Average reading time is about 5 and a half minutes
In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells a parable about a missing sheep. In the story, the shepherd searches relentlessly until he finds it. Then he lays it on his shoulders and lovingly carries it back home. The Lord wants us to follow His example and send out search parties to look for the lost sheep among us. These missing sheep are our neighbors, friends, and family who have wandered away from the flock.
Here are some specific ways you can help someone who has left the church:
First, pray for them. God promises, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Prayer is powerful.
Invite them back! The biggest issue facing former members is how to reconnect with the church. They could be waiting for the invitation, so you can be the one to help them find a path back. In some cases, a friendly phone call or visit might be all that is needed. Remember to treat missing members the way you would want to be treated. Offer a warm, no-pressure invitation. Be loving and nonjudgmental, and leave room for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.
We should also “receive one another, just as Christ received us” (Romans 15:7). Be prepared to receive with open arms those who return, as the father received the prodigal son (Luke 15:20). The shepherd in Jesus’ story called his friends and neighbors in for a celebration. He told them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!”
At the end of the parable, Jesus says, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Shouldn’t we feel the same way? Imagine how a person would feel if the entire church turned out to celebrate their return!
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” Isaiah 58:12