This week 3000 pastors will attend the Shepherds’ Conference. For them, it will be a time of spiritual refreshment, encouragement, conviction, exhortation, and fellowship. Logistically this does not happen without a lot of man hours both leading up to and during the week.
Monday the campus will be transformed with 600+ ants working on different tasks.To the outsider (or from an aerial view) it will look like chaos. But like ants, each one has a task that fits into the grand scheme of things. The result is a well-oiled machine providing meals, snacks, a coffee bar (both espresso and pour-over bar), shoe-shine stations, internet cafe, phone charging station, concierge, bookstores (yes, multiple), educational seminars, and of course worship! Wednesday morning 4000 people will be on campus to either volunteer or participate in the conference.
From an attendee perspective it is overwhelming. But think about this from a pastoral perspective . . . 600 of your people have taken time off from work or their daily lives to serve these men whom they most likely do not know! That is encouraging!!!! One of the unspoken or unthought-about encouraging factors is the volunteers who serve the pastors because they love Jesus.
People serving people in the church faithfully encourages pastors (whether they be your sheep or someone else’s sheep). But does participating in a conference mean you serve the church? Do you have to be one of 600 volunteers to consider yourself involved?
On one hand the answer is yes. Volunteering for an event, hosted by your church, serves the local body. A person loves Jesus, is committed to this particular ministry, volunteers, trains, prepares, and serves others. But does that make someone a servant? Not necessarily.
Consider, you can sign up, serve on Wednesday, go home, attend every Sunday, and not be involved in your church until next year on Shepherds’ Conference Wednesday. You can simply walk into church every Sunday, sit down, leave, go home and make this your weekly routine. Someone can ask you, “Do you go to church?” “Yes, every Sunday for 20 years. I even serve at our annual Shepherds’ Conference.”
But are you involved? Ask the NT authors what it means to be involved in the local church. They say nothing about filling out a volunteer sheet, just showing up on Sundays, or having a title or specific task (like greeter, usher, snack coordinator, musician).
Instead, NT authors say things like,
- “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)
- “But to each one of us a gift was given (grace is translated gift here) . . . for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ . . .” (Eph 4:7, 12)
- “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13)
- “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire each one of you (all) show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish (dull) but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12)
- “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10:24-25)
All of these Scripture references command and encourage the believer to be actively involved in other believer’s lives. This means we need to know others and spend time with them. You can not have a friend if you never say hi to them, know where they live, or spend time with them.
God equips every believer for the purpose of working in the church to help mature other believers and thereby maturing the church. Believers are to know other believers well enough to be able to confront sinfulness, encourage, exhort, help, and serve others.
We should know others well enough to contemplate throughout the week who and how we can encourage, serve, and love others. This is not just a Sunday morning thought, but something we spend time praying and thinking about. The Bible emphasizes serving and loving others within your church. Every letter was written to a church to encourage those in the church how to live and love. The author of Hebrews connects serving the church with sanctification (6:9-12). Those who don’t serve and love others will become dull / sluggish. But those who do habitually serve and love others will grow in maturity.
The emphasis on serving is broad enough to include taking time off from work to serve at a conference, but specific enough to indicate both habitual practice and relationship oriented. Therefore as a pastor I am thankful for those who sacrifice their time to serve at this conference. Yet I am also encouraged by those I know, who cannot take time off to serve, but show up and invest their lives in others within the local church. Their faithfulness and habitual love prove they are full-time servants!