Think of a flock of 100 sheep. How can a shepherd know each one of these? To you and me, they all look alike. Now take that flock to 600, 1,200, 2,000, and more. How does one person keep track of this many sheep? How many does it take to watch that many? Let’s further complicate this by letting them all go, and have them return just once a week, or more often if they wish. Are these all the same sheep that were here last week? Did some not show? Did new ones came in? Does it even matter, as long as you have the same number or more than you had last week?
Pastors and Elders in a large Church struggle, with the shepherding of the flock, but that is what they are charged to do. A member of a large congregation told me last week, “We haven’t been to Church in four weeks, since we’ve been camping this summer. No one from the leadership has called to see where we were!” Now, I’m not sure who’s at fault here; the member for neglecting attendance, or someone from the leadership for not following up. As you can see, blame can get spread all around.
If you are a Church leader, I’m sorry, but I don’t have an easy answer. Having been an Elder for 35 years, I’m sure I could have been a lot better at this. It is work. Hard work. It takes almost everything you’ve got in your bag of tricks to keep up, and still you fail. You have to have a team that you can work with to inform you when sheep are missing. You must even rely on them to help you make calls and visits.
There is a term called “Dunbar’s Number”, which says that humans can comfortably handle only 150 stable relationships. If that is in fact true, take a good look at how many you have in your life. Remember this includes family, friends outside of Church, those in the Church, at work, and more. If you are a Pastor and six Elders in a Church with over 500 people, you might be stretching.
As a member of a congregation, you have responsibilities, too. It’s called communications. It’s important for you to talk to the Church leaders to let them know where you are. Tell them about your health issues, physically, spiritually, and mentally. Share with each other your trials and triumphs. Pray for and with each other. None of us have it all together, and we know that Satan’s troop are fighting against us every day.
As you work with each other, don’t take on more than you can handle. Jesus didn’t try to get close to every disciple that followed Him. He chose twelve to work with each day, and of those twelve, three were especially close to Him. Note, too, that He led them, He didn’t chase them. Know that some don’t want to be led, and when that happens, chasing them will just exhaust you.
God established the Church for people. We are to love each other, and care for each other. Through the showing of love for others, we will win others to Christ. No other religion has ever done this like the Church of Christ. The sick have been cared for, the hungry have been fed, the naked clothed, and the slave freed. This isn’t done by just the Church leaders, but by each one of us. There is an old saying that others don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. When others know how much we care, they will also be open to hearing about the One we know.
If you are a Pastor or Elder, keep working, but be smart about it. If you are a member of a congregation, help these leaders. Again, talk to each other, and pray for each other. The outside world looks at us, and how they see us behave will tell them a lot about the God we serve.