Toolbox to Skillfully Shepherd your Fellow Church Members
The chart below is not only for pastor-elders, but for all church members who must love their fellow members as Christ loved us. We know that pastor-elders must give an account for their leadership according to Hebrews 13.17. It is also true that all Christians must give an account for how they built the church up, whether faithfully or failingly.
Ephesians 4:11–16 —And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
1 Corinthians 3:10–15 —According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire.
You care about your church members and fellow Christians. You want to help. But sometimes you don't know what to say in light of the unique situation your fellow member is in. This causes us to be hesitant or reckless. As a result, we often are scared into silence.
Andy Davis, a pastor-theologian at First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, came up with this helpful toolbox so that you can classify the member's condition, danger, and your biblical response.
I encourage you to (1) familiarize yourself with the toolbox, (2) consider a fellow church member you're burdened for, and (3) start praying for them in light of the chart.
Member Condition Spiritual Danger Proper Response Scriptural Support Living fruitfully Failing to Continue Encourage; Praise 1 Thess 4:1; Phil 2:29 Lacking information Doctrinal Ignorance Teach; Instruct 1 Cor 12:1; 1 Thess 4:13; Acts 18:26 Needing to get moving Laziness; Neglect Exhort; Spur On; Urge Heb 5:11-12; 6:12; 10:24; 2 Cor 9:4-5 Suffering Trial Discouragement Comfort; Console 2 Cor 1:4; 7:6 Starting to Go Astray New Sin Pattern Warn; Correct; Admonish Titus 3:10; 1 Cor 4:14; Luke 9:54-55; Matt 16:23 Determined to Wander Habitual Sin Rebuke Rev 3:18-19; Titus 1:12-13; Gal 2:11 Stubborn Unrepentance Apostasy Excommunicate Matt 18:17; 1 Cor 5:5 (Those Who Must Give an Account:A Study of Church Membership and Discipline, ed. by John S. Hammett & Benjamin L. Merkle [Broadman and Holman: 2012], p. 172).
Think of a fellow Christian you love and pray for them today in light of this toolbox.
If you don't think and pray thoughtfully for a fellow Christian but merely read this blog post, you may grow in knowledge but not in love and remain silent when they need your voice and love.
If you think and pray, God will give you confidence to speak truthfully while also loving with wisdom and discernment. The church will be built and the earth will be filled with God's glory.