I have spent the past few months talking about the various functions of a pastor/elder/shepherd. So far, we have seen from Scripture that pastors/elders/shepherds are to both feed and lead the sheep. This month we are going to see a third function: knowing the sheep.
We see in John 10:14-15 that Jesus is the good shepherd. And in his words, “I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father.” In this verse we see the loving relationship both between Jesus and the Father, but also how that extends into a loving relationship of knowing and being known by the Good Shepherd. In turn, pastors/shepherds/elders, as caretakers of God’s flock, are to know the sheep, which happens on both a macro and micro level.
On a macro level (church as a whole), pastors are to first know who are sheep and who are not. Although no human will ever be able to discern perfectly who has trusted in Jesus and who has not, pastors should seek to know, by relying on the Spirit, who has responded in repentance and faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ideally this is best accomplished through the church membership process. Those who are saved, and are thus members of the universal Church, becomes members of the local church. Thus, local church membership becomes the process of the church affirming who has and has not trusted in Jesus Christ. From there, pastors labor to feed the congregation as needed, assuring those who are not saved hear the gospel, and those who are saved are taught the whole counsel of God. This is one of the reasons why a high value is placed on church membership, as it helps the pastors discern where someone is in their spiritual growth in order to disciple them according to their needs.
Secondly, macro knowing involves the pastors/elders/shepherds knowing the characteristics of the local church body. Knowing the spiritual gifts which are prevalent in the body, its traditions, its past joy and scars, etc. Knowing the body in this way both allows the elders to discern where the Spirit might be leading the congregation, and then how to practically lead the church there.
On a micro level (individual members), pastors/elders are to know their sheep personally. In other words, every member should have a personal connection with at least one pastor/elder. This does not mean that elders are to merely know the names of the sheep, but to know their spiritual maturity, history, occupations, habits, family, spiritual needs. Then and only then, pastors are able to care for the sheep well, because they are able to teach, lead, and minister based off real needs instead of perceived needs. Furthermore, members then know they have someone to share life’s joys and sorrows with, someone who will care for them in time of need, and someone who display Christ’s love to them.
And with that said, here is a self-confession: I, as your current pastor, am not doing this well. While I have taken the opportunity to get to know many of you on a personal level, there are still many of you I have yet to sit down and know. In addition, even those whom I do know on a personal level, I still have not consistently followed up to discern present prayer requests and needs. Simply put, much work needs to be done, and for that I ask for your forgiveness.
With that, however, I ask also for your help in moving in that direction. The Lead Team has been discussion the process of deacons and elders for over a year now and what that might look like in our church. From those discussion we are desiring to move to a structure that, among many things, will free up the church leadership to know you all more deeply, to better care for your needs, and to disciple you more lovingly and effectively as you seek to grow in the Lord. I ask that you pray about these proposed changes, to ask questions, and then to ultimately help us as a church be able to know you better so you can grow as a disciple.
In His Grace,