Sad Shepherds

Our shepherds are divided into groups, around 20 in total, called Chowon (meaning pasture), which meet every Sunday after worship services. Each month my wife and I visit each group in turn, where I ask shepherds and their spouses to share two things about their house church ministry: one thing that made them happy and another that made them sad.

The things that make them happy are usually trivial. One newly appointed shepherd said that he felt honored when much older house church members starting addressing him as “our shepherd” as soon as he was appointed. A shepherd’s spouse shared that she was moved when a new house church member brought her soup while she was sick.

But there are many things that make shepherds and their spouses sad. One shepherd’s wife got not even a single phone call when she was ill. A couple dropped off their baby at their shepherd’s house without any advance word and spent the entire day enjoying themselves. Long-time Christians ignored their shepherds’ leadership, probably because their shepherds were relatively new Christians. One member would not believe a shepherd’s explanation and kept calling him a liar when he tried to resolve misunderstandings. Some members took it for granted that their shepherds would pay the green fees when golfing, even when they were financially better off than their shepherds.

When shepherds and their spouses told stories like these, they weren’t complaining or being tattletales. Their stories just slipped out when they shared their happy and sad moments at my request. Being abused and exploited is a part of ministry when people try to witness to non-believers, because non-believers don’t know any better. But when I hear that people who have been believers for quite some time treat their shepherds like this, I can’t help but get angry.

People must get mature as they grow older. One sign of maturity is an increasing concern for others. Babies are only able to receive caring. But as they grow older they begin to help their parents with house chores. When they become adults, they take care of themselves without their parents’ assistance. Eventually, roles reverse and they take care of their aged parents.

A similar principle should be applied to spiritual growth. New Christians receive care from shepherds and their spouses. But as they grow spiritually, they must become partners with their shepherds in serving non-believers or new Christians. If they still expect to be served by shepherds many years after they become believers, they must be considered spiritually retarded.

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