Summary: This is a brief summary of the biblical foundations for an effective shepherding ministry.
This past spring the elders and deacons of this church held a one-day Officers’ Retreat. For several months prior to that retreat the elders and deacons had been reading and discussing a book by Timothy Z. Witmer titled, The Shepherd Leader. The subtitle of that book really describes the emphasis of the book: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. So, at the Officers’ Retreat the focus of our discussion was on how to implement an effective shepherding ministry at the Tampa Bay Presbyterian Church. We came away from that retreat with a plan that we are in the process of implementing and, I am sure, in the coming months, we will continue to refine in order to be as effective as possible in shepherding the flock at TBPC.
In his book, Dr. Witmer opens with a “real life” scenario, with appropriate details changed. He writes:
Cathy Williams, affectionately known to many as “Kate,” was born on September 22, 1953. In 1986, Cathy became a member of Covenant Church on the basis of her profession of faith and remained a member until her death on July 14, 2005. The death of Cathy Williams became a watershed moment in the pastoral shepherding ministry of Covenant Church. Coming out of a rebellious and loose lifestyle, Cathy made a profession of faith and actively participated in the life of the church. But then she began to fall into her old sinful habits. She abandoned the church and no one knew where she was; or at least no one cared to find out. Her name, however, remained on the rolls of the church, but just as a name. Shortly before her death, God placed Cathy back on the doorstep of Covenant Church. Pastoral interaction with the dying Cathy was too brief to confirm how she stood before God. In a cloud of uncertainty, Cathy was memorialized. She will have to stand before the judgment seat to give account for her life, but before that same throne the undershepherds of the flock at Covenant will have to give account for this one lost sheep.
There is no doubt that the elders and deacons deeply sense the calling of shepherding God’s flock effectively here at our church. We know that there are far too many “Cathy’s” that we have not shepherded well, and we are also aware that we will have to stand before the throne of God to give account for how well we have shepherded God’s flock at TBPC.
In his book, The Shepherd Leader, Dr. Witmer sets out a plan for achieving effective shepherding. The officers, as I have mentioned, are in the process of implementing the proposed plan. The place to begin, of course, is in the Word of God. An effective shepherding ministry must be biblical.
So, in this lesson, based on Dr. Witmer’s book, I would like to give a brief summary of the biblical foundations for an effective shepherding ministry.
First, the Lord described himself as the shepherd of his people and his people as the flock under his care.
When the patriarch, Jacob, was dying he called Joseph to himself. Joseph brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to Jacob to be blessed by him. In Genesis 48:15 we read, “And he blessed Joseph and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day….’”
In addressing God, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock.” The Lord described himself, through the writing of the Psalmist, as the Shepherd of Israel.
And in another psalm, the Psalmist describes God’s people as sheep, with the clear implication that God is the shepherd. We read in Psalm 95:6–7, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”
So, the Lord is the shepherd of his people, and his people are the flock under his care.
II. The Lord’s comprehensive care included knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting his sheep (Psalm 23)
Second, the Lord’s comprehensive care included knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting his sheep.
This truth is most clearly seen in the well-known Psalm 23: “A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd [knowing]; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures [feeding]. He leads me beside still waters [leading]. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake [leading]. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me [protecting]; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”