Jump Start # 2293
Proverbs 27:23 “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds”
Our verse today is so important for leaders. In teaching the shepherding principle we so often focus upon looking at each sheep individually, because each of us are unique and different. We are not at the same place spiritually. We come from different backgrounds. Our concerns, temptations and needs are not identical. Missing this is a huge mistake that many make.
However, there is the need to look at the overall condition of the flock in general. The big picture of how everyone is doing. Parents need to do this as well as shepherds in God’s kingdom. There are times when special things must be done. We understand this in the family. The family has been busy, the schedules hectic, that it’s time to get away for a vacation. It’s time to do something special and it’s time for the family to be together. Sharp parents recognize “the condition of the flock.”
Spiritually and especially, emotionally, the overall condition of the flock can go through all kinds of things. Consider a few:
The congregation is in shock. There are many reasons that this can happen. The sudden death of an elder or the preacher can leave everyone stunned, shocked and lifeless. A divorce within the congregation can do that. A very active family moves away can do that. Even, the shocking news of a member getting arrested can do that. These things fill the minds and the hearts of the members. They can’t seem to move past it.
This is a time for shepherds to “know well the condition of your flocks.” Adjustments need to be made. A time for grieving, talking things out, getting through things is helpful. I have been at places where a sudden death took place on a Saturday night. The next day, being Sunday, you’d think nothing ever happened. Same classes. Same schedule. However, the people were walking around stunned. You could see it. The death is the only thing people were talking about, at least privately. Publically, you’d never know it.
But, I have also been with a couple of groups when a very different approach took place. A sudden death took place the night before. The wise shepherds understood the condition of the flock. That Sunday morning, all the classes were brought together, even the kids classes. A special lesson was put together about the rich man and Lazarus, hope and faith and storms in life. During the worship, adjustments were made. The elders were all involved. Thought was given to picking songs that would help the congregation. More prayers were uttered during that service. The outcome was remarkable. It helped the people. Months later, the shepherds were still receiving thankyou cards for leading the congregation through those tough moments.
Be flexible. Make adjustments when necessary. You can always get back to studying what was on the schedule, but to ignore what is on everyone’s mind can seem to be thoughtless and cold to what has just happened.
The congregation seems to be in a slump. Baseball players go through slumps. They can’t get a hit. Everything they try fails. If the manager is sharp, he’ll see that. He may change the lineup. He may bring in a special batting coach to help the team out. Shepherds need to recognize when a congregation seems to be in a slump. There’s nothing really wrong, but it just seems that the energy level is low. The condition seems tired and stuck. Shepherds can keep hammering on with the schedule that they are on, or they can recognize a shot in the arm would help. Bring in an outside speaker. Immediately, some would respond, “but we already have our two meetings for the year scheduled.” So. You can’t have three? Maybe it’s not a “meeting” format, but just invite a speaker in for one Sunday. Have him present some things that will connect and spark some energy within the group. Again, some would say, “Bring a guest preacher in for just one day?” Sure. Why not? Know well the condition of your flock. Maybe it’s adjusting the class schedule that will help things out. Drop the quarter, or 13-week concept, and have a special two or three week class. Have a class that answers questions that have been submitted. Have a special class on parenting that is beyond the usual “Parenting 101” stuff. Change the class room around so that all the chairs are in a circle. All of these things take a bit of effort and time, but trying to move on when everyone is in a slump without adjustments, only deepens the slump.
The congregation needs to get back to the basics.The shepherds notice that some fundamentals are slipping and there seems to be a need to get back to the basics. Then do that. Find a way to teach the fundamentals and help the congregation to build their faith upon the word of God. Surveys, quizzes, homework, are challenging ways to help a congregation become solid in the fundamentals.
Much too often, plans are set and there is no deviation no matter what. No adjustments. No doing anything special. A death takes place, and everyone is sad. Yet, Ephesians is being studied and Ephesians is going to be taught, even though no one, including the teacher, is in the mood for that. The preacher is in the midst of a series, and he’ll stick with that, no matter what. Not recognizing the condition of the flock may result in wasted efforts. A congregation that is hurting, upset, angry, in a slump, afraid needs special attention. It’s just like at home. When the kids are scared, parents are there to comfort and calm them. Shepherds need to do the same for the flock.
The greater problem in all of this is when the leaders are clueless to the condition of the flock. They don’t recognize that the flock is hurting, scared, in shock or in a slump. Onward we go, even though the flock is hesitant about moving forward. This is the time for comfort, reassurance, calming, and leadership. But, sadly, it often is lacking. And, what happens is the congregation suffers. Deeper the group sinks into discouragement. The leaders lose credibility because they appear to be out of touch and indifferent to what is going on. They can be so stuck in a plan that never changes, that people are dying spiritually right there in the pews.
Know well the condition of your flocks. How is everyone doing? Do you really know?