Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep (Luke 15:4-7.) When he noticed that one was missing, he left the 99 as he went to search for the one lost sheep. We can pick up two quick applications for ministry in the church.
- Usually, only a small part of the flock is suffering at one time. The 99 were fine and did not need close attention.
- Although only one out of 100 was lost, the shepherd focused his attention on that one sheep. God expects us to do ministry to the level of one percent.
That level of ministry is impossible for one person to carry out alone. Moses tried to do that. Exodus 18 describes a long line of people waiting all day to see Moses. The people's needs were not being met and Moses was wearing himself out. Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had a better way. He suggested that trustworthy leaders be selected for every 10 families, along with higher level leaders for groups of 50, 100, and 1000.
Centuries later the early church would face a dispute over the distribution of food. The Apostles were called in to rule on the matter. They decided on a shared ministry plan. They would focus on the ministry of prayer and the Word and seven spiritually mature leaders would take care of the ministry to widows (Acts 6.)
These three stories teach us about the community of God's people. Churches usually use Sunday school and other small group meetings to maintain community. Other methods include service and social groups. These groups help folks minister to one another in good times and bad.
Another level of care comes through deacon ministry. Each deacon has a number of families for which to provide pastoral care. Some of these folks are no longer able to attend church but are still part of our spiritual family. Some are not yet strongly connected to the church but they, too, are part of our flock. This ministry of community is an important part of church life. It is the thread that ties the worship, teaching, serving and giving together. We cannot neglect it.