The Shepherd: Where Everything Changes
There are a great many metrics one uses to determine the success of a GSE processed church. There are baptisms, conversions, numbers, and so on. One of my favorite personal joys is the connection and relationship between the Gatherer and the Shepherd.
Scriptures define the Shepherd in the GSE relationship. Through God’s given Word we train up (through consistent discipleship) and identify believers who effectively articulate the gospel to all who are gathered. Here are 5 helpful and Biblical Metrics for the Shepherd.
The Shepherd clearly articulates the Gospel.
This is going to sound harsh, and it’s meant to. If people cannot clearly give the Scriptural basis for repentance and salvation in Christ alone – they do not have the heart of Jesus our Good Shepherd. Let me repeat, “They are not a Shepherd.” This doesn’t mean they can’t be, it just means they aren’t presently. This doesn’t mean they cannot be used by Jesus in some capacity. They may be faithful and fruitful in some other area of the Body of Christ, but the healthiest growth in the church comes from the harvest to the family of God - from the gatherer in the harvest making the connection to the Shepherd. The Shepherd knows that from prophecy to fulfillment of prophecy the Bible is clear, “Jesus came to save sinners.”
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15
The Shepherd has the heart of Jesus in making sure the Gospel is understood.
It is not enough for the Shepherd to know the Gospel. The Shepherd’s heart is that others know the Gospel. Sometimes this goal is reached in a matter of minutes, and other cases may take months or years. The point is the Shepherd is the one who carries the heavy heart to walk with people through questions.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
The Shepherd is not afraid to call others to repentance in Jesus.
The Shepherd is brave and unafraid. I am convinced the reason so many churches struggle and so many believers are weak is that our Shepherds are afraid. Since the seeker-sensitive model has dominated the American church landscape we have spoken less about sin. This is the sole purpose of the cross: sin! The Shepherd looks at the individual and sees the eternal.
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2
The Shepherd goes to great lengths not only to bear witness to justification, but takes great joy in walking with new believers in their journey through sanctification (Discipling others; Matthew 28:19-20)
Even though evangelism plays a vital role in the life of a Shepherd, a Shepherd heart leads, walks and makes himself responsible to some extent for the health of the Body of Christ. There is great joy in seeing someone trust in Christ as Savior. There is equal joy watching that new believer grow to be a strong believer through a great many ups and downs. The Shepherd seeks out God’s goals for the believer.
Throughout the entire relationship the Shepherd exhibits patience with an individual and sees through God’s eyes where any individual can truly be in Christ.
The goal is change, but the timeline is not the metric the faithfulness of the Shepherd is. This could sound obvious or even redundant. Yet let’s consider the weight of this by identifying its opposite. Impatient believers make horrible Shepherds. Shepherds who rush to make new believers seasoned theologians often ruin more than they’ll ever know. A strong Shepherd is patient for change even when others are not.
I like to think of patience in discipleship in this way: There are two types of change in the life a new believer: Wildfire and Glacier. Wildfire movements change all things in an instant. It is a dramatic change and takes years to recover by removing all that Jesus has allowed to grow even in its unruly state. It is the most sought after because the evidence is clear and visible. Glacier-like change is barely noticeable. It is slow. It sometimes takes years to accomplish and to display the evidence we all would have liked to have seen in a matter of moments. The difference between the two is that when Shepherds seek to set change by wildfire, it wipes out everything in the past, present, and has to rebuild its future. When the Shepherd trusts in change by glacier it takes every-single-living-thing in its environment along with it. Everything changes.
Pastor, Suntree Grace Brethren Church