“Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…” 2 Timothy 4:10.
How tragic! Paul’s close friend and fellow worker (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24) abandoned Paul at the time Paul needed him most. Not only that. Demas abandoned the message and mission of Jesus.
Sometimes we’ll lose people to the church family permanently, no matter how hard we try to keep or reclaim them. Jesus lost Judas (Matthew 10:4, etc). The apostle John said some never really were part of the church family (1 John 2:19). Some must receive healthy Biblical church discipline with the hope they will repent and return.
But the best Biblical models for reclaiming are probably found in Luke 15.
- The Lost Sheep (v1-7). The sheep wandered away. It was lost. It was scared. It didn’t know what to do. It would have died if the Shepherd had not gone looking for it. Some people wander away from Jesus and/or the church family. They don’t know what to do to find their way back. The church family must go looking for them, help them, love them, and carry them back home. It is never enough to say “They know where we are. They can come back whenever they want.”
- The Lost Coin (v8-10). The coin was lost in the house. It didn’t know it was lost. The only way it could be found was for the lamp (Bible – Psalm 119:105) to be lit and the broom (Holy Spirit – John 16:7-11) to do some sweeping. There are people who attend church services regularly – maybe they are members or even leaders – who are lost and won’t know it until the Bible is clearly taught and the Holy Spirit is allowed to transform lives. This is why people are not to be removed from Seventh-day Adventist church membership records based on non-attendance, because sometimes those who don’t attend are more connected to the Lord than those who do (e.g. the Church in the Wilderness which was persecuted by the Organized Church in the Dark Ages – Revelation 12:6, 13-17).
- The Lost Son(s) (v11-32). The younger son hated being in the house so he left, went to a far country, wasted his life and resources. He was lost. He knew the way home. But he didn’t think he would be welcomed if he came home. He was right, and wrong. His father ran to welcome him. His older brother, the other son, did not welcome him. There are people who have misunderstood or hated the rules of God and have left the church and messed up their lives. They know where the church building is and when the services are. But they aren’t sure if they will be welcomed if they come back. Those who have experienced the love of the Father God will welcome them. Those who haven’t, won’t welcome them back.
As a pastor and church leader here are the things I have tried in reclaiming people who are lost sheep, lost coins or lost sons (both types).Continue reading