|Virginia and Judy|
|Mama Jewel with my Melody|
I loved Judy's dear mother, Mama Jewel, and attended her funeral two years ago. Judy's father was a Pentecostal preacher, so I'm not surprised this song is from the Pentecostal Praises hymnal. I love this hymn too, and have sung it often with my older children both as a morning song and a bedtime lullaby, and often in between. I'm sure that as adults and older teens, they can still sing the first verse and chorus from memory!
One reason I like this song is that it talks about God's gracious hospitality toward us in preparing a place for us in Heaven. On a more temporal level, hospitality is something I have seen modeled in Judy and her husband Bart. Yes, they invite us over for "official" church gatherings; Friday night's dinner was for the folks that Bart cares for as an elder. We were also at their house for a Dinner with Friends a while back and we used to go to a Bible study there. However, there have also been the times that our family, or my husband and I, or even just I have been there for more personal fellowship or counsel.
I have to admit that when the pastor of our little Presbyterian congregation recently announced a "shepherding plan" coming up, just the phrase triggered a negative reaction in me. Like many of the readers here at Watch the Shepherd, I know of too many religious organizations that do "shepherding" in an more invasive way which ends up manipulating and controlling members. This abuse of spiritual authority can be deeply damaging, as I have learned from my research on the "shepherding / discipleship movement" that started in the 1970's. My own personal experiences with "shepherding" have been rather mild, comparatively speaking, but enough to give me the chills when I even hear the word. The focus is not on "the wondrous love of Jesus" or our "victory" in him or that "his beauty we'll behold." It's all about how well the church member complies with legalistic expectations of human leaders. It's more hellish than heavenly.
Anyway, I was quite relieved when our pastor explained in a sermon exactly what healthy shepherding is and, more relevantly, what it is not. Mainly, in our church shepherding just means that an elder has been assigned to each family or single person so he can get to know them and be there for them. He is not there to boss us around or hover over us, though he will intervene appropriately if he sees us heading down a destructive path, especially if it is hurting others. That is as it should be. It's good to know that someone has got my back. I've seen it in action, even before we got officially assigned. Bart and Judy have showed up on our doorstep in less than a half hour when we've had a crisis - and stayed with us for hours. They have often checked in on us by calling, e-mailing, and finding me at church on a Sunday morning. Borrowing words from the hymn, their "true and faithful... serving" has been a little taste of Heaven to me as I "walk this pilgrim pathway" along with them. These green bottles from their serving table on Friday night tell a true word: LOVE.
Thoughts on shepherding, liberty of conscience, and the use and abuse of spiritual authority...
- What Is a Shepherd?
- Dignity, Decisions, and Liberty of Conscience
- Recovering, Still...
- The Life of Christ, Our Identity in Christ, The Priesthood of All Believers, Submission and Humility