Here is the introduction to a paper I wrote to our congregation giving them specific ways to make the elders’ job more joyful. Over the next couple of days I will list the ways we encouraged our people to help us as we seek to shepherd them.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17
In II Corinthians 11:22-33 Paul is giving proof of his apostleship by listing the various trials he has had to endure. He mentions beatings, being shipwrecked, thieves, hunger, and sleeplessness. Finally, he mentions the daily, deep concern he has for all the churches. We would not put caring for a church in a list with beatings, but Paul does. Shepherding the people of God requires great diligence and care. Perhaps this is why the author of Hebrews adds the above exhortation at the end of his book reminding his readers to let those who rule do so with joy and not grief. The elders of Christ Church wrote this paper to show you how you can help us in this task and what we are doing to make sure we can stand before God blameless (Acts 20:26-27).
Before we get to specifics, there is one other point: shepherds must know their sheep. Our Lord makes this explicit in John 10, especially verses 3 and 14 where Jesus says that He “calls His own sheep by name” and that He “knows his own.” Shepherding is a hands-on activity. You cannot shepherd sheep from afar. A shepherd cannot mend a broken leg from miles away. A shepherd cannot keep his sheep from running over a cliff via Skype. A shepherd must know and be present with his sheep. This is made explicit in the Hebrews passage quoted above. As elders we must give an account for your souls. That means we must know you. We are going to stand before the Judge of all heaven and earth. We will not just give an account for our lives and the lives of our families, but also an account for your souls. Therefore we must know the state of your souls. Expect us to be involved. But us being involved does not mean you sit back and wait for us. There are ways you can make our shepherding easier.