Monday, December 10, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 13)

Read entire series in one article here, or as a collection of all posts here.

Quoting from Part 2 of Pulpit Magazine's article on church membership with regards to pastors'/elders' responsibilities in shepherding God's sheep:

The specific duties given to these elders presuppose a clearly defined group of church members who are under their care...Those responsibilities require that there be a distinguishable, mutually understood membership in the local church. Elders can shepherd the people and give an account to God for their spiritual well-being only if they know who they are; they can provide oversight only if they know those for whom they are responsible; and they can fulfill their duty to shepherd the flock only if they know who is part of the flock and who is not.
As I've already shown, a "distinguishable, mutually understood" membership in the local church means those Christians who are assembled. This is very simple, yet the authors of this article, along with the elder that interacts in the comments section, have the idea that pastors have no idea who God's sheep are. Their solution is to create a scheme where the sheep are burdened with the responsibility to come forward and submit themselves to these men. Only those who do so are deemed worthy of shepherding. Continuing with their thought process:

The elders of a church are not responsible for the spiritual well-being of every individual who visits the church or who attends sporadically. Rather, they are primarily responsible to shepherd those who have submitted themselves to the care and the authority of the elders, and this is done through church membership.
It must be noted here that sheep are sheep, prone to wander. Sheep may not even know to "come forward" or if they do, they may be in such a difficult spot in life that they aren't even able to. Jesus spoke of the shepherd who left the 99 to go after the one straying sheep. With the Grace Community model of church from this article, the pastors might not even know that a sheep is missing. A comment from JackW in the comments section really brings light to the issue:

Jesse, Is it possible that this formal membership deal came about because Elders wanted to define their own responsibility and accountability? An Elder should have a pretty close relationship with the One who builds His church and knows who His sheep are, right? An Elder should have the discernment to know who is under his overview, right? … or have they exchanged discernment for a list? Will the Elder not be accountable for all the goats that are on his list as well as the sheep that are not? If the Lord builds His church by sending a sheep your way, are you not going to provide accountability or minister to him because he is not on your list? “… all of this necessarily entails membership.” Sorry, that’s not making sense to me.
Here JackW hits the nail on the head. Many pastors are defining their own responsibility and accountability, ignoring what God already wrote on the subject, and as a result they can't even see God's sheep. They have blinded themselves.

Part 12 . . . . . . . . Part 14

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