On Sunday evening our family concluded our tour of all thirty-one Shepherding Groups. It took two years. We’re human beings and church members first, so we’re eager for the regular grind and grace of one group. But we’re glad we did this.
Let me tell you what we saw.
1. We saw you open your homes.
Here is a hallmark of the Christian church: hospitality. Let me put some numbers to this. We have about 30 Shepherding Groups. Each group meets twice a month for about two hours. That’s sixty hours of in-home hospitality on the calendar every month. You can probably make that ninety hours if you consider the lingering conversation and eating that goes on at times well into the evening. Some of your houses are large and spacious. Some of your houses are smaller and more quaint. Some of you start on time (sorry for being three minutes late!). Some of you are more chill and trickled in (we wondered if we were at the right house). Some of you had chips and queso, and others fancy looking hors d’oeuvres. Jesus ate a lot of food in people’s houses, and so did the early church. Thank you and keep it up.
2. We watched you care for the least of these.
There’s an interesting connection between hospitality and how we take care of one another. Paul writes in Romans 12:13, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” These are different things but they are related. Jesus instructs us, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). He speaks here concerning the least among his disciples. By meeting in homes, you have learned about one another’s needs and you have met them. You counseled a brother who was out of work. You helped a sister with transportation. You spent time with a lonely widow. I could go on, but get this: as our Shepherding Group ministry has matured, we have found that our church’s benevolence needs are being taken care of within the groups themselves. I have seen it: you take care of one another. Know that you’re doing it not just for but to Christ.
3. We observed leaders listening, loving, and leading.
Here’s what elders are called to do: “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1Pet. 5:2). Shepherding requires proximity. I could not be more pleased to find our elders, deacons, and Shepherding Group leaders partnering for your spiritual oversight and care. It is a sacrificial thing for our elders to rotate between groups, growing in their knowledge of and love for you up close. I have not witnessed heavy hands, or arrogance that wants to be the center of attention. Quite the opposite, and true to the leaders I’ve come to know and love, I have witnessed tenderness and affection, Scriptural instruction and protection. This is Jesus loving you. This is Jesus loving his church.
4. We witnessed God knit your hearts together in love.
I don’t like knitting, but I love Paul’s words to the Colossian church: “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you . . . that [your] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love” (Col. 2:1–2). What’s the point? Relationships merely? No, but in order that we might “reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2–3). The Colossian church had its different characters, Jews and Greeks, “barbarian, Synthian, slave, free,” yet together they could say, “Christ is all” (3:11)! Knit together, they experienced the one treasure that is Christ. So too our old and young, our single and married, our students and our educators, our employed and unemployed, our white collar and blue are brothers and sisters before anything else.
“It has taken time.” We heard that numerous times. “I love these people. This group really loves one another, but it has taken time. We never would have hung out together.” We know there are meetings where not everyone is there. Some meetings are boring, some are awkward, and some are tense. The burdens of others are burdensome. Grind isn’t a bad thing for Shepherding Groups. It’s part of what they’re for and we should say so. But let us say that there is grace for this grind, and there is grace in the grind.
Keep showing up. Keep putting in the time. Keep saying together, “Christ is all!”
If you’re not in a Shepherding Group, now is a great time to get connected. Learn more and get involved at the Shepherding Group page.