The first scriptural reference to Shepherds or Elders is found in
"And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders:"
God gave Moses seventy men to assist him in caring for the children of Israel. They functioned with an anointing under his shepherding and thus could also be called Under-Shepherds.
In the New Testament the Greek word "Poimen" means "To shepherd, care for, feed or lead sheep."
Shepherding is Gods way of caring for His children by those He chooses.
God clearly reveals in His word what his idea of Shepherding is.
“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick:”
The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of many members. (Sheep)
God has called Shepherds to care for His sheep.
Let us consider four aspects of the Shepherd:
- The New Testament qualifications of the Shepherd.
These are described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Shepherds should be -
- Of good report
- Having one Spouse
- Of good behavior
- A teacher
- Not covetous
- Not greedy
- Not a lover of money
- One who rules their house well
- A Shepherd should always be under authority.
As Shepherds we are to be in subjection to those placed by the Lord Jesus over us, and should always be open to correction and discipline by them.
- Shepherds should always be in unity with the other Shepherds.
1 Corinthians 1:10
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."
- Shepherds need to be as one before the Lord in perfect unity.
- They need at all times to be in unity with the vision, guidance and the goals of the leadership.
- Shepherds need to be united in fellowship, prayer and fastings.
- They should endeavor to help meet the needs of the saints they shepherd.
- They should never have self-elevation or personal gain at heart.
- Shepherds need to be effective leaders.
- Shepherds take upon themselves the responsibility to care for Christians and are responsible for their spiritual growth, protection and well-being.
- Christians come together in groups known as Churches. These may be Large Gatherings or Home Churches.
- They are led by Shepherds in word, action and example.
- Members must be taught and motivated to win others to Christ.
- Each weekly meeting should be well organized and spiritually effective.
A Church leaders’ commitment should include the following:
- To take the responsibility of spiritually leading Christians
- To do all activities in excellence
- To carefully and prayerfully select helpers
- To lead the Church in growth
Four things are necessary for successful shepherding:
- A Divine calling.
Shepherds need to walk worthy of their Divine calling.
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called."
God takes the initiative to call us to work for Him as Shepherds. He does this by speaking to us in different ways. When He calls us, we feel in our hearts the unction and the conviction to work for Him. We then obediently take upon ourselves the responsibility to be trained to be able to effectively do His work. We are totally committed to the task.
Our training will involve two things:
- Having the Godly character that God requires of us for the task.
- Being trained to do the work He requires us to do.
2 Timothy 2:15
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
It will be evident to those in leadership when someone is called of God. Once they have submitted to training and guidance, their calling may be confirmed. Only those confirmed may be ordained to the ministry of Shepherding.
Shepherds are ordained for the following reasons:
- To acknowledge Gods choice and authorization of their ministry.
- To give the candidate the place and opportunity of ministry.
- To impart by the laying on of hands special gifting.
- To announce the time of the commencement of their ministry.
The ordination will have the following elements:
- The Leadership will recommend those confirmed for ordination.
- Ordination should take place at a Church gathering.
- Candidates should be charged to fulfill all their responsibilities.
- The Church Leadership should then lay hands on the candidate.
- They should give the candidate whatever words or prophecies the Lord has given.
- They should impart whatever graces, God would at that time bestow upon the candidate.
- Thereafter the Shepherd should be received as a servant of God and be honored and recognized by the Church.
- This new Shepherd should also be subjected to pastoral care and spiritual authority.
Shepherds need to understand eight aspects about sheep:
- Sheep need to be led to food and water.
- In storms, sheep need shelter.
- Sheep need careful care and watching so as not to be lost.
- Sheep need quiet restful waters.
- Sheep need green pastures to enjoy and lie down in.
- Sheep need anointing oil to sooth their head in the hot sun.
- Sheep need dipping to protect them from harmful insects.
- Sheep need the shepherd's protection from wild animals.
How to shepherd sheep:
Shepherds need to:
- Love and value sheep.
- Lead them to green pastures and refreshing water.
- Care for them and not let one go lost.
- Protect them under all circumstances.
Those who are called to be Shepherds can be effective leaders of a large Church Gathering or smaller Home Church.
Understanding the concept of the Home Church
Home Church is the New Testament form of church life and to fully understand it, one needs to consider how the cells of a human body function.
How cells work in the human body.
The human body is made up of millions of cells that grow and multiply.
This process takes place in the following way:
- A healthy cell develops.
- It forms two poles that are identical.
- It then divides into two parts.
- These two parts split and form two cells.
- This process repeats itself over and over again.
Home Churches work the same way.
A healthy church develops and grows to fill a house. It is then organized into two parts that prepare to divide. An organized agreeable division takes place. A Shepherd of the second group is ordained. Both then continue with their own growth process separately and have fellowship.
A Biblical foundation for Home Churches
Moses effectively ministered to the needs of the Israelites, by organizing them into small groups of ten.
“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:”
The smallest group of ten had a leader.
Nehemiah organized his people into smaller groups to be more successful in rebuilding the gates and wall of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 3:1-32)
Solomon used the same principle to organize his Kingdom. (1 Kings 4)
The example of Jesus
When Jesus fed the five thousand, He organized them into small groups.
“And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled.”
Jesus sent out his Disciples to minister dividing them into groups. (a group of seventy, a group of twelve and two.)
"After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come."
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:"
Home Churches in the Book of Acts
The one hundred and twenty disciples cared for the three thousand souls that were saved, by doing it from house to house.
“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Within a sixty-year period, the Church grew from one hundred and twenty Christians to millions over the face of the earth.
The early church came together in house meetings.
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Likewise greet the church that is in their house.”
“And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house.”
Home Churches in history:
- Catacombs - During the early persecution of the Church in Rome, Christians were forced to come together and worship in small groups in the catacombs.
- Under communism - During the reign of communism in the former Soviet Union, Christians were forced to have church in small groups, in their homes.
- China - To this very day in communist China, Christians have to secretly come together in small home groups to have church.
A Biblical vision for Churches
A vision to have Home Churches made up of Christians is Biblical.
The purpose of a cell
Home Churches provide a setting where there can be encouragement, heart sharing, interaction and openness among members. Home Churches looks inwardly to help every member grow spiritually and outwardly to bring others to Christ.
The function of Home Church meetings
- Firstly members and visitors should be made to feel welcome.
- They should feel comfortable and relaxed and this is a good time for light refreshments to be served and conversation to take place. (About fifteen minutes)
- After this it is time to move the focus away from people towards the Lord in praying together.
- Following prayer, the group may be led in worship. With good taped background music, a musician or a strong voiced leader, the members may worship the Lord in singing. (About fifteen minutes)
- This is followed by the edification time, where the members may share their testimonies and encourage each other. (About fifteen minutes)
- Following this, the Shepherd may share a message or teaching. (About 30 minutes)
- The final part will be where the leader shares -
- Needs in the Church
- The vision of the Church
- Some of the exciting activities coming up
- Information about the next meeting
- Motivating members to invite someone to the next meeting
The leadership of a Home Church
The leadership of a cell will consist of the following:
- A Shepherd
Who will care for the Christians in the Home Church. Who will organize and lead the activities.
- A trainee Shepherd
The learner Home Church leader is an apprentice of the cell leader and should be trained.
2 Timothy 2:2
"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
The trainee should:
- Carefully observe and learn
- Apply what has been learned
- Be willing to be delegated
- Be willing to be corrected
- Be encouraged
- Be a dedicated co-worker
- A secretary/treasurer.
This member should help with the administration and financial records.
Six phases of a Home Church:
- The acquaintance phase.
This is the phase where the members get to know each other and feel comfortable with each other. This could take several months.
- The understanding phase.
This is the sand papering or stones rubbing together phase where members get to accept each other as they are.
Here members learn to understand:
- Value systems
- Sensitivities and differences
- The community phase.
In this phase members tend to move toward each other in special fellowship and bonding. It is important for the leader to guide the members, allowing new members that come in, to be included in this bonding process.
- The ministering phase.
During this phase members experience growing spiritually and in ministry. They begin to use their talents and discover and enjoy their natural spiritual profiles.
The seven profiles are mentioned by Paul.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”
The seven profiles enable a person to be either:
- A prophetic speaker
- A helper (ministering)
- A teacher
- An encourager (exhorting)
- A giver (financing Gods program)
- A leader
- A comforter (A person who wipes away tears)
- Mentoring phase.
In this phase, the leadership of the cell is developed.
The next Home Church leader is developed, by going through an apprenticeship. The secretary/treasurer is carefully and prayerfully guided to work excellently for the Lord.
Other members prepare their hearts to be used in leadership within the new Home Church.
- The multiplying phase.
In this phase, all the aspects and tools of Evangelism are used to cause the cell to grow and double in size.
Things that members should experience:
When people enter the Home church it is necessary that they feel that they are part of a spiritual family and only true fellowship can achieve this. This will happen when members learn to know more about each other and spiritual things. They will get to share interests like hobbies, picnics, eating out, sports or sitting together at church. They will learn to value and appreciate each other’s company.
It is necessary for members to express their love, adoration and praise to God, and pour out their inner affectionate devotion to Him. Leaders need to plan the worship by selecting the music and songs before the gathering and visualize the flow of the worship. While leading the worship, the leader needs to be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Celebrating the Lords Supper should be a part of the worship each month.
Evangelism is essential for the continual growth of the Home Church. Members need to do evangelism training.
There are three important places to evangelize:
- Within our own circle of influence. (Family or friends)
- Finding fishing holes where one can fish for souls.
- Creating bridges to reach people for God.
Evangelism can be done in the following four ways:
- Inviting friends to Home Church.
Matthew invited his friends to meet Jesus.
"And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and therewas a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them."
- Having end-time seminars about the Lord's coming.
- Door knocking and doing neighborhood evangelism.
- Visiting the sick at Hospitals.
A Pastor should co-ordinate evangelism activities, where members can go out as a group and evangelize.
We need to reach hurting people. Those who are lonely, depressed, addicted and with broken relationships.
If members are not edified, these gatherings will be fruitless.
Members will be edified when:
- They feel the Lords presence.
- Their burdens are lifted.
- Their hurts are healed.
- They enjoy true fellowship with other believers.
- They feel safe and protected.
- They learn Biblical principles.
- They grow spiritually.
- They experience working for the Lord.
Members need to be taught to develop a daily prayer lifestyle. They need to organize their prayer time. They need to pray over the food they eat. They need to start and end their day in prayer. They need to pray daily for their own spiritual cleansing by the precious Blood of Jesus. They need to be able to take their requests to God in prayer when needed. They need to intercede for the salvation of their loved ones and friends. They need to pray for their brothers and sisters in the Lord. They need to pray for the Church.
When a person becomes a member they will discover that there are areas of their life that need restoration. (Emotional, mental and physical hurts that need healing)
It is important to direct those who need restoration, to Jesus the great Shepherd who restores our souls.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
The leadership and members can always be helpful in the healing of these wounds.
All leaders must successfully exercise their leadership and not relinquish it to members who have strong personalities. They must duplicate themselves in new trainees.
There are nine key elements for effective spiritual leadership:
- A leader must faithfully serve God.
- A leader must have compassion for people and be friendly.
- A leader must be committed to studying Gods Word.
- A leader must practice the Doctrines of the Bible.
- A leader must lead by example.
- A leader must be faithful.
- A leader must have a vision.
- A leader must be a hard worker.
- A leader must be submissive and teachable.
A leader cannot lead unless there are people to lead.
By understanding the task that is at hand, a leader can direct and designate ministry roles within the Church.
Members can be involved in many tasks and responsibilities can be delegated.
A leader should exhibit confidence in the person, clearly define the boundaries of their assignment and authority, and clearly explain what his expectations are.
The resources like money, material and information need to be available to successfully complete the task.
The leader needs to encourage and show appreciation for all efforts and assignments completed.
Members need to develop hospitality and love, demonstrating it to people.
This is evident in doing things such as:
- Giving food baskets to the needy
- Feeding the homeless
- Inviting people over for dinner
- Taking dinner to sick people
- Doing benevolent tasks to help the aged or physically impaired
Starting a Home Church for the first time
There are several things a Shepherd needs to do when starting a Home Church:
- Decide where and when to have the meeting.
- Make a list of the people to be invited to the first meeting.
- Invite each person individually.
- Carefully and prayerfully set out the program.
- Organize and prepare the details meticulously.
- Ask those invited to do something. (Pray, prepare some food.)
- Be sure to remind them the day before.
- Make use of the Godly counsel of leadership.
Vital aspects of a meeting:
- It must have a specific date, time and venue.
- It must be well advertised and start on time.
- Worship must be fluent and in the Spirit.
- Members must be encouraged to participate.
- What is said must be well prepared.
- It must not be long and boring.
- Profiles of members should be identified.
- Talents of members should be used.
- Problems of members should be helped.
- Members should be encouraged to attend church.
Hindrances at meetings
These hindrances need to be dealt with namely:
- Untidy rooms
- Ringing phones
- Noisy pets
- Babies that are crying
- Noisy TV, Stereo or other sounds
Teenagers and Children in the Home Church.
They should be allowed to be present, participate and be active.