Each Christian is described as one of God’s 'sheep', who He personally loves and cares for. He delegates this responsibility of care to leaders in the church, or shepherds who represent Him on earth.
Notice Jesus’ last concern as He spoke to Peter before He ascended to heaven. Three times He said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). He wanted Peter, as a prominent leader in the early church, to have the heart of a shepherd and to care for each individual.
Each local church is similar to a sheepfold, where a group of God’s sheep are being cared for and led by one of God’s 'under-shepherds'. Church leaders must recognise that each Christian is ultimately God’s sheep. Leaders are to care for, feed and provide guidance to each person entrusted to them by God.
From time to time, God moves His sheep from fold to fold. Often, it’s through relocation or a job transfer. Other times, it’s because a new phase of growth is needed that requires a new environment. I heard one pastor of a growing church say, “We don’t steal sheep, we just grow grass.” This humorous statement has a lot of truth to it. Sheep that aren’t getting fed or who aren’t being cared for will move on to greener pastures.
Individual Christians that move to another local church need to ensure that they leave with a proper attitude and that they resolve any outstanding issues, if at all possible. Church-hopping is definitely not God’s plan. Moving to a new church needs a lot of prayer and appropriate counsel.
When people leave our local church and join another church, we must continue to love them and treat them as brothers or sisters in Christ.
That They May Be One
God is building His church, and His church is an extension of the kingdom of God in every locality. It is not one particular denomination or nationalistic group. It is His people, out of every nation and cultural background. There are all kinds of different churches to reach all kinds of different people. As the true church of Jesus Christ turns from competitiveness to co-operation, we will see the task of reaching our cities accomplished much more quickly.
A kingdom mentality sees the church in the world as a body comprised of many local churches, all working together for God's purposes. It is a day of partnership and networking, based on relationship, not on the particular label a specific church or ministry may have.
It’s a new day! God is breaking down the walls. He is bringing His body, the church, together as a mighty force in the earth. It will take the whole church, taking the whole gospel to the whole world, to complete the Great Commission. The last prayer of Jesus was that we would all be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:20-21). That is one prayer that will be answered. Let’s work together for its fulfilment in our time!
P.S. The blog posts over this last week have been gleaned from the book Transforming Your Church.