’t feel ready to be a shepherd when the house church was about to multiply. But there were no other obvious candidates. So in the spirit of Christian obedience they decided to accept the position. And many of them said the primary motivating factor in their decision was a sermon I gave. “You talked about this and that in your sermon and it directly spoke to me.”

As a preacher, I consider my role to be a microphone for God. The purpose of a microphone is to deliver the message loud and clear, not remember the message. So I tend to forget the contents of my sermons after I speak. And when people mention particular sermons I frequently have a hard time recalling them. But I am just thankful that my sermons help them make an important decision.

When people tell me, “That was a good sermon,” usually it means they agree with me. They’re grateful that I was able to articulate their own thoughts well. It does not necessarily mean it made an impact in their lives. So comments like these, while kind, do not really please me. But comments like the ones shepherd candidates make are deeply gratifying because my sermon made a difference in their lives. How can I not be pleased?

I deeply regret that I am not able to find time to have lunch with them again afterwards.

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