Sheepology, an Article by Adam Zepeda

Greetings from the Inland Empire! Praise be to God as he continues to make himself known to people of all nations. Since January 1, 2016, our congregation has witnessed 9 additions to our church: 4 baptisms, 2 restorations, and 3 placed memberships.
On January 31, 2016, our Evangelist Adam Zepeda published an article that set a standard of love for the discples in the Inland Empire. Titled “Sheepology,” this article describes the occupation of shepherding in detail, relating it to Scripture and applying it to our modern-day movement. This article sets a standard of love by calling all disciples to be a shepherd, spending extra time with new Christians (which are related to sheep in the article) and making sacrifices for their spiritual growth. Learn more about shepherding and how it can be related to our modern-day movement by reading along…

Sheepology

Article by Adam Zepeda, International College of Christian Ministries

Daniel Baptism

Daniel rejoices as he climbs out of the waters of baptism!

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.’”

Ezekiel 34:2-4
The Bible refers to shepherds and sheep about 247 times, signifying their importance to God.  I made the decision to start studying out what it meant to be a good shepherd to disciples and came across the above passage in Ezekiel 34 that really spoke to me.  The book of Ezekiel takes place in about 571-562 BC when Israel was exiled in Babylon and the nation was scattered.  The shepherds were the leaders of Israel that were not taking care of the sheep: God says to the shepherds, “You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:3).  As leaders of God’s church, we can gain all the so-called benefits and glory of a leader such as preaching and being lifted up in fellowship and meetings, but God will say “Woe to you” if we are not taking care of his sheep.
So, how do we become the good shepherd God wants us to be?  According to Ezekiel 34:4, a good shepherd strengthens the weak, heals the sick, and binds up the injured.  We strengthen the weak with a practice termed “lambing jugs”, wherein we follow-up with new disciples every day for about two weeks.  We heal the sick by raising disciples in green pastures, teaching them the heart behind obedience and not simply enclosing them in harsh demands.  And lastly, we bind up the injured by splinting the injury, cushioning and supporting the disciple.  Will we be that good shepherd God desires us to be?

Strengthen the Weak

Jonathan Baptism San Bernardino Sector

Meet Jonathan (center blue shirt) , our first baptism of 2016 and the start of our teen ministry! C’mon San Bernardino!

A good shepherd can strengthen the weak with “lambing jug” practices, which strengthens baby disciples by following-up with them every day for about two weeks.  A baby never comes out of the womb strong and fully developed; babies are weak!  With lambs, 20% die before weaning and, of those, 80% die during the first ten days.  Starvation is a major contributor to lamb-mortality, occurring for reasons such as: inadequate intake, rejection by the dam, teats which are too large, or a difficult birth.  Starvation can lead to hypotthermia, exacerbated by drafty pens.  Thus, shepherds developed lambing jugs: close-quarter cubicles wherein the lamb and ewe (the lamb’s mother) build a bond, helping the lamb become accustomed its mother’s milk.  These lambing jugs reduce the lamb-mortality rate to 4%!
Lambs are analogous to spiritual babies (newly baptized disciples, or those recently restored in the kingdom).  It does not matter how strong the shepherd may be spiritually, the baby disciple will always come out of the water vulnerable.  Unfortunately, we can be so focused on comparing ourselves to others and our own performance that we completely neglect the health of the disciple who was just baptized.  We must not cast-off our babies and leave them starving, we must feed them the spiritual milk that they so need.  Failing to give the baby food can lead to hypothermia, because we are teaching them to give up everything to become a disciple but at the same time failing to give them back everything in return.  We must not place our newborn disciples in a drafty pen — Bible Talks which are cold and without unity.  If they gave up their family to become a disciple then you must give them family in return.  If you challenged them to quit a job then you must help them find a new job.  The Bible Talk is the shelter and home providing a warm place.
The Inland Empire Region has adopted the Lambing Jug principle!  The Bible Talk leader will create a “lambing jug” wherein all Bible Talk members will act as the baby disciple’s ewe.  Each day a Bible Talk member will participate in the baby Christian’s quiet time, sharing time, or prayer time. We will not let a week elapse without a discipling-time and a follow-up study.  We cannot say we want to be fruitful if we aren’t willing to take care of our babies by teaching them how to have a quiet time and teaching them how to pray.  The Bible Talk, as the ewe, will do whatever it takes to feed the baby disciple its milk and provide a warm environment.

Heal the Sick

Restoration

Jhoselyn and Alexandra display utmost joy as they are restored in the Lord!

A good shepherd heals the sick by raising disciples in green pastures, teaching them the heart behind obedience and not simply enclosing them in harsh demands.  The number one killing disease of sheep is a bacterial infection, pneumonia.  At birth, sloppy lambing conditions can cause pneumonia.  Pneumonia is most likely to occur with housed sheep than those raised in a pasture.

Spiritually, bacterial infection can be analogous to persecution from family or found on the internet, the sin of the world, etc.; but the worst illness is identified in Proverbs 13:12: “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  Examples of hope deferred include: putting hope in joining the ministry but failing to raise up; hoping to date another disciple but the other ends up dating someone else; or hoping an interview turns into a job but not getting hired.  When a disciple’s hope is delayed they will become ill and, if untreated, it grows and often will kill them.   Proverbs 17:22 says the greatest medicine for someone who is sick is a cheerful heart and a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  As a leader you should be the one who gives your flock a cheerful heart.  The cure to spiritual pneumonia is making the flock happy through the Word of God, by feeding faith, hope, and love into their bones.
Converting people in a sloppy way by not calling them to the standards of the Word causes sickness.  Sloppy conversions include: knowing they have a girlfriend without challenging them to break up; knowing they have a job that interferes with the meetings of the body without challenging them to get a schedule change or quit their job; knowing they have no job without challenging them to find one; failing to call them to share their faith; moving forward with the studies without inquiring into their quiet times.  Yes, they will be saved when they are baptized; however, they may become sick after entering the kingdom.  The conversion is clean when the disciple is called to the standard of Jesus; being hardline will birth a healthy baby.
The symptoms of a disciple who has spiritual pneumonia may consist of a lack of sharing their faith, quiet times, prayer times, Bible studies or giving contribution.  As a shepherd, do you know who misses service from your Bible Talk?  Do you call them and take them communion?  Do you even wonder where they are?  If not, then I daresay that you are the sick one.
Raising disciples in a pasture, rather than a housed environment, allows them to have fun and run free.  This goes back to Ezekiel 34:4 wherein God states “you have ruled them harshly and brutally.”  The Bible does not instruct us to “tell people to obey” but to “teach them to obey”. (Matthew 28:20).  We must teach the heart behind sharing our faith, quiet times, Bible studies, prayer, meetings of the body, and contribution; we cannot merely command people to participate.  Commanding without teaching people to obey is analogous to housing without letting sheep live life to the full as God intended us to live according to John 10:10.

Bind Up the Injured

Kelah Baptism

Kelah comes out a new creation on January 31, 2016!

The good shepherd binds an injured disciple with a splint, cushioning and supporting the injury.  When a sheep injures a leg, the shepherd will stabilize the knee by cutting off some wool to use as a cushion in the splint.  As the sheep recovers, the shepherd will slowly take off the splint so the sheep can put more weight on the leg.

A disciple can be injured in a ministry that has been ruling harshly or brutally; or by taking a lot of hits financially; or if a family member dies that wasn’t saved; or when a friend falls away; or when experiencing a relationship break-up in the kingdom; or if a spouse that is not a disciple is unsupportive of the church.  An injured disciple can be a remnant who experienced the former movement’s dissolution.  Injured disciples are different from the sick — the injured are merely impaired and we want to restore them to their full potential; they are not like the sick who are at risk of falling away.   When we are sick we do not desire to do anything that involves being active; likewise, the sick disciples do not desire to be active in the church.  When we are injured we hate it because we desire to be active.  The injured disciple desires to lead, preach, serve, go into the ICCM, or go on a mission team but are timid to take those positions because they are injured by life.
When disciples are injured we are supposed to stabilize them by encouraging them and not having them do too much work for the ministry although they may desire to do so.  1 Thessalonians 5:14 says to “encourage the timid”.  We must constantly reassure them that we are there for them because we cannot tell someone to repent from an injury.  Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to stop having a broken leg.  The only thing you can tell them to repent of is perhaps the foolishness that got them the injury, but they likely already learned from the mistake.  One form of encouragement is to put them in the evangelist’s Bible Talk, or another healthy Bible Talk to cushion them, and support them.  Another way to help the injured is by letting them put more weight on the injury and slowly allowing them to do more for the ministry and give them bigger responsibilities especially if they were in leadership.
In conclusion, God continues speaking in Ezekiel by telling Israel that if the leaders will not do their job, He will step in and do it Himself.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like when God gets angry and He feels He needs to intercede and take over the business we are supposed to get done.  When God is the shepherd no sheep will go hungry, be led astray or scattered.  With God, every weak sheep will be strengthened! Every sick sheep will be healed!  Every injured sheep will be bound up!  So will we change and do our job or will God have to intervene?
Adam Zepeda