“I walked into church, the pews were filled with familiar faces and yet I felt like a stranger. I felt alone. Do they see me? Do they notice that I am slowly fading away?
Can they care that I sat in my room for hours last night fighting to stay alive? Fighting the desire to just end my life. I don’t know if I can go on. I don’t know if I have the strength. Where are the people who should care? Where are those that are suppose to love me?”
Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to love the one.
“It’s been two years since my husband died. I feel alone. My friends were our friends, now they keep their distance, feeling uncomfortable, unsure what to say. I wish there was a ministry for me, but I don’t feel there is a place to connect anywhere.”
Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to comfort the one.
“I have missed two month of church due to illness. I haven’t been able to drive for weeks due to car problems. No one stops in to visit me. No one has come by or called to see if I am okay. I guess I thought the body of Christ took care of their own. I though being apart of a church meant family.”
Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to care for the one.
“My husband stopped attending church with me quite some time ago. I’ve been praying that someone, the pastor or leaders might call on him to see why he stopped coming. But they don’t even ask me where he is. Do they notice? Do they care?
Is it possible for a church member to just stop coming and no one notices? Is that right? Is is it showing love? I don’t understand.”
Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to pursue the one.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4Recently I have noticed a trend. I have no real statistics to back up what I am about to say, it just comes from listening and observing over the last couple of years. The conversations above come from those I’ve talked to or have come into contact with through social media.
I have many more examples I could share of those who have wondered off from church. They are both non-believers and what I call nominal believers. (those who have made a profession of faith but show no real evidence or commitment). Their church attendance has dropped and it’s likely that soon they will drift away from church altogether or find fellowship else where.
This saddens my heart. Whether we mean to or not we are sending a message to those on the peripheral that we do not care about them. Many have gone to leadership and expressed their concerns and shared their hurt only to be told they should get more involved. They are often told they don’t feel apart of the church because they have made no effort to get to know others.
This simply is not always true. Many have showed up at Bible Studies, Sunday School, Church picnic’s, retreats, and other opportunities for fellowship to sit alone and left feeling even more alone.
So they leave. They wander away. No one notices. No one pursues. If they do notice they just shrug it off and say it was their own fault for not trying.
There is One who sees. Jesus notices. Jesus sees the one who is hurting. Who needs a friend. Who needs a savior.
I’ve been asking what is my responsibility? It’s easy to say the leadership and/or pastors should pursue the one that leaves. The one who is hurting. It’s easy to shift the responsibilities to church leadership, but I am not so sure it’s what Jesus would have me do.
Maybe I am to come away from the flock where there is safety and familiarity to pursue the one who is wandering away or about to wander away.
I understand there are those that will leave and there isn’t anything you can do to stop them. But I think about the many who leave because no one bothered to “circle around them” in order to keep them in the fold. But to circle around someone means that
We would have to leave the comfort and safety of the ninety-nine. This includes pastors, leaders and those strong believers that are mature enough to leave and pursue. It’s easy for all of us to want to stay were it feels safe.
Jesus calls us to pursue the one not the ninety-nine.
Jesus came to the sick not the healthy.
In my humble opinion, He is expecting us to do the same as He did. I believe He is calling us to go to those who are sick and wandering away. He would have us to pursue them.' He would have us, as individuals, to come away from the safety of "our people" and pursue those not in our circle. Be more inclusive instead of exclusive.
Matt 9":10-13 says “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Oh Father, help me to see those that are about to leave. Those who are hurting and giving up. Help me to see Your children as You see them. Help me to understand when and how you are calling me to feed, care, love and pursue Your sheep.