12/1/2016 2:23:42 PM
Our Good Shepherd Plan - Part One
Starting this week and continuing for the next three, we are reprinting here some information that will be handed out at our worship services. For those who are members we're just trying to make sure you have received the information. For those who are not members, this might serve as an interesting read into how churches watch over the spiritual lives of their members. God's blessings!
Dear friends in Christ,
Our congregation is about to implement a program we think will be of great benefit both to our members and to our congregation. It is called Our Good Shepherd Plan. The goal of Our Good Shepherd Plan is simple – to better feed our members’ souls with God’s life-saving Word.
It is St. Peter who wrote, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them…” (1 Peter 5:2). Peter compares the care a congregation gives its members to the care a shepherd gives to sheep. (The word “pastor” is simply Latin for “shepherd”.)
A shepherd’s job was two-fold. He would feed the sheep and protect the sheep. Those are both tasks that are done with God’s Word. God’s Word feeds our faith, sustaining it and making it stronger. And since our faith is in the gracious King of Kings and Lord of Lords, nothing can really hurt us, not even death.
Peter had to encourage congregational leaders to “be shepherds.” It is a joyful but often difficult task. Especially if the “flock” is larger, it is easy for sheep to slip away without being noticed. One of the biggest challenges in a congregation is keeping track of who is being fed with God’s Word.
It can be very difficult for a pastor or church leader to remember who is present on any given Sunday. It is impossible to remember everyone who has missed two or three Sundays in a row. Simply relying on memory, a congregation will not accurately know who is being fed by God’s Word and who is not.
This is not good. Imagine a member named Jim who was not able to make it to any of our worship services because of a change in his work schedule. Currently, it is possible that Jim could be absent for months before someone realized, “Hey, I haven’t seen Jim in awhile.” Someone might say, “Well, Jim should have told the pastor he would be absent.” That is true. Part of the fault is on Jim. However, Peter told a congregation to care for people like a sheep cares for a shepherd. That puts responsibility on the congregation too. The congregation would want to have a system in place so that it would know that Jim was absent. That way, someone could bring Jim devotions and the Lord’s Supper at a time that fits Jim’s work schedule, until he could return to worship.
Or imagine a member named Cathy has a surgery that she thought was going to be minor. However, there are complications. She heals slowly. Cathy has now been homebound for six weeks. She thought about calling the church, but she was afraid she was going to be a bother. “Be shepherds!” Peter says. The church would want a system in place to identify that Cathy had been absent, not only so it could continue to care for her spiritual needs, but also so it could provide assistance in her time of physical need. Perhaps some meals could be delivered, or someone could simply come by and visit.
Therefore, we are implementing Our Good Shepherd Plan so that we might follow the divinely inspired encouragement of St. Peter. The core of the plan is simple – we will continue to use the friendship registers. As the offering is gathered, everyone fills their information in the friendship registers as they’re passed down the pews.
Our Good Shepherd Plan will allow us to know if someone has been absent for awhile. The first “check point” would be four weeks of absence. At that time we would follow up on the member, simply to see if everything is ok. We can offer the Word and Sacrament to that member in other ways if something is preventing them from attending worship. And if it would be something else that is keeping them from worship, it gives us a chance to discuss that with them too.
St. Peter says that the Good Shepherd wants to feed his sheep regularly. That is the good and godly goal of Our Good Shepherd Plan.