In leadership and discipleship training the shepherd teaches us many principles that we must practice.
First you must know the condition of your flock. Jacob knew that they were tender, had their young with them. He knew where they lived. He knew how their lives were.
How can you truly train a man or woman if you do not know them personally? Jesus spent time with his men. It was not a classroom environment. It was not instruction but inspiration. Not only did he give them principles but he showed them how to put it into practice. He lived with his men. It was life on life discipleship.
True discipleship is the teacher investing his life in his disciple. You cannot descend from the heavenlys and deliver your message and ascend back to the heavenlis if you truly want to impact the world. Obviously you have to spend your time with the right people but you must spend and be spent if you truly desire to have a world impact.
Not only does Jacob know the condition of his flock but he is careful in how he treats them. He will not allow himself nor others to overdrive them. How often have we tried to make the external man conform to what we believe he should be without investing in the inward man? How often have we tried to change a man from the outside in instead of the inside out? How often have we preached messages or given lessons that asked more than the tender were able to bear. So often we have a revolving door in our churches. Somehow we must stop this mistreatment or overdriving of our sheep.
Jacob as a shepherd knew that he had to lead on softly. He had to do what the children and the flock could endure. He knew that he would arrive at the desired destination but only if he moved at the right speed.
I am sure that no man of God has ever meant to hurt his people but so many times in our eagerness to be all that we can be we use our people to build our work rather than our work to build our people. As a young pastor I wanted my people to be good Christians. I wanted them to look the part and act it as well. I am sure that I had no idea how much I wanted these things for how it would make me look more than the good of my people but I proceeded to hurt people in more ways than I can explain.
I preached hard messages. I dictated how they were to dress, how they were to give, how they were to carry on every aspect of their lives. I didn’t lead on tenderly. I did overdrive them.
Finally when the men came to see me in a group to tell me how I should be a little kinder and preach more than my few favorite pet topics I proceeded to tell them that I was God’s man and that I would preach what God told me to preach. Their only concern was not that what I was preaching was wrong, but maybe the spirit I preached it in and the speed at which I wanted them to change.
They didn’t ask me to change my convictions, they asked me to consider preaching more than just my pet topics. I was young, I heard the big boys talk to so I was right and they were wrong. I basically told them it was either my way or the high way. They took the high way.
In my eagerness to have a product I could show off as a young dedicated pastor, I soon found myself without a salary and with a clean but empty church. I had asked a pastor friend what he thought and he simply said you’re obnoxious. His comment hurt so deeply that I couldn’t quit crying, but maybe that comment put me on the road to changing my philosophy of ministry.
I still believe the same things but I know now the flock is tender and with young and I have learned to not try to over drive them. I once heard a great man of God say whenever you preach against sin, make sure there’s a tear in the corner of your eye, because your not against them but rather trying to deliver them from the pain that comes from the sin they are about to commit.
Pastor, disciple, spiritual leader, please remember that they are but children and must be treated as such. We must only teach them what they are able to bare today. No one expects a six month old child to feed himself, dress himself, or even use the bathroom on his own. In our wisdom we understand where he is, and therefore have patience and tenderness as we watch them grow up.
Pastor could I venture an opinion about what we preach. I know I am treading on dangerous waters but discipleship in my opinion is the place you say so many things that apply directly. Many of us are afraid of personal confrontation so we use a bully pulpit to beat on our people.
What we would be afraid to say face to face we say to a crowd and hurt many people, and by the way we lose standing with our people, because many of them figure out what you are saying and to who you are saying it.
The people side with the under dog and since you are publicly attacking a weaker brother or a brother who gets no pulpit time you may lose the confidence of your people. Why not develop discipleship in your church. A one on one relationship. Life on Life that changes people. How many times do we preach messages that are true and important but not applicable to the spiritual level of our people?