Ok, young and hip pastor, here’s my question: who are your people? When you stand before Jesus and give an account for how you cared for His church and the people he entrusted to your care, how will you answer that?
“Well, I had lunch with every single person who came to my church.”
“I only talked to my friends.”
“I personally followed-up with ever first, second, third, and fourth-time visitor.”
“I led a church-wide fantasy football league.”
This issue is not insignificant, but can be treated as such. Pastors/Elders of churches have to be able to oversee their people; and, thus, they must know what is meant by “their people.”
Hebrews 13:17 states the issue: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
This goes both ways. The shepherd must know to whom this verse applies. Likewise, the congregant needs to know who cares for them and watches over their souls as one who will give an account. One who will give an account. Those words haunt me. Again I ask: how do you know who to care for? Think about it.
- If you care only for leaders then who cares about the other people committed to your church who are involved in different ways but aren’t leading? Are they second-class?
- When you meet as elders to discuss the flock, care for the flock, pray for the flock, and lead the flock, whom do you discuss primarily?
- (Less important but still something to consider.) How do you handle weddings and funerals? Do you give precedent to those who are members since you are their shepherd? (Just think about it. Know your answer, whatever it is). Personally, I try to give priority to members, then to those who are committed but not members, then to those who say “we want a pastor to do our wedding. Are you one of those?”
- When you have important things to share with “the church” about leadership, vision, etc., with whom will you share it? And why? Is there a rhyme or reason?
- Who do you want people in your congregation to care for? Do you have any plan to help them define a sphere of care? (I know the answer is everyone, but do you want everyone in your church challenging and holding everyone accountable, or specifically those who have joined up in the community together?)
Here’s the point: shepherds know their sheep. Who are yours? Membership helps us know our sheep. It helps the member and it helps the shepherd. Especially in a world where people come and go as they please so long as their own appetites are sated.
Join a church.