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To me, these three commands of Jesus spell out the process of discipleship and the need for it. Followers of Jesus-new and old alike-are in need of being cared for and brought along in the feeding process of their walk with Jesus.
Discipleship has had an imaging problem for years. The image of the shepherd and his sheep have been misunderstood and followed. The popular idea is the shepherd’s primary job is to feed the sheep. Pastors, known as the shepherds, are continually judged on how they feed their flock of sheep (their congregation). I know several pastors who have been asked to leave their Church responsibility of feeding the sheep, because the elders didn’t like the feeding process.. Pastors (shepherds) are judged on how they teach (feed) their sheep. This practice is all based on the misunderstanding of what the shepherd does to feed his sheep.
Listen carefully, the shepherd doesn’t directly feed the sheep. The shepherd does directly feed some baby sheep and sick sheep, but the shepherd feeds most all of his sheep indirectly. The feeding process of the shepherd is to lead the lambs and sheep into green pastures where they can feed themselves.
This is precisely what discipleship is all about. It isn’t giving them something to eat, but inviting them into the process of learning to eat the spiritual food of Jesus themselves and to do so within a flock of other sheep-within the community of followers of Jesus. It’s the age-old “don’t give them a fish, but teach them how to fish.”
What Jesus is commanding is what’s missing most within the Jesus movement-the process of eating together-the process of discipleship. Jesus is still saying: “If you love me as you say you do, then care for one another.” This is the dynamic process of making disciples.