Over the past three months, I've been involved with both the church I pastor here in Elko, NV and with another church in W. Wendover, NV in understanding what it means to disciple. As part of this process, I've discovered that people often confuse shepherding a flock versus discipling a flock. In fact, at one of our sessions in W. Wendover, we spent a part of one evening discussing this difference.
Even though I don't remember all of the specifics of the discussion, I thought it would be helpful to bring forth a few of the highlights. Since this part of the country has a heritage that includes sheep herding (Basque) as well as ranching, many individuals could speak intelligently to this subject. I asked the group to list some of the responsibilities that a sheep herder or rancher has. Some of their responses:
- Protect the flock/herd from predators
- Ensure that they are fed and watered
- Inoculate from diseases
- Lead them to adequate pastures
- Keep track of the total number and look for those that are missing
- For shepherds, they usually live with their flock
- For shepherds, discipline immature sheep (lambs) that keep wandering off (i.e., 'break their leg' with the staff and carry them on one's shoulder)
- Eat them! OK, this one probably doesn't belong in this list.
These responsibilities correspond with how Jesus spoke about how we are to protect and provide for those entrusted to our care. Scripture is replete with references to sheep and shepherds and clearly teaches that the above responsibilities are for anyone brought into the fold. Some are even called into this special responsibility of a shepherd.
However, discipleship is different. All of us are called to be disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). But not all are willing. What is a disciple? Very simply, from Matthew 4:19:
(Jesus) "Come and follow Me..." - a person who makes a decision of the will to know and follow Christ.
"...and I will make you..." - a person who is being transformed and changed on a daily basis to become more like Christ.
"...fishers of men." - a person who is committed to the mission of Christ.
A person has to choose to become obedient to the mission of Christ. Disciples are called to grow in Christ and lead other disciples who will grow in Christ who lead other disciples who will grow in Christ who will...well, you get the picture.
We shepherd everyone. We disciple those willing to be discipled (i.e., those that are available, faithful, and teachable). Are you only a sheep or a sheep who is a disciple?
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