Shepherding Ministries is designed to follow the loving example shown by Christ, whose life on earth was spent nurturing and tending His sheep. Jesus taught His followers a great principle in the parable of the Good Shepherd, who left the ninety-and-nine to go and rescue the one that had strayed (Matthew 18: 12-14). Our Great Shepherd personally demonstrated and fulfilled the principle of this parable by seeking the lost sheep, and by loving and caring for His disciples.
After the fall of man, Cain murdered his brother, Abel. God responded and inquired of Abel’s whereabouts, to which Cain replied with the sarcastic question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Many centuries later, Jesus emphatically answered this question in word and deed. Ultimately He laid down His life for the sheep! Jesus always led by example, showing concern and compassion through His own lifestyle of teaching, healing, providing for and caring for the sheep.
Another model for Shepherding Ministries is found in the story of Moses, the leader of the “church in the wilderness.” Overwhelmed by the seemingly endless needs which the people daily brought to him, Moses was advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to organize the church into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Exodus 18:13-27). He further instructed him to appoint God-fearing and able men, who loved the truth and hated covetousness, to lead the people and to resolve the numerous problems that would arise. This system of organization and administration enabled the leaders to effectively minister to all the people, and afforded Moses the precious time he needed for intimate communion with God, so that he could better minister to the greater needs of the nation. Shepherding Ministries is designed on this same model, so that the church can be self-edified and also fulfill its universal mission in the world.
We should view Shepherding Ministries therefore as a critical part of the government and discipline that God has placed in the church today, divinely instituted for the edification of all the members (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). When fully operational, the pastors will appoint leaders to assist them in the care of the sheep, just as the presiding bishop appoints regional overseers, and the regional overseers appoint the pastors.
The small group leaders (or under-shepherds) in the local churches will oversee “bands” (cells) of approximately ten members. The under-shepherds should always encourage and instruct his/her cell group to support and love one another (Ephesians 4:3). Monthly meetings provide each cell group a special time and opportunity to care and share with each other. This will enable the church to more effectively make every member feel needed, accepted, respected, and loved, and to help them to “grow up” in Christ.
Paul compares the church to the human body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). In this way he shows that each member of the church is dependent on the other members for strength and sustenance, just as all the systems of the human body are interdependent. This illustration shows also that every member is important. How beautiful is the body of Christ where, fitted together by “joints and bands” (Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:16), the members move and cooperate in love and unity. Shepherding Ministries will help the church to fulfill Jesus’ desire that “ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16), and Paul’s goal to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” Colossians 1:28).
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR THE UNDER- SHEPHERDS (CELL GROUP LEADERS):
1) Remember that the main purpose of Shepherding Ministries is to promote brotherly love and fellowship among all members and leaders of the church.
2) The under-shepherd is to serve as an aid to the pastor; particularly in the larger congregations where ministering to all the needs of the flock can become difficult.
3) Keep a written record of names, addresses, and phone numbers of your cell group members.
4) Contact each member monthly with either a phone call or a personal visit to check on their spiritual and physical well-being and to encourage them in the Lord.
5) Schedule a prayer meeting with your cell group members at least once a month in order to minister to their personal needs. Keep an open mind about conducting prayer meetings in new homes for the purpose of reaching lost souls.
6) Be aware of specific needs of your cell group members, not only in spiritual matters but concerning personal problems like loneliness, illness, depression, and so on. Inform the pastor when a member needs financial aid, clothing, food, or help with everyday tasks.
7) Report to the pastor any situation that needs his personal attention, which you feel unable to resolve on your own.
8) Encourage each member to continue in prayer for God to daily strengthen and anoint the pastor and all church leaders at the regional, national, and international levels.
9) Co-operate with the appointed pastor booster to honor the pastor and his family on the occasion of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and the first Sundays of each month. He should be given special recognition during Pastor’s Appreciation Month in October.
10) Take care never to criticize or undermine the pastor or any leader in Zion Assembly, especially in front of members or strangers. Promote support for ministers and leaders. Teach love and respect for all church members and visitors.
11) Shepherding Ministries is a model for Christian discipleship within the church. By sharing our common faith, experiences, and needs, we are building lasting relationships that will endure the storms of life.
12) Shepherding care is an ongoing process that includes teaching and practice: pastors to leaders, leaders to members, and members to one another. This will produce a spiritually mature church, with the members actively ministering to one another in love.
The responsibility for recognizing the needs of the Presiding Bishop and International Staff, Regional and National Overseers, and Evangelists falls on all members of the church. These servants of God need to be upheld in prayer and respected as “vessels of honor; sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.” The apostle Paul admonishes us to “esteem them very highly in love for their works’ sake” (cf: 1Timothy 5:1, 17-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17).
The purpose of Shepherding Ministries may be considered broadly threefold:
1) To cultivate a “keeping spirit” among ministers and members.
2) To restore backsliders.
3) To evangelize the lost.
Our modern world is filled with hurting and angry people, overcome by mistrust, suspicion, prejudice, and preoccupation with self. Sadly these attitudes sometime creep into the church. This is always unfortunate, for they hinder the church’s peace and spiritual growth. The prayer and expectation of our Lord is that we should “bring forth fruit and that our fruit should remain” (John 15:16). This presents to the church a great challenge, for Satan is “roaming about seeking whom he may devour.” New converts especially need to be nurtured and protected. Even mature Christians may feel overwhelmed at times, and be tempted to give in to the spirit of despair or despondency. When a precious brother or sister becomes discouraged, the church should respond with loving concern, and encourage him/her to continue in the faith and joy of salvation. This is the business of the church. God has given to the church the word and ministry of restoration and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). This is the goal and vision of Shepherding Ministries. We are indeed our “brother’s keeper.” “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).