As elders of The Church at Brook Hills, we believe the following three verses are foundational to our elder ministry here:
Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:1-3 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.
As leaders who will one day give account to the LORD, it is good for both us and for the flock to clearly understand what the shepherding language of “keeping watch over your souls” means. In general, your elders are responsible to know, feed, lead, and protect the flock. Elders do all four of these things on both a congregational level, as well as on a personal level. There are many specifics that go into each of these areas, but for now I’d like to touch on knowing the flock.
“Congregational Knowing” is done through the identification of individual members within our faith family through their profession of faith, and is accomplished primarily through our membership process (IMPACT New Member Workshop). This is how we as elders know on a macro level the sheep for whom we will have to “give an account,” and is also one reason why biblical membership is so important to a healthy church.
If “Congregational Knowing” describes knowledge of the flock as a whole, “Personal Knowing” describes knowing the sheep individually. With a church our size, this personal, relational ministry can only be accomplished effectively through the extension of Small Group leaders, and this is also one reason why joining a Small Group is so important both for you and for your elders.
In my own life, both church membership and being a part of a Small Group intersected in a significant way in the months the followed our move to Birmingham in 2012. Shortly after our move, while we were still visiting churches, I remember distinctly having a feeling of being “unprotected.” Who was I accountable to? Who would come after me if I strayed? Who would care for my family in a time of need? I knew this feeling was a result of not yet being committed to a local church. A short time later we began attending Brook Hills regularly, then joined a Small Group, and a couple months after that began the membership process.
Not long after, our family faced one of its greatest trials when we learned that my younger sister Sarah had been diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Sarah was 35 years old, married, and the mother of a three-year-old daughter. During her brief but courageous nine month battle against cancer, while my family supported Sarah, we were supported by our Small Group. And in our grief after her death, we were loved and cared for by our Small Group. In reflection, I can’t even imagine going through a season like that without being a part of a local church and a Small Group.
Two exhortations in closing: First, if you are a regular attender who has not yet made a commitment to a local church, we would encourage you to explore what biblical church membership looks like. Our IMPACT New Member Workshop is a great place to start. Second, if you are a member who is not currently committed to a Small Group, we would urge you to use this season find and join one. Our kiosks in the lobby or our website (brookhills.org/groupfinder) are both excellent resources to begin.
Dave Halperin is an Elder at The Church at Brook Hills. He, his wife Christine, and their three daughters Caitlin (20), Allison (18), and Lauryn (16), moved to Birmingham from Cleveland, Ohio, in Fall 2012, and have been members of our faith family since Spring 2013.