I love the words go after from the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Jesus immediately personalized this story: “Suppose one of you…” (v4). Then he asks the question, “Does he not…go after the lost sheep…?” What is your standard of pastoral care? Jesus’ standard is pretty high. It is hard to have a higher expectation than the one hundred percent. What percentage do you shoot for?
Jesus set the bar for closing the back door very high. In the words of Bob Logan, “If we cannot watch our people to the one percentile we are not living up to Jesus’ standard.” The bottom line question when it comes to closing the back door is: Am I as passionate about closing the back door as Jesus was in finding the one lost sheep? Jesus’ standard is to not be satisfied that he is keeping ninety-nine percent of his sheep.
Often-times we excuse ourselves from going the extra mile with: “That missing person has always been a problem for our church. He’s a trouble-maker and not particularly generous or gifted. Maybe he will do better somewhere else.” Has it ever occurred to you that the lost sheep the good shepherd searched to find was no prize? It may have been a sheep with an eye missing or perhaps it walked with a limp. No matter its deformity, the good shepherd did not rest until he found that missing sheep. He also rejoiced to find it and said: “I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7) If you are looking for a Biblical standard with respect to pastoral care it is less than a one percent loss.
Does your church have an effective system for going after those who are missing, disengaged, or straying from the faith? What means are you using to stay in touch with people? When was the last time you made a personal visit? Do you have a system for making phone calls or hand written notes? Do you use simple social media touches, emails, or texting? No doubt, the standard of success Jesus relates is humbling. But it should cause us to ask how passionate we are about going after those God has entrusted to us.
If this topic of closing the back door interests you, join the conversation with Bill Calvin after district conference April 30th about the intentional actions he takes. He will share how over the past ten years the church has integrated nearly a quarter of all guests into the life of the church. During that time they witnessed 379 conversions and 227 baptisms. The attendance has doubled. Bill would be the first to say Bloomingdale is a very average church. What has taken place has nothing to do with great music, great preaching, or a great facility. But they are intentional about a few specific things. That is what he will be sharing about at this post-conference luncheon.
1 This article is adapted from the material in a forthcoming book by Bill Calvin on assimilation.
2 Robert Logan, Assimilation: Closing the Back Door, a self-study kit 1991 Fuller Evangelistic Association