Discipling the Shepherds

by Clyde W. Harvey

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

While attending classes at L.I.F.E. Bible College in Southern California, I was introduced to a concept that gripped my soul. It was a statement only three words long, but it would become a driving force in my life over the next 20 years. The three words were “enabling the enabler.”

With this statement comes a myriad of questions: Who is caring for the enabler? Where does the one in charge go to receive ministry? Is the enabler willing to be enabled?

Ephesians 4:11,12 speaks of the shepherd being key to the growth and health of the church. While much can be said in reference to the shepherd enabling and caring for the flock, we must understand for the shepherd to be in the position of caring, he must be cared for as well.

Nothing is more important to the well being of the shepherd than to have at least one significant relationship with someone of mature experience. This relationship can take many forms: discipleship, mentoring, peer counseling, enabling.

I suggest we consider three key elements in our relationship with one seeking enablement: affirmation, accountability, and assessment. Having the openness to regularly share these elements can provide for a healthy growth opportunity.

Affirmation is key to the mental well-being of the leader. Affirmation that comes from someone we respect and have a close relationship with is of great value.

Most people cannot sustain motivation of life and ministry apart from the confirming comments of someone with whom they share an equal working basis. Most leaders are desperately alone in their struggle to keep going. Pastors may receive a pat on the back and compliments for their great sermon, but they need to be able to gather with others of like position and confirm they are taking the right steps in their pursuit of fulfilling God’s call on their lives.

Accountability provides a necessary ingredient for the ongoing possibility of expansion and enlargement. Without it, we remain superficial, shallow, and opinionated. We become irrelevant and inflexible, hardened through a spirit of independence, and silenced through isolation.

Far too many pastors avoid accountability whether it is at the district level, sectional level, or just within their city. We want to do things the way we want to do them without answering to anyone. If this is your mindset, you need to find an accountability partner as soon as possible.

Assessment is affirmation and accountability taken to its logical conclusion. It concerns the painful process of evaluating the aspects of our personal growth and ministry development.

This issue is probably where we face the greatest challenges because of the deep-seated feelings of insecurity and inadequacy we all have. Compounding the situation is the very real aspect of our inability to fully understand the motivation of the human heart.

Pastors need an accountability partner. Not just to protect us from sin, but to keep us on track with our vision, goals, and stewardship of time. We need to see our lifestyle and ministry through the eyes of experience.

Relationships providing affirmation, accountability, and assessment for our lives and ministry result from a deep commitment to fulfill our purpose in God. Whatever else can be said about these three functions, most people will agree that even though it may be difficult to welcome these attributes into our relationship with one another, they are imperative.

For too long, both laypeople and clergy have entertained false expectations regarding the role of the shepherd. The expectation of sinlessness, emotional stability, constant availability, and unbounded ability has its toll on even the strongest of shepherds. We need significant relationships that build up not tear down.

Unfortunately, many in our profession choose to be a lone ranger. Even though many of our districts now provide ministry clusters for the building up and encouragement of ministers, many pastors choose not to participate. They also do not meet one-on-one with someone else for positive interaction.

To let your walls down and admit you need help is unthinkable to many pastors. This is, however, exactly what we need — disciplers to disciple shepherds, and enablers functioning in both a supportive and instructive role. We must come to understand that leaders themselves need to be led and need to be willing to come under the accountability and support of another person.

At the same time others in our profession choose not to pass on their knowledge and the equipping tools of their experience. We need to train younger men and women in our profession. We need to enable them to face the challenges and trials we have already worked through.

Let us all seek to opportunity to enable the enablers through discipling relationships with those of similar position. We have been entrusted with truths. We have come along way through experience.

We must take opportunity to pass these on to reliable men who one day will pass them on to a new generation.