A sincere, authentic minister of the Gospel desires above all else that the flock of God of which he is the shepherd become mature disciples of Christ who are becoming more and more like Jesus.
Even though I think preaching is vastly underrated in today’s church, to achieve this great objective of spiritual maturity in the lives of those a minister leads will take more than just preaching to them on Sunday mornings.
It definitely will take more than just shaking their hands before or after a church service.
To effectively shepherd the flock of God, the leaders of a church must step into the lives of those they lead with the Word of God and provide real-life instruction for them. All too often, that isn’t happening to the degree it should.
For example, just this past week I received a call (not uncommon) from a fellow whose life is in complete disarray, and his desperation over that fact is growing quickly. He called for counseling, and he definitely needs to spend time with a competent Christian counselor. But what he needs first is sound biblical counsel from a shepherd that cares about his well-being.
I asked this fellow if he has spoken to his pastor about what’s happening in his life, and the guy stammered about being embarrassed to talk to his minister about his problems. That doesn’t help his pastor know what’s going on in his life, but it also points to the critical need for pastors, church staff, elders, deacons, and ministry leaders — those who are leading in the church — to be proactive in their work of shepherding a congregation.
Put another way, you can’t always expect people to come running to you when they need the wise biblical counsel you can provide them with. Often, the best shepherding comes from shepherds spotting needs and proactively stepping into lives. This proactive attitude is reflected in this exhortation from Acts 20:28.
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28, NASB)
To guard and effectively shepherd God’s flock, you have to know the sheep you lead. It’s important for church leaders to spend time with the people they lead, and to get into their homes so they can better see what is happening in the lives of the people they’re supposed to serve. If all you know about the people in your congregation is what you experience of them in passing on a Sunday morning, you will not be able to be very proactive in your shepherding responsibilities. And, if your people don’t know you, they will be hesitant to reach out to you when they need wise biblical counsel … in fact, they may not think you’re available to them for that.
In today’s church, many ministers favor spending any time outside of church services with people to be done in coffee houses, restaurants, or their offices. But the value of getting into people’s homes to better see how they really live cannot be overstated. How someone presents themselves in a Starbucks over coffee can be very different than what time spent visiting them in their homes might reveal. Getting to know people in their common surroundings will provide greater insight into how people really live.