The Good Shepherd… that was title of a movie that claimed to be about ‘the history of the CIA and one of its young agents.’
Christians who really know their God and his word, the Bible, with thankful hearts truly understand that there is a real ‘good shepherd’, Jesus Christ. And that he has his own brand of CIA, not centred in Langley but in local churches and in Christians themselves.
This particular, peculiar CIA stands for Connecting, Involving and Advancing.
The church of Jesus is primarily a place of personal growth through connecting in worshipping God, in developing a Bible-grounded faith and in being released in serving Jesus.
That’s why we have pastors – caring God-appointed shepherds – to expound the scriptures, ensure we’re flowing in genuine Bible-based worship, growing in our faith and to build a platform of expectation for the supernatural moving of the Spirit in every meeting.
In simple terms, Connecting begins with connecting with Jesus through prayer, Bible meditation and developing a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Connecting also includes ‘being there for others.’ This is where the rubber really hits the road! Real church … real body ministry that goes beyond what’s been taught but hasn’t been really heard or taken onboard at Sunday services. Christians getting together with one another and caring, advising and praying.
This is why many churches have different connecting opportunities…after Sunday meetings ‘cuppa’ fellowships, various midweek groups, especially home groups or whatever name they go under. And you can create your own connecting time …an invite to a meal or coffee time at home. Then the Holy Spirit can take advantage to open up hearts. Not only have Christians been helped and released at such opportunities but people have got saved!
Bible teacher Chuck Meissler has stated that he believes that this is where the church of Christ is meant to be…into fellowship – connecting – groups. And praise God that many have indeed been richly blessed through being part of at least one of such connecting groups!
Involvement is the opposite of being on the fringe, to being on the outside or at least only on the bank of God’s river instead of ‘diving in.’ Of being some kind of lone ranger on ones own, not really supporting your pastor and not buying into the church’s vision, programs or needs.
A great sign of a healthy church is when people seek God to be involved in church life and they commit fully to what he has shown them or whatever service opportunity their pastor offers. The blessings flow when we stretch ourselves in trusting the Holy Spirit and build Jesus’ local church through praying, caring, ’being there’, giving, encouraging one another and using our talents and time.
In Luke 15:1-7 Jesus painted a clear picture of a really caring person for whom nothing was hardship or bother when he had to help a sheep in trouble. Now we’ve heard sermons on this about Jesus being the good, indeed great shepherd and how the angels sing in heaven over ‘a lost sheep’ – an unsaved person finding Christ as Saviour and being saved. It’s a terrific salvation based story.
But we need to note two things… Jesus was speaking directly to a number of so-called religious people who did not want to be involved and weren’t caring. He began with ‘Suppose one of you…’ and then he talked about finding and bodily helping the poor sheep that would otherwise be perishing. And he keeps referring to the searcher (whether a shepherd or the actual owner doesn’t matter) rejoicing over finding and willingly carrying the load of the sheep on his shoulders (v5-7).
When we tie this parable in with other biblical insights and directions – John 13:34 (‘Love one another’), John 13:33 (‘Seek first the kingdom of God’), Acts 2:42-46 (Thousands of the early church being in pure togetherness with one another in fellowship including sharing meal times), and of course Heb.10:25 (a very clear instruction not to neglect gathering together and encouraging one another), we see that involvement is important to church and personal growth and development. And that the onus is on us, not just our pastors.
Matthew 6:21 is a great word of Jesus that can be our challenge in respect of church involvement! The big question is: Where does our treasure and heart lie? Start involving yourself in your local church!
The kingdom of God is meant to be advancing through the strategy of the local church and every Christian. Numeric growth is important for any church. We need to, we should, grow numerically…especially if the church is in an overall healthy state, the word is taught, genuine worship is welcomed and the Holy Spirit is allowed time to exult Jesus.
It’s the church of Jesus overcoming the kingdom of Satan and the world! A growing church where people are blessed, the Spirit moves and its attendees discover great life principles and develop contented satisfying lifestyles is a shining beacon to troubled neighbourhoods.
And growth comes from us reaching out – connecting – to the unsaved. Salvation is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit but our role is to do what Jesus asked of us… share the gospel’s good news and to make disciples of those who accept him. (See Mat. 28:19-20; Mar. 16:15-16).
There’s an old adage: ‘Sheep beget sheep.’ How do churches grow? Firstly prayer and a burden for the lost (that good shepherd principle again). Then through church folk reaching out to the unchurched and witnessing Jesus. And inviting people along to church and special meetings aimed at touching lives and meeting needs.
But also by us committing our time, talents and treasure to the running and development of our church. Then – and so important to remember this – through a sovereign move of God on prepared soil. Opportunities are around us toady! Let’s advance.
We have Jesus, the quintessential good shepherd to guard and lead us. And to care, provide and carry joyfully on his broad shoulders.
As for us, let’s really support our local church and buy into the vision. Let’s remember that other Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ and support one another more. And of course also reach out to the unchurched. This way we’ll continue to grow personally and help grow our church!
And – as CIA team members – we also will become good shepherds.