As I drove to work this morning, my thoughts centered around the people in my small group. A deep sense of contentment filled me as I thought of the many group members who actively attend on a weekly basis.
Several different conversations and even lessons I’ve heard recently centered on shepherds and sheep, so I made the mental leap-- "Would a real-life shepherd be content just to have his sheep around him?" The answer is obviously “no." There are many other things the shepherd expects for his sheep. He wants them to graze on the green grass and to drink the water that he leads them to. He wants them to fulfill their ultimate purpose of growing and reproducing.
Too often in our small groups, we are content if people are showing up. I would suggest that we are overly content with that. We can be lulled to sleep thinking all is well just because there are sheep in the room.
If you are the shepherd of a flock, ask yourself, "Are my sheep eating, drinking, safe, growing, and multiplying– or are they just around?" My mind pictured a sheep that–although near the shepherd–was not eating and drinking. That sheep would be anemic and feeble. The shepherd of this weak sheep would not be content, and neither should we if our sheep are weak.
The problem is that our (human) sheep may look healthy on the outside, but be anemic on the inside. As small group leaders, we have to make sure that our sheep are living spiritually healthy lives, grazing on God’s word and drinking in the fellowship of prayer and worship. There are outward signs of that health, but they are not as easily spotted in people as they are in sheep.
Thinking about the end goal is a blog post for another day. For today, I encourage you to evaluate what gives you joy as a shepherd. Certainly, words can’t express the joy we all experience when the sheep are showing up. It really is a reason to celebrate, but let’s not stop there. Let’s focus our attention on the health of the sheep, not just their presence.
Where are you leading your sheep?