In the return from the restrictions of the pandemic back into the gathered services we are going to need more shepherds. There are people who are yet to return to the church services and to the community activities of the church’s mission because of fear but also perhaps because they have wandered away. Many Churches don’t know exactly how many people are still with them yet. The need for the shepherd heart of the church is so important now. It always has been even before the pandemic. People have always drifted away from the church for all kinds of reasons.
Is anyone bothered?
The answer to the following questions reveals the pastoral heart:
Berating or building back up?
Getting even or encouraging into grace?
Washing hands of all responsibilities or restoring into community?
Again we will see the reference to the little ones. This is not babies but those who have fallen away due to the mistreatment from people who should know better (v6-7) or perhaps their own sins (v8-9). The Father will go to great lengths to see them return. Here’s what Jesus said, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18 v 12-14)
Why be bothered about the one?
You have 99 sheep. You have only lost 1. Why be concerned about the 1?
The 99 never strayed away, they never got lost and they never gave you any problems.
But this one sheep not only got lost, but you lost it. It may be its own fault for getting lost but you assume the responsibility for it.
If you can apportion blame then you don’t need to do anything, you don’t need to go searching, it is not your fault.
If you can blame it then you can focus on the larger number that is left.
But you don’t.
This sheep is no longer in the safety of the flock.
It began to drift. It stopped coming to the home-group. It reduced the Sunday attendances.
Finally it dropped off completely. Weeks have gone by.
Are you bothered? It is only 1 member, you still have 99.
It is just 1 widow. 1 young person. 1 poor person. 1 not very gifted person.
Are you concerned about the small numbers?
If you want to see growth then don’t be tempted by the largeness of 99 that you forget it is made up of 99 individuals who could all get lost.
To get back to 100, you have to keep an eye on the smallness of one.
This is mission.