I am absolutely convinced that there has never been a genuine missional movement—the kind that has both exponential growth as well as transformational impact across a wide domain—that does not have APEST ministry. APEST, which stands for Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher, comes from Ephesians 4, and I strongly believe movements need all five APEST functions active and engaged in order to make any lasting impact for the cause of Jesus. Below is a description of the Shepherd component of the APEST model.
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The ideal of a good shepherd is widespread throughout the Bible (Psalm 23) as is conversely the image of a bad one (Jerimiah 21). The shepherd, the one who cares for his sheep, symbolizes one of the ideal forms of political dominion in Israel. Following the many archetypal biblical cues, fulfilled and exemplified by our Great Shepherd, the shepherding purposes given to the church will tend to be those associated with social connectivity and the church’s purpose to be an agent of God’s healing—helping people develop resiliency and protecting them from damaging influences.
The shepherding function exists to:
• Enrich communal experience. At its core, the Church is a community gathered in adherence to Jesus—the recipients of His saving, reconciling and healing grace. Friendship, mutuality, reconciliation and devotion in the midst of life together, demonstrate a better way to be human together.
• Social bonding. In many ways, the shepherding function develops the necessary attachment and bonding to the movement and its purposes in the world. The focus therefore falls strongly on developing loving relationships that mirror the love of Jesus in the world.
• Credible witness. The shepherds purpose is to nurture local disciples witnessing to the blessings of the kingdom of God.
• Protective abilities. Healthy communities are notoriously difficult to develop and maintain. Because each member of the community is capable of sinful actions and each community is made up of selfish people, community life is inordinately vulnerable to damage. Therefore, like the Good Shepherd, shepherding will serve to protect the church from influences and people that will destroy it from the inside out.
• Healing. This function spans from practical care of the sick and feeble, to prayer for healing, to counseling and reconciliation in broken relationships—a very important aspect of healthy community.
• Shalom and wholeness. The biblical idea of peace (shalom) involves not just an absence of conflict, but also the active experience of harmony, restoring of wholeness and the experience of godly prosperity.
• Inclusion and embrace. The members of the church are chosen by Jesus and not by societal trends and preferences. The church is a new humanity made up of all classes, ethnicities and genders, united together in Jesus and called into his body. There is a deep respect for the poor and the excluded.
• Discipleship in the Way. The local church is at essence a disciple-making system where everyone is committed to following Jesus in the context of all of life. Perhaps one of the best ways to articulate the essence of the shepherding function is summed up in the word formation.
• Human flourishing. The shepherding function creates a culture and an environment where people can thrive, flourish and reach their full potential as creatures made in the image of God.
• Cultivate the family of God. One of the main goals of the shepherding function is to draw people together and reconcile them together as a redeemed family.
• Cultivating rich and loving community. Scripture is clear that one of the main ways the world will know us is by our reputation as a loving community (John 13:35). Deep and meaningful relationships with one another, along with a strong value for each person’s story, exemplify the shepherding functions that seeks to create and maintain healthy community.
The roles of the shepherding person
At its core, the shepherd is the vocation tasked with creating and maintaining healthy community, promoting the common good, encouraging people in the faith and ensuring the welfare of the people as well as the broader society in which the community abides. Shepherds pay close attention to their immediate environment, noticing details about people and the state of the community. They have strong empathic aptitudes and heightened capacities for meaningful friendship and relationships. To be a good shepherd would be to know all the names and stories of the people in one’s immediate care.
Because of their great sense of and need for cohesion and unity, shepherds will find it disheartening when people leave the community. People, even the most unlikely and insignificant ones, matter to shepherds.
This blog originally appeared at the Send Network. Used with permission of the author. The content is an excerpt from Hirsch’s book, 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ. Order the book to learn more about the APEST model.
Learn more about APEST Intelligence with Alan Hirsch and Rich Robinson
Join Alan Hirsch and Rich Robinson to explore God’s DNA for the church, as revealed explicitly in Ephesians 4, and implicitly through scripture and embodied in Jesus. Beginning with an overview to get a grounding in key terms (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher), you will then consider the person and praxis of Jesus as he embodies APEST as a model for us, and then move to explore the implications of APEST for individuals, the Church, and society at large. APEST will help you engage on a transformative journey that will involve deepening your own discipleship, strengthening your leadership, as well developing the capacities of your church or organization. This course, and the other training available, aims to create a process where theological imagination and innovative practice in discipleship, leadership and mission can be engaged & activated in you as a learner, and throughout the Body of Christ.