the weblog of Alan Knox

Mutuality and Shepherding Service for the Gospel

Posted by on Apr 19, 2012 in community, fellowship | 3 comments

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For the next few days, I’m publishing a short series on the connection between mutuality and various forms of serving for the sake of the gospel. I’m sticking to commands, exhortations, and examples that we find in Scripture relating to mutual service and servants. There is a danger in sole-ministry, expert-ministry, and professional-ministry. In Scripture, service (of any kind) was performed mutually – both with others and for the sake of others.

In this post, I look at the service of shepherding. Among many in the church today, shepherding is a service that is the sole responsibility of a professional class of Christians – vocational pastors, elders, etc. But, in Scripture, shepherding is a much more of a mutual service to and for one another.

Interestingly, this is one of the types of services that is most easily recognized as mutual in the Gospel, even in the case of Jesus. It is clear that Jesus serves others – in fact, he even said that he came to serve others. However, in the Gospels, others care for and serve Jesus as well.

Here is one passage that shows how some were traveling with and caring for Jesus:

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1-3 ESV)

In Acts 6, we see an example of the apostles encouraging the believers in Jerusalem to care for one another. In this case, the people chose seven men to make sure that the Hellenistic widows were receiving food. Later, we see different people caring for and shepherding others, offering hospitality, providing food, etc. For example, consider Simon the Tanner (Acts 9:43), Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia (Acts 16:14-16), and many who traveled with Paul.

Now, some may object and say that these are not officially forms of shepherding; they are simple examples of people serving one another. Instead, they might point to Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-3 as examples of elders alone being responsible for official shepherding.

However, there is another (similar) passage that is directed toward all believers. This passage is found in the Book of Hebrews:

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy… (Hebrews 12:12-16 ESV)

This passage shows that beyond physical shepherding (through service, hospitality, etc.) even spiritual shepherding is the responsibility of all believers to be performed mutually (that is, we should shepherd one another). In fact, the verb translated “see to it” in verse 15 is the same verb that is translated “overseeing” when elders are in the context.

God provides everything that we need, and Jesus alone is our good shepherd and our overseer. However, Jesus often shepherds us through others. We must be willing to respond to Jesus’ work through others, and we also must be willing to allow Jesus to use us to shepherd others.


Series on Mutuality and Service

  1. Mutuality and Itinerant Service for the Gospel
  2. Mutuality and Teaching Service for the Gospel
  3. Mutuality and Shepherding Service for the Gospel
  4. Mutuality: Sharing Life in Christ Together


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-19-2012

    I remember reading II Cor 7:6 “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;” and it sank in that while we only need God, He often chooses to meet our needs through others.

    Since then, I’ve come to see the “Jesus and me is all I need” idea misleading–Jesus doesn’t come to us on our terms. It’s like He is determined to make us interdependent on one another, and chooses to flow through us to others, and through them to us. He does have those times with us when He is looking at us quite privately, no one else around. But more often, I have been touched by Him through the hands and voices of my brothers and sisters. If we want to say “I know His voice and I follow Him,” we need to listen for His voice through many others around us.

  2. 4-19-2012

    Alan, you might not be aware of this in your writing you are putting down laws, you must, you have to you should, all creates a law in the individuals mind. And when we are under a law or laws we are under a curse. Jeus was very clear in this before his death, burial and ressurection. The new covenant did not take place until the death of christ. Hebrews 9:15,16,17. Anyway I know you are quoting out of the doctrines after the new covenant was put in place from God’s vantage point. Yet the scripture under a new covenant has been interpreted into commands,you must do this or that. How can this be true since we that believe have been freed from the commandments of any law.
    In other words I help my brother as I am called, I see this is the Holy Ghost so I do. But if I out of have too, I am too busy and do not hear the Holy Ghost say step over that situation, for that person needs to go through the fire, and thus see as King Nebecenezzar saw after what eleven years chewing the cud of the ground.
    Well my suggestion is to be free from all commandments and thus be free to hear the Holy Ghosts prompting instead of the people’s, and if any of us are looking to teach another, then us and I are probably in the way, and it becomes frustrating for the Holy Ghost to God’s job. Let us see Peter was in the way it was his flesh and blood, SAul WAS IN THE WAY until the road to damascus. King David until he saw and admitted, a man after God’s own heart. It has been by Mercy from day one of the fall.
    God will have Mercy on whom God will have mercy. So it not of us who wills or desires or wants to do good for God, or even good for the people here and now.
    IT IS MERCY and up to each individual to seek GODS’ Mercy. And ask him for this mercy. Then wait on God to show you, If God deems it fit for you to have or anyone else to have this Mercy that is unfathomable.
    God knows all hearts, the reason one will seek Mercy or just forgiveness. there is a big differance between the two, and thus doing work for the Lord. It is not the person that believes, that has received this Mercy it is GOD doing the work through them, and sometimes steps over the baby in order to bring home God’s kingdom that no one understands except God and us to trust him in what he is doing, all the way down to Sacrificing his Son, for who could understand that at the time, no flesh and blood can understand nor will ever.
    Sorry I could not stop, Howard Ps I am gloing to put this on my blog as well without the beginning, thanks Howard

  3. 4-19-2012


    Thanks for your comment. You always seem to express what I’m trying to say in a more concise way.


    You’re making a false distinction between grace and law. Jesus gave commands that his followers were to obey. He still gives commands for his followers to obey. One of those commands is to help one another follow him. Paul summed it up succinctly when he was talking about our freedom in Christ: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galtians 5:13 ESV) Remember, this was written to a group who was considering returning to the law instead of grace. Grace and works (commands from Jesus) are not exclusive; they go hand in hand. We are not abiding in Jesus if we are not also obeying him.