We have been spending the last four months studying the four responsibilities of a pastor/elder in regards to shepherding: leading, feeding, knowing, and protecting the flock. As promised last month, we are working to put plans in place to shepherd all of you more like Jesus, and want to take the opportunity now to share two of those with you.
As you have heard by now, we are currently in a foundation laying stage. This past year, all of our ministry teams have spent ample time discerning who we are as a church, who we are trying to become, and what steps we need to take to get there. In short, we are trying to discern how we can lead you better in your relationship with Christ.
Over this next year people on these teams will begin working with the elders to put in place a comprehensive discipleship plan for our church, including both instruction and opportunities to live on mission. In short, we want anyone who participates in the various ministries at First Baptist to say, “I now know what a disciple of Christ needs to know, and I now have opportunities to do what a disciple of Christ needs to do.” This is a comprehensive project which includes our teaching times on Sunday and Wednesdays, the theology in the songs we sing, engaging in outreach opportunities here in Muscatine and around the world, providing resources in the library, etc. This will take time, but the payoff will be phenomenal as we rely on the Holy Spirit to work through this process to make disciples.
Secondly, and perhaps even more exciting, is an increased effort on behalf of the elders to know the flock. As I have confessed several times, I know all of your names, I know where many of you work, and I know some of your past hurts and struggles. But on a week-to-week basis, I do not know how I can be actively praying for you, how you are desiring to grow in the Lord in this season, or who is on your wooden nickel that you are trying to reach. I want that to change, and due to some structural changes we have made recently, it can.
Beginning this month, I will start the process of personally contacting you and your families once a month. This may initially be by phone, email, Facebook, or with lunch, but I will try to vary the method from month to month. These will not be hour-long meetings (though they can be if needed), but rather opportunities for me to check in and see how I can be praying for you, learn of any physical or spiritual needs you might have, and partner with you to develop ways you can be growing in each season.
My prayer is that this effort would not be seen as me digging up gossip or waving a finger for missing church the previous Sunday. Rather, that you would see it as an effort to love you better and to help you grow as a disciple of Christ. My job as a pastor is to help the body grow into maturity in Christ, and shepherding you in more of a one-on-one way has proven to be the most effective way of accomplishing Christ’s goal for the Church.
In advance of these first round of contacts, I am asking three things of you: First, be patient with being contacted. I will not be able to contact all 100 + families in the first week, so it may be the 4th week of the month before I get around to you. If you do not get contacted, please let me know, as I promise you it is an oversight on my part. Secondly, be praying about ways the Lord might be asking you to grow in this season. That will help us take a step forward right away. Thirdly, be willing to live in the awkward. For many of you, this will be new and therefore awkward. But awkward does not necessarily mean bad, nor does it mean it will be perpetual. Over time, these conversations will become more natural, more loving, and spiritually richer as we all grow in the Lord.
I am already looking forward to beginning these shepherding contacts and knowing you deeper. I pray the Lord would place it on your heart to eagerly anticipate them as well!