𝘕𝘰𝘸 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘢𝘹 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘪𝘮. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨, “𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.” 𝘚𝘰 𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦: “𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘩𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮, 𝘥𝘰𝘦𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘵𝘺-𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘨𝘰 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘪𝘵? 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘵, 𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘪𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘳𝘦𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘴. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦, 𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘣𝘰𝘳𝘴, 𝘴𝘢𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮, ‘𝘙𝘦𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦, 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘵.’ 𝘑𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘴𝘰, 𝘐 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘫𝘰𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘵𝘺-𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦.
I was told by a friend who was a shepherd in Tanzania that typically when a sheep gets separated from the flock, it is because it’s following its stomach. It finds some clover and just keeps munching and walking and munching and walking until it is far from the herd and lost on its own. It is at this point that the predators will attack and take the sheep away to devour it. My friend also told me that no shepherd in their right mind would leave the flock alone in order to save the one, because those same predators would then charge the flock and steal away with 4 or 5 sheep. The difference is this: in Jesus’ kingdom the gathering sheep (the church) are protected by each other and the word of grace. But, all too often I have experienced the herd (the church) being so concerned for itself that it demands that the focus of ministry be solely on them, causing the lost sheep of the world to be devoured by hopelessness, sin, and death.
We are called to a fine line of ministry. To help build up the saints for discipleship while at the same time reaching out in love to those in need. Having been one who wandered off following that sweet clover, I know personally how important the church’s outreach in love is. I believe that this is why God gave us a variety of spiritual gifts and empowers us to use them: for building up and for reaching out. May God guide you in using your gifts.