Understanding What God's People Need
Proverbs 27:23-24 undoubtedly refers to literal sheep but as shepherds entrusted with spiritual sheep, we would do well to heed the warning of these verses:
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever and a crown is not secure for all generations.
To get the greatest yield from the sheep, you need to know the condition of the flock. Don't put off investing and nurturing what you have because you may not always have opportunity.
How well do you know the sheep?
We are talking about truly knowing them, being acquainted with them, being able to distinguish and discern.
What is the sheep's condition?
The Hebrew word for "condition" means "face." The contours and details of someone's face is what truly helps us to distinguish one person from another. When we are talking about knowing their condition, it means we are well enough acquainted with them that we can identify the specifics of their lives.
Knowing their condition, are you giving the sheep the careful attention they need?
The phrase "give careful attention to" literally means "to set your heart to." The Hebrew word "leb," translated "attention" in the NIV refers to our inner being ... our heart, our soul. The end result of knowing the condition of the flock is not so we can analyze their state and suggest a plan of action for them but so we know where to pour ourselves into their lives before it is too late.
The contours of a person's face form a profile. In a sense, knowing the condition (face) of the flock is like identifying the person's profile.
- spiritual gifting
- spiritual maturity
- current circumstances
- joys and sorrows
Once you know the condition of the sheep you will know how to pour yourself into them where it is needed.
Perhaps we don't see results in ministry
because our efforts are not targeted
to the condition of the sheep.
We may have top notch programs and engage in a flurry of activity but still yield little difference when we don't do what we do based on the profile of the sheep.
The Apostle Paul inferred that people's condition determines the way we minister to them in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 where he suggests some possible conditions and what is needed as a result of that condition.
those who are committed: respect, appreciation, peaceful conditions
those who are idle: warnings
those who are timid: encouragement
those who are weak: help
In ministry, one size does not fit all. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul said that we are to "be patient with everyone," and so there are some aspects of ministry that will fit all. However, if we truly want to see the sheep flourish, ministry must look beyond the masses and see the individual in his/her particular condition. Ministry must get beyond using another church's or organization's pre-packaged program if it does not fit the particular condition of your church or group no matter how good and popular it may seem.