God’s Word spoke to its original audiences, and it continues to speak today as the Holy Spirit leads and guides us into truth (John 16:13). It was relevant then and it is relevant now.
A verse that has rich meaning today for the church and its leaders during COVID-19 is Proverbs 27:23 which says, “Know well the condition of your flock, and pay attention to your herds…” Let’s take a look at the two parts of verse 23.
Know well the condition of your flock – in the original language (Hebrew), this reads, “Know well the face of your flock.” The face of a person is often used to denote the entirety of their being. To know the face of your flock meant that you, as a shepherd, would know well the current state of your sheep. You would know if they were well-fed, rested, and ready for the day’s journey. Shepherds were to know each sheep’s condition, temperament, and quirks. The phrase speaks to the intimate knowledge a shepherd would have regarding his sheep. Because a shepherd would “know well the condition of his flock,” he could care for them.
And pay attention to your herds – in the original language this could be rendered, “put your heart to them” – that is the literal translation of “pay attention” or as other translations say it, “look well to your herds.” It is a reminder that shepherds must place their heart and focus on their sheep. They must place the needs of their sheep above their own needs, and devote themselves to their well-being.
When you take these two commands together, you see that a shepherd’s role is to know his sheep, meet their needs, protect and feed them, and care for them. A good shepherd is committed to pursuing the best for his sheep, keeping them healthy and safe at all times.
During COVID-19, Bible study groups have moved online. Teachers, no longer able to teach in a classroom, have learned quickly how to use tools such as Facebook Live and Zoom to meet with their groups. Unable to meet physically for some time, group leaders who are excelling at the shepherding portion of their job have reached out to group members, reconnected with absentees, and are rediscovering that teaching is just a portion of their overall ministry as group leaders. Many are rediscovering the role of group shepherd.
Teaching a group is one thing. Knowing well the people you teach is completely different. The old saying is true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
COVID-19 is allowing group leaders time to catch up in the shepherding portion of their work. My prayer for you is that while we are practicing physical distancing, you are able to connect with every member of your Bible study group.
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At a minimum you should care and make people feel a little bit wanted. Please do not help create a second and lesser class of Christians. However, you should also have the guts to go to the leadership or clergy if you get the impression that there is a lesser class who are afraid to speak up or slip in a sentence that they aren’t really wanted. I know too many in churches who do not want to upset the leadership and so remain quiet even when they know there are major problems and people are being run off. I know some in leadership who do not want to hear about it either because they are beholden to the unofficial power structure.