Do You Hate Blue Cards?¬†
When I was in seminary, one of my professors had us read Ezekiel 34 as a potent warning of the responsibility of ministry. If you’re not familiar with that passage of Scripture, God, through the prophet Ezekiel, decries the so-called “shepherds” of Israel, who were not really shepherds at all. A sample: “Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.” God threatens to cast out the shepherds, then he promises that he himself will be the shepherd of his people. “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep…”
This is the heart of God, the heart of Jesus, to bind up the broken, to seek out the lost and the straying. And as those who follow Jesus, we pray that it is in our hearts also. As someone called to a leadership position, the warnings and admonitions in Ezekiel 34 are particularly weighty to me.
Chapel Hill is undeniably a large flock. Anywhere between 1,200 to 1,500 people walk through our doors every Sunday. Many of those people are the hurting sheep Ezekiel has described above; the weak, the sick, the straying, the lost. One of the challenges we face as a church is, how do we care for the flock?
This might make you incredulous, but one of the important ways we do that is blue cards. Yes, those silly little pieces of paper we pester you with every Sunday. I get it, though. Some folks feel micro-managed, some feel like we’re taking roll, some just don’t like being told what to do (rebels!). It might be hard to see how filling out a blue card could help us be good shepherds, but I want to assure you that it does.
In fact, blue cards are a ministry of our deacons. The ministry of deacons is a ministry of compassion, and our deacons are the first responders to prayer requests, new visitors, and requests for help— all through those simple little cards. Your pastors and elders, too, read those prayer requests and minister through these cards.
One of the more subtle, and more challenging, ways that we can minister through the blue cards is when you, as a member, write down that you were there that Sunday. This isn’t about keeping you in line. It certainly isn’t about being micro-managers or Big Brother. I’m just as turned off by the thought of that as you are.
Rather, these are the scenarios we encounter as we “track.” Imagine that a husband and wife find out that he has cancer, and the wife ends up taking care of an ill husband for months. A deacon notices they haven’t been to church in a while, calls and learns of their situation, and is able to provide some meals and care in their time of need. If they had never filled out a blue card in the first place, the opportunity to care for them might not have presented itself. (This happens more often than you think).
There are other, more painful scenarios too. A member joins the church but finds that she isn’t able to connect to the life of the church. She drifts away, disillusioned and lonely. A pastor calls after a few months. She shares her pain and disappointment with him. As a pastor, this is a hard conversation to have because we never want a person to be in this place after becoming a member. But in the end, reconciliation happens. The pastor is able to find her a ministry she can pour her gifts into. She reenters the life of the church.
Now, I hope for a day when we care for each other so well that we don’t even need blue cards for someone to be noticed when they’re not there. I hope that when someone walks in the door they are greeted and engaged by those in their pew, and when they aren’t there they are missed. But we’re not there… yet. In the meantime, those simple little blue cards help us to care for those who might get lost in the shuffle otherwise.
My encouragement to you is to not be suspicious or resentful of these cards! Fill them out when you’re there Sunday. You won’t get punished if you don’t. But you might be cared for.
P.S. Want to know what music we will be singing at the 10.47 service over the next few months? Here’s a LINK to a playlist of the songs that our bands are picking from at the moment.