The Shepherding Gift: Curating Christian Community

As we explore the five gifts of the Ascension, it cannot be overstated how important it is to locate all 5Q in the person of Jesus. While we discover the APEST constitution of the Body of Christ in Ephesians 4, it was Christ who embodied long before Paul codified it.

In the last post we looked at the Teacher capacity and we are going to continue to work through each of the five gifts, sharing insights from a recent sermon series from Jon Ritner, Pastor of Ecclesia Hollywood, as well as excerpts from the new book, 5Q: Reactivating The Original Intelligence And Capacity Of The Body Of Christ.

In this post we are going to look at the Shepherd.

[bctt tweet=”To be a good shepherd would be to know all the names and the stories of the people in one’s immediate care.” username=””]

When the Apostle Paul describes the Shepherd as a gift given to the Body of Christ, we don’t believe that the function he defines is the CEO type leader of Church, Inc. that we see modeled as “Pastor” so often today. The Shepherd operates as a reflection of Jesus, not corporate America.

The Body of Christ is desperately in need of Shepherds.

To see how Jesus lived his Shepherding gift, it is good to get a quick job description of a shepherd. We could probably Google it, or even Wiki it, but we’re going to go directly to Psalm 23.  As we read, we discover that:

  • Shepherds nurture, protect, and provide for their sheep. They smell like their flock.
  • They guide sheep to still waters that are easier to drink from and green pastures for good food.
  • They correct sheep when they stray and pull them back if they are close to danger.
  • They heal them from injury or sickness. Even the oil imagery, was a blessing used to prevent infection.
  • Shepherds also have to be fierce. They have to have to fight off wolves in order to protect their sheep – check out Jude to see this in action!
  • They help the sheep mature and grow and flourish in a flock surrounded by other healthy sheep. 
  • The Shepherd’s goal is to have sheep whose lives are overflowing with goodness and love.
[bctt tweet=”Shepherds nurture, protect, and provide for their sheep. They smell like their flock. #5Q ” username=”@5QCollective”]

So, when we look at the Shepherd, living and moving and having their being in the Church, we see that their purpose is to:

Enrich Communal Experience

At its core, the ecclesia is a community gathered in adherence to Jesus—the recipients of his saving, reconciling, and healing grace. The shepherding function exists to enhance the communal dimension of the community. Friendship, mutuality, reconciliation, and devotion in the midst of life together demonstrate a better way to be human together.

Develop Social Bonding

In many ways, the shepherding functions develop the necessary attachment and bonding to the movement and its purposes in the world. The focus therefore falls strongly on developing loving relationships that mirror the love of Jesus in the world. In a sense, the shepherding function is the ecclesial equivalent of an organization’s human resource (HR) department.

Demonstrate Credible Witness

It was Lesslie Newbigin who said that the greatest evidence for the power of the gospel is the life of a community who is willing to live by it. The shepherd purpose of the church will be then to nurture just this form of alternative society of local disciples witnessing to the blessings of the kingdom of God.”

[bctt tweet=”The greatest evidence for the power of the gospel is the life of a community who is willing to live by it.” username=””]

Protect The Body

Healthy communities are notoriously difficult to develop and maintain. Because each member of the community is capable of sinful actions and each community is made up of selfish people, community life is inordinately vulnerable to damage. Therefore, like the Good Shepherd, shepherding will serve to protect the church from influences and people that will destroy it from the inside out. More often than not, these forces are inside the church; the shepherding function will at times therefore need to be able to identify, correct, and discipline errant members.”

Promote and Facilitate Healing

This highlights the healing and restorative dimensions of the gospel of Jesus. This function spans from practical care of the sick and feeble, to prayer for healing, to counseling and reconciliation in broken relationships—a very important aspect of healthy community.

Encourage Shalom and Wholeness

The biblical idea of peace (shalom) involves not just an absence of conflict, but also the active experience of harmony, restoring of wholeness, and the experience of godly prosperity.

Champion Inclusion and Embrace

The members of the church are chosen by Jesus and not by societal trends and preferences. The church is a new humanity made up of all classes, ethnicities, and genders, united together in Jesus and called into his Body. There is a deep respect for the poor and the excluded.

[bctt tweet=”The members of the church are chosen by Jesus and not by societal trends and preferences. #5Q” username=”@5QCollective”]

Assist In Discipleship In The Way

This function requires each church to assist its members in living consistent lives in the everyday. The local church is in essence a disciple-making system where everyone is committed to following Jesus in the context of all of life. Perhaps one of the best ways to articulate the essence of the shepherding function is summed up in the word formation in the way of Christ, lived locally and communally.”

Enable Human Flourishing

The shepherding function creates a culture and an environment where people can thrive and flourish and reach their full potential as creatures made in the image of God.

Cultivate The Family Of God

One of the main goals of the shepherding functions is to draw people together and reconcile them together as a redeemed family. The functions look to restore God to the people as father and to each other as brothers and sisters. Family is God’s plan A, and the shepherding functions highlight the empathetic nature and loyalty that keeps families together.

Cultivate Rich And Loving Community

Scripture is clear that one of the main ways the world will know us is by our reputation as a loving community (John 13:35). Deep and meaningful relationships with one another, along with a strong value for each person’s story exemplify the shepherding functions that seek to create and maintain healthy community.

(from 5Q, Chapter 7, Eph4Us: The Fivefold Functionality Of The Church)

[Thanks to Jon Ritner who has graciously allowed the sermon material from Ecclesia Hollywood’s current series, “Collaborative Church,” to be edited for the blog]

How do you experience the Shepherd in the Body of Christ? In what ways do you see a 5Q vision of this role strengthening, building up and healing the Church? Speak up in the comments below. We look forward to hearing your voice in the 5Q Symphony.