The Nehemiah Project
(Blog entry by Scott Underwood)
I ended my last blog with the words of Jesus in Luke 15: 3-7, and I will start this one with the exact same words –
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Let’s think about these words practically. In today’s world, the aforementioned actions seem foolish. Why would you leave the 99 sheep you do have to go look for the one that is lost? Why not be happy with what you have, cut your losses on the other one, and move your flock on down the road? That thought process is certainly easier when you think of the sheep as #57 or #43. But how easy is it if you think of those sheep the way you think of your cat or dog? The sheep are no longer just a number. It’s Lucky, with the black spot on his nose. It’s Brutus, the big lamb with the timid heart. Can you imagine leaving them behind?
We sometimes see the same dynamics at play in the church. When people are thought of as #134 or #297, it is often easier to not notice that they have not been to church for a while or seem to have disappeared. When it’s your husband or wife, your child or friend, you tend to be more concerned for them when they seem to be falling away. That concern is often heightened when that person is lost (in terms of salvation) or has just lost his/her way. When your person is hurting, you couldn’t imagine leaving them behind, tending to your other 99. But what about the others who are not “your people”?
With FBC’s current membership numbers of roughly 500 members, we would only be losing 5 people if we “left behind the 1”, as discussed in Jesus’ story above. That’s not bad, right? Unless one of those 5 is the faithful servant who administers the Deacon’s Fund, or the active prayer warrior who’s on her knees daily for the church, or the beloved Sunday School teacher, or the grandfather leading his grandson to Christ. Or insert your name here. Then, to lose even 1 would be damaging to the body and potentially devastating to the 1 (and the people who love the 1).
Let’s face it – the Christian life is not always easy. When our imperfect brethren and leadership rub us the wrong way, there is a temptation to distance ourselves from the rest of the flock. When life pushes down too hard and we break a leg, the flock sometimes leaves us behind. Sometimes, we simply wander off. In those times, it is not the healthy and obedient 99 that need the Shepherd, it’s the one who has lost his/her way. Jesus came to save and heal such as these. We could at least try to do likewise.
So what lessons do we learn from the Luke passage above? At least three . . .
- Every sheep is important, whether they are connected to other sheep or not. God doesn’t play favorites, is no respecter of persons and will “risk it all” to go after even one that is lost. Praise God that He came after me! And you.
- You can’t grow a flock by trading old sheep for new sheep. When new sheep are born, the shepherd doesn’t forget about the other (or older) sheep. If the Exit gate is as busy as the Entry gate, the shepherd is just churning his flock.
- There are “high maintenance” sheep. I have been one before, maybe you have been one too. If you haven’t been one already, your day may be coming. They may seem to be working against the grain or being just plain difficult. That’s what hurt and broken sheep (and people) do. And that’s why they need a Good Shepherd.
So how do we go after lost or hurt sheep? Read the blog next week when I will talk about making every effort.
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On October 16th Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 5:1-13 “Care for the Hurting!”