Was preparing a sharing session with my friends. The topic on the floor was “The Principle Of Discipling” which i constantly misread it as “disciplining”. Personally I find that there was so many terms thrown about in the churches “Mentoring, Discipling, Spiritual Parents etc” .. many a times we find their definitions are similar and its hard for everyone to get the different.

The biblical perspective over the matter is illustrated in the words of Apostle Paul
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” – Paul (1 Cor 3:6)

the process of watering is in fact the process of pastoring in the present church context. and the many at times, it is about spiritual nurture and the development of Individuals as well as churches.

The good summary of a Christian walk begins with someone sharing the gospel with an individual, and the individual continues in his walk with God. While the church and other members worked hard to help the members grow. Paul summarised it in his letter to the Colossians.

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” – Paul (Col 1:28) .

We can safely conclude that all members in the household of God had the duty, to take care of each other in faith, as well as to guide the newer members in the walk of God. Elder Peter once exhorted the elders to shepherd Gods flock, not out of compulsion or dishonest gain but out of love. Peter uses the idea of God being the Chief Shepherd beautifully. (1 Pet 5:1-4)

A typical Bedouin in the desert still shepherd their flock in the similar manner. The Chief Shepherd is the father of the household, and his children under him are the shepherds who would lead the flock in the front and at the back. The children would ensure that flock would travel in the right direction under the watchful eyes of the chief shepherd.

We tend to think that pastoring the flock of God is the work of the Pastor or preacher. But that illustration tells us that child of God can become a shepherd or an overseer. Perhaps we do not pastor a congregation of 100s or 1000s of members? But we are definitely the watchman to the people around us and to our family members.

Since everyone may have the chance to be a shepherd or an n overseer of fellow members, there is a need for everyone to set themselves as good examples to fellow brethren and to help them grow and to achieve perfection in faith. Hence it is important for us to learn the heart of the shepherd.

1. Spiritual Maturity

One of the most important requirements for one to be an overseer and a shepherd is the fact that they themselves must have a some form of spirituality. In order to be able to lead a person in their faith, they must be growing Christians themselves. Especially if the shepherd must set himself as an example.

This fact often discourages Christians from being shepherd, because we tend to think that we must be perfect in our faith in order to qualify to be a shepherd. Ironically, that is not what the bible teaches. Php 3:12-16. In that verses, Paul started by saying “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”

and Paul encourages the Church at Phillippi, “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”

If we are expecting ourselves to be perfect examples, we can never attain perfection within our lives time. God wanted his children to try their best to lead the people around them. So therefore let us learn to have the same mind, to work hard to grow spiritually as well as to help the other brethren around us to grow as well.

2. Commitment

In order to help and encourage the members around us. The Shepard must give his commitment to the sheep he is pastoring. We all remember the great commission given by Jesus, to “Go and make disciples”. We must be willing to spend the time necessary to do the work.

Paul added a new perspective to commitment. He once said to the Corinthians.

“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved.” – Paul 2 Cor 12:14-15

Not everyone of us remember Paul as a travelling tent maker. In fact Paul finance a huge part of his ministry by working and preaching at the same time. Therefore, Paul’s commitment to his sheep can be seen in his famous remark. “Spend and be spent”

3. Relationship

A shepherd must often have the heart to develop a relationship with his sheep. Being an overseer and pastor doesn’t just cover the simple duties of teaching the words of God. The shepherd must have genuine interest in all areas of his sheep’s life. One of the most effective way to build relationship is to spend good time together. Just as Paul once told the church is Thessalonica.

“So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” – Paul 1 Thess 2:8

4. Spiritual Formation

One of the main objective of shepherding and pastoring is to allow spiritual formation to happen. Allowing a newer Christian to grow in his faith. Spiritual Formation can only happen if it is based on the words of God. Just like what Moses declared in the famous Shema in Deut 6

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Moses (Deut 6:5-9)

The process of Spiritual formation is liken to a mother having labor. Just like what Paul said to the Galatians.

“My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,” – Paul (Gal 4:19)

5. Concentration

Contrary to popular opinion, one does not need to have countless of disciples. In fact, the more widely spread you are, the lesser your influence will be. In fact it is not the quantity that matters, but the qualities.

In fact, while Jesus was on earth, he choose 12 men to be his disciples, and out of them, he took more time to teach Peter James and John. They followed Jesus to the mount of transfiguration (Matt 9:2) and he also brought them to pray with him in Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-34)

Therefore, it is correct to say that there is limit to the amount of attention we can give, therefore we can try our best to reach out to many, but concentrate in discipling a few.

Conclusion

It is a Christian duties for all of us to be a shepherd or an overseer. Even if we do not lead a large congregation, we are in charge of the faith of the people around us. Especially our young and our family member.

Gods commission to “Go and make disciples” is not given to a few people, but to the entire church. The mission of the church is to help people reconcile with God and to have their sins forgiven. Besides introducing the gospel of salvation, we need to shepherd and to help the newer Christians to take root in faith.

May God help all of us.

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