Been reading a few books and resources here and there, and though they’re talking about vastly different issues, they all have a section on pastoral care/shepherding. They all concur, too, that shepherding is tough because we’re fighting a war as a body of Christ, against the enemy, his works and effects. With some contextualisation (thanks to our Singapore Army), let me attempt to explain what war we’re fighting, and the different aspects of warfare.
The Commander of the Lord’s Army – Our Lord Jesus Christ
In every war, there has to be one commander giving specific instructions and issuing tactics to wage the fight. The commander must also have seen combat personally and reasonable combat experience. This guy must have, in some sense, risen through the ranks.
Enter Jesus. I mean, it’s quite a giveaway that He’s the commander, as declared in Josh 5:15. However, allow me to offer three thoughts as to why He’s a worthy commander.
1) He is Creator (John 1:3). No commander of a local army can be from a foreign land. He who formed an army must have control over it. What more then, Jesus? The perfect image of God (Col 1:15), only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), Creator of the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). Only Jesus is worthy to take control of what He has created.
2) He is our Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). A good commander knows every detail of his army. He makes sure that no man is left behind, and ensures that the enemy does not have a foothold over his army. What more then, Jesus? Isaiah declares that we’re all like sheep who’ve gone astray (Isa 53:6). Jesus, however, is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11&14). He knows us, calls us and pursues us (John 10:3&14). He is aware of the enemy, his works and effects (10:9). Most importantly, He is willing to sacrifice Himself in order to achieve victory over the enemy (John 10:11&17). Only Jesus knows the situation through and through to be commander.
3) He became man.
A commander doesn’t sit still to execute his plan of winning the war. He gets involved. Even if all his designated sub-commanders fail, he will take on the fight. What more then, Jesus? The entire OT circles around the original sin, and subsequently, God’s pursuit of man, giving us laws, covenants to not let us slip deeper into sin. From all these, God promises a Saviour. He will achieve salvation through suffering (Isa 53), though He was more than capable of crushing the enemy (Matt 26:53 & Gen 3:15). He will take on flesh to reveal the full glory of God (John 1:14&18). He is clear about the goal of His incarnation and His battle (John 19:30). He was all-sacrificial and fully involved in the battle (Eph 5:2, Php 2:6-11).
Here comes what i call.. erm.. A-B theology. If there’s an A, there’ll be a B. If God is Father, there’ll be a Son. So on.. Therefore, if we’re waging a war, there’ll be an enemy. Introducing, the enemy.
The enemy of the Lord’s Army – Satan & other fallen angels, etc
He is known as “the adversary” (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7). In the New Testament it is used as the devil, and is so used more than thirty times. He is also called “the dragon,” “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The distinct personality of Satan and his activity among men are thus obviously recognized. He tempted our Lord in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11). He is “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” (12:24). He is “the constant enemy of God, of Christ, of the divine kingdom, of the followers of Christ, and of all truth; full of falsehood and all malice, and exciting and seducing to evil in every possible way.” His power is very great in the world. He is a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Men are said to be “taken captive by him” (2 Tim. 2:26). Christians are warned against his “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and called on to “resist” him (James 4:7). Christ redeems his people from “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Satan has the “power of death,” not as lord, but simply as executioner. He was cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18), led our first parents in rebellion (Gen 3), and God proceeds to procure a curse on him (Gen 3:15). Bad news, too, ’cause he ALSO has an army (Mark 5:9, Luke 11:26).
The Army of the Lord – The Body of Christ
Artillery – Preachers/Congregational Bible Teachers
“The primary role of the Artillery is to deliver timely, accurate and effective fire in support of the manoeuvre force to accomplish its missions. As the Artillery is an indirect fire support system, the gunners at the weapons do not need to see the targets in order to engage fire.” – Singapore Army
Artillery shells/bombing produces huge impacts. Similarly, good preachers & expositors of the Word make a huge impact to the congregation. If the preaching is good, well thought-through, doctrinally sound, the congregation will already have a enormous advantage moving into enemy territory. However, preachers, like what the Singapore Army says, “do not need to see the targets”, because they can technically preach whatever they like, so long as it’s gospel-centred. If preaching was all that was present in the Church, the enemy will not be fully defeated, because there’ll likely be areas not bombarded by the preacher.
Armour/Army Medical Services – Cell Group Leaders/AG Leaders
“A synergy of men and mobile firepower, resulting in an impressive show of force – Armour provides impregnable support for land forces defending key objectives. Yet, it is flexible enough to be deployed at a moment’s notice, to seize ground and punch through enemy defences.” – Singapore Army
Well, when i was in the Army, they told me that without the Armour formation, the Army will be quite useless. Indeed it is true. The Armour formation penetrates into enemy territory to gain ground. Of course, too, we must have medical support in the field. Isn’t it the same for our AG leaders? Our AG leaders act as first and foremost, lay teachers of the Word, and act also as accountability partners. When the Word is being discussed and taught, it transforms lives for the better. However, this doesn’t occur naturally. Leaders, like in 2 Tim 3:10 are to demonstrate and exemplify “my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness” to, eventually, by the authority of Scripture, exercise the charge of Paul in 2 Tim 3:16-17. In turn, members of the AG will advance in the “good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:2). People often expect the congregation pastor to be the ONLY one giving pastoral care. However, we all know this is impossible (Ex 18:18). AG leaders then, knowing that individual fights are tough, counter against the enemy by offering good one-on-one pastoral care! They also stand above the one-on-one shepherding system amongst each other. They are the ones that “velcroes” people together, in order to let everyone pastor one another.
Eventually, with great AG leaders, the AGs should be; teaching and encouraging one another (Col 3:16); serve and honour one another (1 Pet 4:11) and share with one another (1 Thess 3:12). Surely the enemy will be severely weakened.
Commandos/Guards – Evangelists/Missionaries/Church Planters
“Commandos are the raid specialists in the army. They strike mostly under the cover of darkness and employ various means to get to their target undetected. They are thus adept at infiltrating enemy territory.” & “In the Singapore Armed Forces, the Guards are an elite infantry formation specializing in rapid deployment. Guards are known as elite heliborne troopers with specialist combat skills that give them an added combat edge.” – Singapore Army
Our Commandos and Guards are our nation’s finest fighting forces. So are our missionaries/evangelists/church planters. They are able to work independently, decisively and have extreme & supreme combat skills. They are also trained exclusively to weed out enemies deep behind enemy lines. Much alike, are our missionaries/evangelists/church planters. They are adept in being the only source of light in a pitch-dark place. As Jesus mentions, the world is a dark place (John 1:5, 8:12), and when we send these people out, they often have to work and deal with spiritual warfare head-on (Eph 6:12), often to dire consequences, like our Lord Jesus (John 3:20 & 15:20, 2Tim 3:12). Jesus Himself asks us to pray for such people because it is going to be very tough (Luke 10:2). Just imagine Wolverine (representing God’s servants) and Jean Gray (representing Satan) in the final scene of X-Men: The Last Stand. The more God allows us to do in a totally dark place, the more we’ll be affected by the works and effects. Given, also, that Jesus’s final instruction was culminated in the Great Commission (Matt 28:19), we would imagine that it would be absolutely necessary to go deep into enemy territory.
Combat Engineers/Signals/Supply & Transport/Maintenance & Engineering Support – Full-Time Church Staff/Members of Ministries
“As Combat Engineers, we specialize in Mobility, Counter Mobility and Survivability operations such as Fortification, Clearing of Enemy Obstacles and Demolitions.” & The primary role of HQ S&T is to plan, command and provide the Supply and Transport support to the Army during peacetime, transition to war and during wartime.” & “Together with ground commanders, ops-users, defence technologies, Signals had made the digital revolution possible and enabled the Army’s thrust into the digitised battlefield. This has given our forces the operational edge.” – Singapore Army
As of every fighting force, there has to be sectors that links together all the fighting sectors by fighting in the background. In the 4 forces pointed out above, they fight a background fight. The Combat Engineers are experts in demolishing enemies’ obstacles and set up explosives. The Signals Formation helps connect the entire army. The MES fixes vehicles for battle. The S&T provides important supplies for the army to fight. Similarly then, are our full-time church staff and ministry members!
Our church staff link together all our fighting forces. AGs, Missions, Children’s, Evangelism, Family, Youth, etc, they have it all covered. They make sure that the skilled soldiers are equipped and are linked up together with the rest of the congregation, and receive spiritual feeding. Similarly, the members of ministries serve as “brains” of their various ministries, crafting out what’s in need, and thus, sending out resources to help the cause. In all that, the enemy has no room to enter because our staff and ministry members are constantly fortifying our congregation.
At this point, you might ask, what about everyone else? We are soldiers too!
Infantry – Everyone
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. – Wikipedia
In our day to day life, we meet with Satan and his adversaries. Well, therefore, everyone is part of the fight. In this world, there are 2 authorities. Jesus the absolute supreme with His angelic army, but, there’s also Satan and his army – the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). In this world, also, we’re a slave to either sin or Jesus. Slavery with sin brings us to eternal damnation, but slavery to Jesus brings us to eternity in paradise. Therefore, having received Christ, being made righteous by His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), justified by faith (Romans 5:1), we continue to wage a fight a constant war against the enemy (1 Tim 6:12) in the attempt of holiness (Eph 1:4) and sanctification (1 Thess 5:23) because we are still in the flesh.
Paul mentions for us to put on the armour of God (Eph 6:11-17) in the fight against the enemy not because we are strong, but precisely because we are weak. Jesus Himself did away made Satan leave Him with the Word of God – the Sword of the Spirit (Matt 4:1-11). Against the enemy, we will crumble if we do not know God. Jesus brings forth the solemn reminder in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” In the fight against the enemy, only putting on God’s armour will help, because He who died on the cross and cried out “It is finished!” was the first among ALL dead to rise victoriously 3 days later, as firstfruits (1 Cor 15:23), bringing many sons to repaired and restored relationship with God (Heb 5:10).
As you’ve seen, there is one Army with many divisions, one Commander, one enemy. Til we get to Heaven, let’s live by Paul’s exultation:
Rom 8:15-17 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
To Him be glory forever and ever, and let’s press on in the good fight of faith. Amen.