Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Learn to feed yourself

One of the helpful pieces of advice that has appeared in various places and various times over the last 6 months has been the need to 'feed oneself'. As I reflect on the shepherding paradigm from John's Gospel, and 1 Peter, a few thoughts come to me.

1. Shepherds need to feed their sheep.

As undershepherds of Jesus, the role of a pastor involves tending and caring for the flock, and providing good pasture. That really boils down to teaching people the Scriptures well and faithfully, praying for them and leading them in prayer, and caring for their needs. All this is good, and proper, and there does exist a good and wholesome servant-leader paradigm in which elders are more learned and teach out of their knowledge.

2. Shepherds need to feed themselves.

Though in a very valid sense, shepherds are also sheep, to stick with the metaphor pastors need to feed themselves. Just like a human shepherd doesn't expect someone else to prepare their supper, but does it themselves, the role of pastor means that you have a different configuration within the people of God. You may not regularly sit under the preaching and pastoring of others in the same way that your flock does. What does that mean? It means you need to be pro-active about your own spiritual needs - to seek out good and faithful bible teaching for yourself. It means to be disciplined in your own prayer life and actively seek out people who will pray faithfully for you. It means building authentic two-way relationships that will sustain and support you.

3. Sheep do well to learn to feed themselves.

I know the metaphor breaks at this point. But there's nothing wrong, and everything gained, when christians not in leadership roles take on the responsibility of feeding themselves, learning to be disciplined in studying the word, prayer, relationships of mutual discipleship, and the like. They move from being consumers to producers, they free up some kinds of resources, they enhance community life, they emerge as future shepherds, they support current shepherds, and they learn from their models what it means to live as a pro-active disciple on mission with Jesus.

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