Harold’s lip quivered slightly as he wrung his napkin. He attempted a gracious smile, but his eyes revealed weariness and a bit of pain.
“Shepherd is a beautiful idea,” he began. “Looks to me like that is what God wants of me as an elder in this church. But I feel lost. How do I actually make this happen in the real world? The first three days of last week I was in New York. Then back here for two more marathon days fighting paper wars. My desk wasn’t even clean when I had to fly to Houston. So I hit the deck by 5:00 a.m. and run all day. I have a meeting today as well. Most weeks look a lot like this. And I’m not alone. The rest of the elders find life fast-paced too.”
“What’s more, most of our congregation runs the same fast-track. Young mothers, graduate students, sales managers, CEOs, attorneys, single parents working two jobs. The list runs on and on. How is a shepherd to do this thing? How do I get sheep smell on me when I don’t touch them except for a handshake and some quick words in the aisle Sunday morning? Or a quick phone call, or a cold, impersonal text.”
Ah, yes. Harold and his flock live in the express lane of a cyber-world, not in some serene pasture¾and yet he longs to be a biblical shepherd. Can it happen? Not easily or without intentionality, for sure. I won’t presume to lay out a path for all cyber-world shepherds. Yet we must not allow the culture to swallow up the designs of God! Indeed, some elders I know have come up with creative ways to shepherd fast-lane flocks.
Don, for example, last I knew, touched his flock of four high-powered Texas business and professional men who read through a designated short book of the Bible on their own each day for a week. Then they meet at 5:00 a.m. on Saturdays, before racquetball, to share practical “so what” for their lives.
John, another busy elder, tapped into a gold mine of shepherding and learning time that his sheep spent aboard airplanes and in hotel rooms. He collected articles and books, and copied them for his friends to take with them as “road reading” and journaling. Then he circled his flock twice a month for breakfast and processing what they had read. He says it moved his “shepherding quotient” up several levels.
Another shepherd, Charles, retreats with his flock of graduate students once a month for solitude and silence and to share life-transforming discussion. Recently, for example, after a Saturday breakfast, they watched the movie on Francis of Assisi, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and the spent half the day reflecting on its implications for their lives.
These are just a few ideas that may “prime your pump.” Come up with some strategies of your own. I’m confident you can: Harold and Don and Charles did.
Watch this space next month for more creative strategies to shepherd in the fast lane.
Lynn Anderson is the founder of Hope Network Ministries, which has been coaching, mentoring, and equipping Christian leaders since 1996. His 58 years in ministry include 11 years of church planting in his native Canada. He also served for 19 years as Senior Minister at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, and 5 years as Senior Minister at Preston Road in Dallas. In addition to personally coaching hundreds of church leaders, Lynn has taught graduate ministry courses as an adjunct professor at Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University. He has also authored numerous books, including “They Smell Like Sheep” and “Talking Back to God.” Lynn and his wife Carolyn live in San Antonio, Texas. They have four children, 10 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.