Loving and leading weak sheep

By Replant

If God has called you to pastor then you cannot escape your calling to shepherd weak sheep. This is true no matter what your context is but I have found it to be especially true in the context of replanting. Thankfully we aren’t shepherding on our own. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, has demonstrated and taught us how to shepherd His flock.

Weak sheep can present themselves in many different ways. Here are a couple of examples from my personal experience of replanting.

Never been discipled—A church doesn’t find herself in need of replanting due to a robust discipleship environment. Actually if you are going to do the work of replanting you are going to be building on the foundation of previous pastors. What I have found is that many members from the existing church had experienced programs but never really experienced biblical discipleship.

What we did to communicate this expectation as clearly as possible was to include it in our membership covenant. We let all members know that we should all be connected to a group of people that know us and care for our souls. This means that a new disciple and a senior adult are expected to be engaged in discipleship because it is expected of everyone that professes to be a follower of Christ.

Not fully committed—Beyond not being discipled, I have found that many people that present themselves as weak sheep just aren’t fully committed. Maybe they still dream of the experience that had in their last church or in their college campus ministry. Maybe they allow their personal preferences toward introversion to keep them on the fringe of the biblical community. Whatever the reason may be, I have found that many times weak sheep are sheep that aren’t fully committed.

The way I figured this out a few weeks ago was by assessing the experiences I had in shepherding weak sheep. Then I considered the experiences I had with healthy sheep. Healthy sheep often times present themselves as men and women that are on the front lines of making disciples.

Confused about being helpful—Lastly, I have found that weak sheep are often times confused about what it means to be helpful. These sheep unfortunately think they are being helpful when they play devil’s advocate, when they view sarcasm as a spiritual gift or when they think that their gift to the church is to be critical at all junctures.

Shepherding these sheep has been one of the greatest thieves of joy in my own ministry as a replanter. In my short tenure as a replanter I have had to make some changes when it comes to these sheep. On several occasions I have expressed to people in this category that I can’t listen to their criticisms until they have expressed gratitude for one thing that they love about our church. I have also tried to remind certain sheep that by nature I am overly critical of myself so sometimes I need them to sit on their criticism until they have spent some time processing the topic at hand.

Just a few weeks ago as I was in the midst of a painful situation, I was struck by the fact that Jesus shepherded Judas just as he did the other disciples. Jesus didn’t give Judas all of his attention, he actually spent a lot more time with Peter, James, and John. On the other hand, Jesus didn’t seclude Judas. They shared meals together and spent a good amount of time together during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Then I stopped to think about how Jesus has loved a weak sheep like me. I think about his patience. I think about his kindness that leads me to repentance. I think about his love as seen in how He disciplines me. I see his sacrifice and remember the good news that he took my place.

Brothers, I know that loving and leading weak sheep is difficult. Luckily we are not alone. I pray that the weak sheep in your care will drive you to your knees in intercession. I pray that they will lead you to humbly seek support and assistance from your elders. I pray that your weak sheep will be a reminder of how Christ loves you.

Published October 13, 2016

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The Replant team of the North American Mission Board works to reverse the death and decline rate of Churches. For more information and resources on Replanting go to www.namb.net/replant and follow @churchreplanter.