A few weeks ago I did a sermon out of 1 Peter 5:1-6 about the importance of Shepherding Each Other and Being Shepherded.
I’m not going to go into the theology of it in this post (you can listen online to the message), but just to recap with one summary sentence: To call ourselves Christians means that we help to shepherd other people in their relationship with Christ, and that we also allow ourselves to be shepherded by other people.
Now how do we do that in a new church where not everyone knows each other very well and where everyone is really busy? That’s what we’re all still figuring out, but I want to throw out a few practical “tips” that I did not have time to cover two weeks ago.
These are tips on how to get the ball rolling with each other, which is often the most difficult part. Once the ball is rolling…..well, let the Holy Spirit continue to lead you.
So here they are — 5 TIPS TO GET THE SHEPHERDING BALL ROLLING
1. If You Have a Conversation With Someone New, Be a Good Steward of that Conversation
A “steward” is a churchy way of of saying, “Be responsible with what God has put into your life.” So if you have a conversation with a new girl named Sally in the lobby before church, assume that you are having that conversation for a reason. Don’t think, “Well I’m sure Pastor Chris will end up talking to Sally and telling her about our church. I’m sure Sally will fill out one of those red cards and she’ll get into a life group.” Don’t do that.
Rather, ask Sally if she has any questions about the church. Ask about her story. Tell Sally about our life groups. Heck, tell Sally about YOUR life group.
2. Listen. Don’t Ask Weird Questions
One of the most important parts about shepherding others is finding out where they are at in life and in their relationship with God. Don’t assume that everyone is where YOU’RE AT.
To continue with the Sally example — don’t ask Sally about her “testimony” or “when she came to know Jesus.” Sally may not know what a “testimony” is or even who Jesus is.
Get to know Sally first. Ask her about her…and listen.
3. Pray For Each Other
This may seem obvious, but church people are far more likely to say that they will pray for each other rather than actually take the time to do so. So take the time — maybe in the morning, maybe on your way to work — to ask God, “Who are you putting on my heart today?” And then pray for those who come to mind. As we begin to pray for each other more and more, God may give us thoughts and words of encouragement to offer each other.
And that might lead to a phone call.
Which brings us to the next one……
4. When You’re Hurting, Make that First Awkward Phone Call
As we have gotten to know each other, it seems like a lot of us have felt comfortable inviting each other to parties and hang-outs. But I’ve noticed that, for the most part, we still have trouble making that phone call when we’re going through a hard time. We have a tendency to think that it will weird people out or that they will think less of us when they find out what we’re going through.
So that’s why I say – make the first awkward phone call. It will certainly be awkward, but that’s okay. Most people will be honored that you called them. They may not have any good advice, or they may give too much advice. But either way, it’s okay. As you grow in your relationship with that person, they will get better and better at being there for you in your rough times.
5. When You Think Someone Else is Hurting, Make that First Awkward Phone Call
If you notice that something is “off” with Joe, or if Maggie hasn’t been to life group in a few weeks and you get a weird sense about it, pick up the phone and call. Of course, if you never talked to Maggie about anything more than how your kid’s potty-training is going, this will be awkward. But again, that’s okay. Maggie will appreciate it. She may not open up to you right then, but she will appreciate that you were thinking about her and that you asked.
And it will make her more likely to do #4 in the future.
I know these are super practical and over-simplified. Each person in our life, and each situation, requires more prayer and a reliance on the Holy Spirit.
But in order for True Life to be the church that God has called us to be, we have to get this Shepherding Ball rolling.