A Future Together
part 3

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Focus: Equip the entire church for shepherding in the congregation.

The origin of the phrase: “Every shepherd needs a sheepdog.”

The shepherds described in the bible do not have sheepdogs. Shepherds are leaders and the various leaders of God’s people – kings, judges, elders – are described as shepherds. sheepdogs are not known in any of the biblical literature. It wouldn’t be a good image anyway as herding dogs are not what biblical leadership is all about. But there is a biblical idea of other leaders who are a companion and support to the leaders – like a sheepdog is for a shepherd. Now that’s biblical ...

Read Exodus 18
Focus: Biblical teaching affirms that there is a place for those who help the shepherds shepherd.
Isn’t it great that God’s Word recalls a time when Moses, the great hero and leader of God’s people, gets some advice from his father-in-law! That makes sense, too: Since Moses was raised in Egypt, we might safely assume that it was his father-in-law who taught him how to shepherd ...

  1. Jethro’s wisdom to Moses affirms that God’s spirit may be shared with others. Jethro affirms that leadership may be shared. Even though Jethro isn’t an Israelite, he knows a lot about the Most High God. He knows that God is not threatened by others who can administer his grace and wisdom. In fact, when more people are equipped to administer God’s grace and spirit it makes all of God’s people healthier. (verse 23)
  2. It is also good for God’s leaders. Jethro is giving Moses a little lesson in preventing burnout. Burnout is a bad thing when we ignore its message. The ultimate message of burnout is: You are not God. Let’s encourage all ministry leaders to equip others to do what they do. There will be countless leaders among God’s people – ministers, elders, ministry leaders. We come and go – but only God remains. So it isn’t just a good idea to equip others to do what we do – it is God’s idea, too!
  3. In the early church, this principle was put into practice by the apostles. (Acts 6.) They entrusted seven men to lead the distribution of food to widows. They shared God’s leadership and equipped others to minister in their stead. They equipped others to “shepherd” in response to church conflict and the church was healthier as a result. But the mission of God was also supplied. After appointing Phillip to this ministry we don’t read about his adventures in the food pantry, rather we see that he is doing an apostle’s work – he’s making disciples! Equipping others to shepherd in God’s name furthers the mission of God.
Concern: But if we permit everyone to “shepherd” then who’s in charge? Who has authority?

  1. Let’s be clear – When we say that we are the “Church of Christ” that means that all authority among us belongs to Christ Jesus. Who’s in charge? Christ is Lord.
  2. Christ is so clearly Lord that his authority can be dispensed among those who develop his character and spirit. Now that certainly includes elders. When the “qualifications” of an elder are mentioned it turns out that those are characteristics. All of these characteristics are the sort of behavior that should be standard for all of God’s people. The authority of elders is rooted in their credibility to teach and model how we ought to behave. Their main task is to lead us – or shepherd us – to become more like Christ.

In Christ’s church, the Holy Spirit of God equips members to minister to one another. (See Ephesians 4:11). Let’s do two things:

  1. Let’s affirm others gifts for ministry and encourage them to minister to the church. [Several of our Lions for Christ college students are making a trip this week to Texas to do ministry. Shane is their leader, their "shepherd" of sorts, but he has equipped these young adults to minister to others and to minister to one another.]

  2. Let’s all make a personal commitment to step up with whatever God has given us and find a way to minister to others with the resources and talents that God has given us.
I am thankful that our elders and ministers have the wisdom of Jethro and Moses and they are prepared and ready to encourage each of you to minister to others. They believe in the words that Paul wrote to the Romans ...

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. – Romans 15:14

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 March 2008

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