We often hear, “Once a marine, always a marine.” This expression does not mean that a marine, once he joins the Marine Corps, does not ever get discharged but stays there until he or she dies. This means that once a marine, he or she embodies the spirit of the marine corps. I think this truism is perfect for Shepherds of house churches; “Once a Shepherd, always a shepherd.”
House church is the matter of spirit. If people understand and adapt house church as a program, I am sorry to say that they inevitably fail. These people wonder why they do not bear fruits when they have adapted house churches, rearranging Sunday service, and adapting life series bible studies (everything according to the manual, so to speak). It is most likely because pastors or church members of those churches have not understood the spirit of house church. So, I give instruction to our visiting pastors that if they see anything they like in our church, try to find the spirit that makes it possible and get immersed in it. When they look deep inside, they will find a passion for saving souls and making disciples, which is at the bottom of serving others in various ways and forms.
If house church is not method but spirit, nothing really changes when a shepherd “resigns” his job for any reason. If a shepherd, who has eagerly served others and endeavored to meet VIPs, stops doing these things when he or she resigns, then that shepherd was only interested in the job title; it means that he or she did not understand the spirit of the house church at all.
Therefore, “Once a shepherd, always a shepherd.” We may step down from serving as a shepherd, but we do not lay down the spirit at the same time. Regardless of the title, true shepherds serve others where they are, and they are always interested in leading VIPs to church and in saving souls. Accordingly, if the current situation is too overwhelming, they should know to take a break. It is not something shameful; they should not feel like they are losing something important in life because stepping down from serving as a shepherd does not mean failure.
Some churches want to introduce sabbatical leave for shepherds, saying that they are tired. Shepherds get tired when there are no fruits or no VIPs in their house churches, and these problems are not something sabbatical leave can solve. If any of our shepherds has these problems, please resign from Shepard and get some rest. Please try to find good house churches for your members for their spiritual growth, and join another house church that needs your help. Joined power of previous shepherd and current shepherd will really revive that house church. Then, when that house church gets too big and needs to divide, the previous shepherd can lead the new house church.
Of course I do not mean to advise to quit when it is not easy to go on. God looks at our heart and values our faithfulness. However, if your house church remains stagnant even when you do your best and there is no breakthrough for spiritual growth, you can discuss what to do with your members and lay down your job as a shepherd. This is not at all wrong; it is a meaningful adjustment for future growth.
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