If you are like me, then you have probably wondered how to be an effective self-shepherd. God’s family—the church—is absolutely essential and necessary to our growth. We cannot be Lone Ranger Christians. But we can’t always talk to a pastor or a friend when we feel defeated, and we are primarily responsible for our own progress, so we need to learn to be self-feeders and help others to be self-feeders as well. We need to learn how to be self-shepherds.
I recently read Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission, the newest book from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. One of the most immediately helpful parts of the book (along with Chester’s You Can Change) is a section on how shepherd yourself and others.
Chester and Timmis say that in order to experience genuine transformation we must first be clear on the gospel. The gospel is not positive thinking, it is not good advice, and it is not law (legalism). When I need shepherding, and when I shepherd others, I cannot resort to these three alternatives to the gospel. I must give myself and others good news. The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has done for us what we cannot do on our own. He has redeemed us from sin, giving us a living hope, and empowers us by his Spirit to glorify him. Only this good news can transform us from the inside-out. The first way we shepherd is to preach this good news to ourselves and others over and over and over again.
Secondly, Chester and Timmis say that the gospel leads us to believe the following four essential, basic truths. As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we must apply these specific truths to our circumstances.
- God is great, so I do not have to be in control (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 40:12; Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:11).
- God is glorious, so I do not need to fear others (Ps. 18; 27:1-3; 34; 93:1; 119:120; Isa. 40:25).
- God is good, so I do not need to look elsewhere (John 4:13-14; 7:37-39; Heb. 11:24-26).
- God is gracious, so I do not need to prove myself (Neh. 9:17; Luke 15).
This is not, of course, everything about God we need to know. But these truths will be applicable to nearly every area of our lives.
Lord, help us as we seek to shepherd ourselves and others for your glory and our joy!