Carol, I, as a member of Christ’s body, apologize to you and the many women like you who have experienced incredible pain, marginalization and loss from the church because we have not reached out to you in your pain with understanding and compassion. I am so sorry! May you find it in your heart to forgive us. I know The Good Shepherd would wish more for His body. Oh, forgive us, Lord! Show us a new way. Show us the way of a shepherd.
Show us a new way…show us the way of The Good Shepherd
As I processed genuine grief and remorse for Carol and many like her, I asked what would our ministry to women like Carol (see previous 3 blogs) look like if we were to set as our objectives those the LORD uses in Ezekiel 34:
- Feed the healthy
- Strengthen the young
- Heal/bind the injured
- Search/care for the lost
What if we were to focus on shepherding the young, injured, and lost, to purposefully bring them to a place of health? What if we were to find women with the spiritual gifts needed to shepherd women? What if we were to give these women greater awareness and understanding of the issues that cause women injury? What if we were to study the example of the Good Shepherd to prepare these women to shepherd women?
Women are lost, injured, and young. Healthy women need to remain healthy and shepherd others who are lost, injured and young!
The good news for Israel and for us is that God says I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness (11, 12).
What a contrast when The Good Shepherd cares for the flock! Search out the nuggets of truth in Ezekiel 34 with me. How many benefits can you find?
The Good Shepherd
- Searches for and rescues the sheep (11)
- Cares for the sheep, leading them to rest (11, 15)
- Feeds the sheep in rich pasturelands (13-14)
- Searches for the lost and brings back the strays, binds up the injured and strengthens the weak (16)
- Gives peace (25)
- Rids the land of wild beasts (25)
- Protects the sheep so they will live and sleep in safety (25)
- Blesses the sheep and provides fruit (26-27)
- Sends showers of blessings (26)
- Provides security (27)
- Breaks the yoke, rescues the sheep from enslavement, protects the sheep from being plundered and devoured by wild animals (27)
- Causes the sheep to live in safety; allows no one to make them afraid (28)
- Frees the sheep from being victims of famine and the objects of scorn (29)
- Provide for their needs (29)
Then they will know that I the Lord am with them and that they… are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezekiel 34:30-31).
Can you imagine women in your church and community experiencing even a few on this list? Imagine women finding places of safety, places to embrace Christ and gain health. Imagine these healthy women, who understand pain and the joy of healing, becoming shepherds to young, injured, and lost women. Certainly women would impact their culture in the way Paul exhorts Titus to teach older women to impact the decadent society of Crete!
May I suggest a new model of women’s ministry, a model that is structured with these four arms or branches? If every program, meeting, study or event fit into one of these areas, could we then be sure we were providing God-honoring, balanced pastoral care to our women? Our focus would be on people (healthy, young, injured, lost) rather than verbs (edify, evangelize), or events (Bible study, women’s tea). Could we ask the question, what do young, injured, and lost sheep need to become healthy reproducing sheep? What do healthy sheep need to stay healthy and become reproducing shepherds?
One such focus would identify women who are available to come alongside women in pain. (Obviously men would benefit from something similar, but since my primary focus has been ministry to/with women, women are the subject of these blogs.)
Shepherds of Women may be identified as women who have
- experienced emotional pain
- received healing
- gained understanding of the issue(s) causing them pain
- received training on shepherding others
- modeled the four Titus characteristics
- been approval by pastoral staff.
A resource list is compiled of women willing to be identified as Shepherds of Women and come along side women in pain. Pastoral staff and other church leaders then access this resource list as the need arises
A new model of women’s ministry focuses on Shepherds of Women as central to providing truly EFFECTIVE ministry to the broad scope of the needs of women. The focus is on women themselves, more than popular programs or events. Bible studies and events may be venues of ministry, but only as their purpose unequivocally is to lead women to The Living Water, Jesus Christ and the power of life transforming Gospel. In our desire to minister to women in pain we sometimes miscalculate the effectiveness of our delivery.
Some women can only receive sips of water from a teaspoon. In our eagerness to quench thirsts, we sometimes use a fire hose.
These blogs (and the book Shepherding a Woman’s Heart) are written in the hope that we can contribute to the solution, rather than criticize what the church is not doing. WE are the church, Christ’s body.
Men and women, I invite you to explore with me the elements needed to shift our focus so that we can begin changing this tide, one woman at a time. Perhaps the next Carol who comes through our church door will feel the awareness, understanding, compassion and skillful shepherding that Jesus would have given…the way of the Good Shepherd.