Who is the person primarily responsible for looking after me at church?
The first answer many people would give to this question is ‘the pastor.’ This makes good sense: pastors work in church to look after people, and the word ‘pastor’—‘shepherd’, one who looks after and protects a flock of sheep—implies that this should be part of their job. There is Biblical warrant for saying that the ultimate care of church members is with their pastors and other church leaders.
That’s where the ultimate responsibility rests. But what about the primary responsibility? That is, on a day-to-day basis, practically speaking, who is the first-port-of-call person for looking after people at church? The Bible’s answer is surprising.
‘Love’, ‘instruct’, ‘encourage’, ‘serve’, ‘teach,’ ‘admonish’: these are all words we associate with pastors, and rightly so given their roles. But the Bible tells one group of people to do these things—and many more—far more so than any other group: the group, ‘one another.’
Romans 13:8 – ‘Love one another.’ Romans 15:14 – ‘I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you are … competent to instruct one another.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11 – ‘Encourage one another.’ Colossians 3:16 – ‘Teach and admonish one another.’ No less than 100 times, the New Testament tells Christians to love, serve, teach, help, encourage, etc., ‘one another’. Who’s the person responsible for looking after people at church? You are—the Reverend ‘One Another’!
This is not just a trick to get pastors off the hook. Those of us whose privilege it is to serve as pastors still hold the ultimate responsibility, humanly speaking, of caring for people at church. But it is to make the point that, on a day-to-day basis, it’s to one another we should go first when we need love, encouragement, teaching and admonition. It is part of what it means to be part of ‘the priesthood of all believers,’ that glorious doctrine the Reformers rediscovered five hundred years ago when they realised that all of us have the ability and authority to build up other people in Christ, not just the leaders.
Which brings us to small groups. Today, we’ll be hearing in church about the huge number of small groups that are kicking off again this year at Trinity City. There are groups across our gatherings for everyone, including teenagers (Fusion), uni students (Dig), workers (Trinity Young Workers), women who meet during the day (Terrace Studies) and internationals (TIBS). But whether you’re a young worker or an old retiree, a man or a woman, or speak English as your first or fifth language, the main category we all belong to is ‘one another’. Therefore, if we’re going to care for each other—particularly in a church as big as Trinity City—joining a small group is a great way to do it. If you’re not part of one already, why don’t you sign up today?