Guard and Keep Watch
So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
As I made my final preparations for this weekend’s message on membership, the second step for connection at CFC, I was struck by what that step means for me. I may be part of the leadership in our congregation but I am no more or less a member than you are. We--every one of us--have a responsibility to serve the ministry and mission of this local church that gathers on Millersburg Road. We might not have the same function, but we rise to serve from the same foundation.
I was thinking particularly of my role here, the function I serve, and I challenge you to consider how you might evaluate how you are doing in your role as well. I was thinking about the Apostle Paul and how much he is known for his missionary efforts. We are amazed by his travels to preach the gospel and establish churches in the lands of the Gentiles. What you may not know is that Ephesus seems to have a particularly special place in his heart—the church in that location, I mean. As mobile as he was, he stayed with these people for three years.
As we come to the closing chapters of Acts, he has one final meeting with the elders of the church in Ephesus. As he leaves them, telling them that they won’t see his face again, amidst the tears of that farewell is a final exhortation to these leaders. He tells them to “keep watch,” “guard” their own lives as well as the lives of those in that church. Feed them and lead them like a shepherd, for they are God’s flock. As Christ is the “Good Shepherd,” leaders in the church are to represent Him in the way they lead. Paul’s final word to them is a call to remember who they are, and in light of this, to remember what they are to be doing.
It is interesting that the Apostle, in telling them to guard their own lives, isn’t telling the leaders to do something that we shouldn’t all be doing. But the function of elders is to also provide that level of oversight and accountability, not only to themselves but also for the membership of the church.
When you think of membership you most naturally think of the benefits you are paying for to belong to something. It could be a gym or a swimming pool, a neighborhood association or a gun club. Whatever the organization, we evaluate the membership based on the privileges it gives us. The church is certainly not devoid of the privileges of membership. As we process the challenges, disappointments, and grief in our lives, the sense of community we share as the local church is irreplaceable. But that is not why we belong to a church.
Membership in the local church, here at CFC, is a place of function, a place of finding out more about how we can serve instead of just being served. That this is true of our identity doesn’t make it any easier to move counter to our cultural expectations of membership. We have to work at it. As an elder of this church, I must “look” to my own part in this body, a member who serves not just because I am set a part as a pastor, but because I am a member of CFC. Our shared foundation, which is our union with Christ, is the launching point of a variety of functions in serving. Let us all look to ourselves, keep watch, and be about the mission of Christ’s commission.