No matter your tendencies, your context, or your system, all pastors are called to Shepherd in the following six ways in every stage of church planting:
1. You are called to live your life as a model for others to follow. You model what it means to be a father, husband, or grandfather. You model what it means to work for a living. You model a gospel life of godliness, faithfulness, and obedience to Christ. You model what it means to give generously. You have glorious opportunities to repent well and to “live a life of love.”
Very few people (especially people in their 20’s and 30’s) have had worthy models of a man aggressively living out the implications of the Gospel. Very few know what it is to be really cared for and to be known, loved, confronted, forgiven, authentic, and accountable.
2. You are called to protect from false teaching. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that wolves, thieves, and false teachers would come in and ravage the people. People in the church are often clueless. Without a Shepherd-Leader, they will often fall away—“scatter” as Jesus put it.
3. You have been commanded to care. Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd, cared for his people. So must Church Planters. “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care” (1 Peter 5:2).
4. You and your leaders must be personally involved in the lives of your people. No one leads from a distance. Don’t presume that if you preach well, you are going to lead well. “Shepherding involves a personal relationship with specific people placed under our care by God himself. We must know them personally, extensively and intimately to ensure their spiritual health” (Thomas & Wood, Gospel Coach).
5. You will need God to provide faithful, available, and teachable people to assist you with Shepherding. “Jesus was moved with compassion because the crowds were harassed. He told his disciples, ‘Ask (beg) the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matt. 9:35-38). As God brings people alongside you to work in the harvest, it is critical that you show them Jesus’ heart for the crowds.
6. You will modify and improve your Shepherding systems as you go. Interaction and brainstorming will give the team agreed upon direction and expectations for Shepherding the crowd God sends you.
Are you training people in your Church Plant to help Shepherd others?
As you start the planting process and start gathering people, you will see the need to develop a temporary organization for shepherding that shares the work of shepherding. But what are you training people to do?
“A Gospel Shepherd brings all the issues, questions, needs, problems, or solutions to orbit around the sense of a Gospel dynamic, which he applies to each situation, because the Gospel is the ultimate solution for every problem” (Thomas & Wood, Gospel Coach, Zondervan 2012).
At CMM, we suggest both informal and organized discussions and training centered on (1) Knowing, (2) Feeding, (3) Leading, and (4) Protecting God’s people through the Gospel.
Click here to download your FREE eBook on the “Shepherding Principles”.
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!