Pastoring Your Neighborhood
Last week we saw how closely the function of a “Bishop” is related to healing ministry. Bishops visit and care for people. We can even see the verb form of “bishop” translated as “to visit” in scripture. Today, I’d like to talk about “bishopping” and “pastoring” our neighbors. One of my favorite things to do is visiting people’s houses, ministering healing, and sharing the gospel with them.
I recently re-read the book Prayer Evangelism by Ed Silvoso. It’s certainly an encouraging book for people like me who want to see our cities and neighborhoods transformed by the influence of the gospel.One of the concepts that Ed brings up is the idea that God’s “flock” is broader than the “fold.” In other words, he sees unbelievers as sheep in need of pastoring. Ed teaches Christians to become the pastors of their neighborhoods. He believes every Christian should see their neighbors as their “flock” to care for. In fact, in one place, Christians went to business owners and apologized for neglecting to “pastor” them. (The words “pastor” and “shepherd” ard the same in Greek, and in many other languages as well.)
These ideas aren’t just theories. Ed and his organization, “Harvest Evangelism,”have been successful with organizing coordinated evangelism thrusts which have had measurable results. In fact, I recently learned that after their efforts, Juarez Mexico has had a 93% reduction in crime. Here’s part 1 of Ed’s four-part report on Juarez.
I’ve been on mission trips to Juarez three times. It was the murder capital of the world several years ago. The news of transformation thrilled me! Christians are now discipling people in the local government and teaching them to stand against corruption. Now the Federal government is looking to Juarez as a model for reducing corruption.
Ed’s ideas about pastoring our neighbors reminded me of Jesus’ words:
Luke 15:1-7 (NRSV) Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Bishopping Your Neighbors
I recently went to someone’s house with a friend to order “salgados” for a party. (Salgados are a kind of deep-fried pastry, often with meat inside.) I’d never been to this house and didn’t know anything about the people. But I love seeing what Jesus does.
Before I even got there, I found myself imagining what Jesus could do. I imagined myself telling the woman Jesus was going to heal her left shoulder, and God touched her. I wasn’t even trying to imagine anything. My mind was just wandering, as it often does.
But I’ve learned that when my mind wanders and I imagine Jesus doing something again, the thing I imagine is often really a word of knowledge! I was just imagining it because I was thinking of how much I want to grow in spiritual gifts and give more words of knowledge. By God’s grace, I want to tell people I meet on the street what their need is and what the Holy Spirit is doing to touch them. I want to be so full of God and overflowing with his life!
So when we went in and gave our order, I asked the older lady who made them “Does your left shoulder bother you? Do you have something like bursitis in your left shoulder?” She did. And then I said those wonderful, thrilling words “Jesus showed my that your shoulder hurts, and he is going to heal you right now. I pray and ask God to show me what people’s needs are, and God heals them. Let me pray for you.” When I can tell someone “Jesus showed me your problem, and he is going to heal you right now” it’s so wonderful that I want to cry. I have the confidence to say that when I felt that the Lord was showing me a specific problem someone had, and they then confirm it.
Her daughter (who was probably about 40 years old) said “Pray for me too! I have bursitus in my left shoulder.” They both had it!
They both got free of pain as I prayed for them. The older lady had other issues such as knee pain, which also melted away. And then, what a wonderful opportunity to explain how this was all possible! Jesus carried our sins and sicknesses on his body.
I didn’t even know if they were Christians or not at the time, but I found out later, they weren’t. I share the gospel with Christians and non-Christians, because Christians need to hear it too. I still need to hear it myself, because it continues to give me life and reveal God’s power and love to me.
We Need To Exercise Spiritual Gifts For Pastoring And Bishopping!
Paul said we should “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts. James 5:13-15 shows us that elders should be able to minister healing. Because of the scriptural implications we saw in last week’s post, I think of the word “bishop” as especially referring to one who visits people in their houses and ministers healing. Become your neighbors’ bishop! Start demonstrating Christ’s care and concern for the people around you.
There’s a snack bar up the street where I go to get soup. I became friends with the family after the I decided to pray for some strangers and the owner got healed. More miracles followed on repeated visits, and I’ve shared some of them in other blog posts, such as Experiencing God’s Goodness In the Midst of Tragedy.
I have a responsibility for these people. It’s not the same as the role of Christ, who is the chief shepherd, but it is a responsibility. I’m a pastor, and they are God’s flock which I’m here to care for. I check in to drink soup and to see how they are doing. And I’m learning to care for them and guide them into their own personal relationships with the Lord. Wherever we are, let’s take the attitude that “This is my territory, the people around me are God’s flock, I’m a pastor, and I’m here to care for them and guide them into a personal knowledge of Christ.”