By Ward Shope
While some of us have well over a thousand “friends” on Facebook, researchers tell us that each of us – even if we’re good at them – can handle only 150 meaningful relationships at one time. Most of us have far less. Since New Life has about 575 members and regular attenders, and I have other meaningful relationships outside of the church such as family, colleagues, and schoolmates, there will be a number of people here I will know only as acquaintances. I might greet you warmly by name on a Sunday morning while having no understanding of your heart.
The Bible assumes close personal connections among those in a church. Jesus tells his disciples that the world will know them by their unity with one another (John 17:21). Paul refers repeatedly to believers as brothers and sisters. Peter calls us to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). We won’t be able to do this with everyone at New Life, but the Session Shepherding Team wants everyone to have someone(s) that knows the movement of their heart and mind. It’s good to know others, but being known by others is where true spiritual care can start.
How can we more empirically determine whether someone has someone else watching over their life for their spiritual good? Some session members have been proposing certain benchmarks. Does a person attend worship 3-4 times a month? That’s good, but it doesn’t guarantee they are known. Are they involved in a smaller group for fellowship and spiritual growth like a home group, Women’s Bible Study, or a men’s group? Are they involved in service or ministry through the church with others?
None of these benchmarks guarantees that a person is known and being cared for. We’re all good at creating obstacles in the areas of our lives that we don’t want to have confronted. But seeking to put people in connections with others becomes a tool the Spirit can use to provide for the spiritual good of us all.
On the third Tuesday of the month during the school year, some elders work their way through the directory, calling people in the church to pray for them. Often we see the Lord’s timing in this. But for regular pastoral care, we all need personal connections that walk alongside us and yearn for our good.