Some nights I lie awake, wishing for sleep, because I’m fretting about you. I’m worrying about your health, hoping for your peace. I’m tossing and turning about what to teach and preach. I’m vexed about simply keeping track of your coming and going. Sometimes I try counting sheep as I fret about counting and tending the sheep.
Yes, the charge of a pastor as expressed in John 21:19-17, is to “Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep.” I am not the shepherd, that job is Christ’s alone. But my charge is clear. “Tend the flock, Olson!” That charge is at time sublime, and often mundane. It even includes counting you.
Each week, for instance, Pastor Travis or I ask, plead, and cajole you to fill out a “Welcome Card” or check-in online so we know who is worshipping and what your prayer concerns might be. Many people have asked, “Why do we need to tell you we’re here. God knows we’re here.” While that may make some theological sense, I must tell you that God does not report your presence to us. I might also add, that as people who have faith in a Trinitarian God, one of the ways God knows we are “here” is through the gathering of the flock acting as the body of Christ. The reason we “count” the sheep is because you count! You matter! We need to know who we are to “feed and tend.”
According to our governing documents (*C08.02.c), to be a voting and active member of the congregation, to be among the sheep that we try to tend and feed, you need to worship and make a financial contribution in the past twelve months. By this very minimal measure, we keep track of the flock and know who we are to care for, feed, tend, and over whom we can lose sleep.
Each year, we are supposed to review the membership roster and inactivate those who have not been here. This is a hard thing and one of the things that keeps a pastor awake. Most of us who bear this charge to tend Christ’s flock take every sheep that wanders away, leaves in anger, disappears, or moves away very personally. We genuinely try to love every sheep as we promised we would.
This past week, the Council voted to remove from active membership those who have not been here and contributed for the last two years (not just one). We have not done any of this during the pandemic. We began contacting folks in October of last year and have diligently contacted people and reviewed the list a hundred times. Finally, as I checked the list one last time, I prayed for each. I prayed that they would come back and worship and we can reactivate them. I prayed that they have found another place that has become a spiritual home. I prayed that they have not joined the growing number of “nones” (people who claim no religious affiliation) who have chosen not to be part of Christ’s flock – the Body of Christ.
We use our Realm database, welcome cards, attendance in classes and groups to do the work of tending the flock of Christ; the flock of which you are a part. We count sheep because the sheep matter and are precious in Christ’s sight. To be a member of the Body of Christ is not a status. It is a job description, an identity that calls us to be together, remain connected, and participate in the life of the congregation.
In the weeks ahead, we will be introducing a new way to “check-in” for worship and receive a nametag. There will be two kiosks in the narthex (just outside the sanctuary) where you will simply type in your name, record your attendance and a name tag will print so folks can know you. It will work for guests as well as members. Please help us by using this system when it is launched.
You can check-in on the Holy Trinity app – if you don’t have it on your phone – get it here! This will be a way of sharing prayer concerns as well. Make sure you have activated your Realm account so we can “tend the flock” more effectively. If you need help, send a note to email@example.com
I invite you to help us tend and count the sheep during the day, so I can count a few less at night!
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor