CONVERSATION: Did You Know There Are Lost Sheep Inside of Your Church?

When I saw the conversation portion of Cayla's blog, I knew I had to write. I do not have an intriguing title like I wish I did. I am not sure if what I have to say fits in with this space, because I am not someone who was hurt by any church member or organization directly. Due to a string of events that have taken place during my church journey though, I do feel like I have some stuff to say and a challenge for anyone willing to read.  

I believe many of us see when someone comes to church regularly that they have it all figured out. Well, they don't. Did you know that there are lost sheep right inside of your church? 

My mother died of a heroin addiction years ago. Many Christians would hear that and assume she never went to church. But that's a lie. She went to the same church most of her adult life. 

I remember we would leave church on Sunday's and then not hear from anyone after. At church we youth group kids were inseparable, but even at school we had our own cliques. Kind of like grown ups I guess. Each one with their own friends and careers and responsibilities. Other than a casserole dropped off after my father's funeral it was like we didn't exist outside of those Sunday mornings. My mom didn't have time for the choir or many of the other groups so I always figured that was why. I accepted it for what it was. 

While my mom was still attending church, I grew up, had my own kids, and moved a few states away. I would call my mom and ask her if she'd been spending time with any of the women from church of had a chance to check out any groups. The answer was always "no".  She would say everything was "fine" and I would leave it at that.

When my mom died from her addiction to heroin, I didn't think anyone local would be shocked. I thought I would be the odd man out - you know, the son who didn't know because he moved away. I figured I would hear at least one story about the signs someone saw of her drug use. I was wrong because her church congregation was just as surprised as me. Turns out the friends from the church she attended for almost 20 years had no idea. One person said to me, "I feel so bad. I didn't know there was a lost sheep in our congregation."

Those words have stuck with me for a long time. Just thinking of my mom as a "lost sheep" in a church she went to weekly used to make me feel sick. Even I would take her still attending church as a value of all being right with her soul. Obviously it wasn't. So tell me, why is it we believe the people outside of the doors are hurting more than those inside? Is it because we are protecting our own vulnerabilities to the point that we can't help the vulnerabilities of someone who is right in front of us?

It is hard to even tell this story because I'm not blaming the actual church facility she went to. That is part of why I asked for my name to be left off of this post. Also, there are many people who walk around daily with heroin addictions and no one knows. I just want to encourage us to check on those outside and inside of our congregations. Ask God to encourage your mission field for where you are as well as where you could be. 

After receiving this submission I realized I needed to brush up on this specific parable. I agree with the author that often when I think of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:11-14) I often am drawn to think of those who do not yet know God...those who do not sit inside church with me. I remember learning this parable as a child and being told, "If you truly know God you never turn away. If you do turn away, you were never really saved." 

As I reread this parable, I realized I (and the person explaining it to me earlier in life) may have missed the point. 

The parable doesn't state that the shepherd owned 99 sheep and randomly searched for one additional sheep to make it an even hundred. Instead, it reads that the shepherd already had all 100 sheep in his care when the one went away. He then chased after it and safely brought it home. It also states that he was happier about the one who returned than the 99 that didn't wander off. 

In this specific conversation piece, we read of someone who sat in the pew (AKA, one of the 99 in the flock) most Sunday's that was most likely not in the best place emotionally. But, it may have been assumed by others that because she was still inside the walls each Sunday that things could not have been dark for her. Although the parable tells us that the shepherd was happier with the one who returned, it also clearly states that he did indeed go back to his flock. He knew that they needed him just as much as the one. He knew that all one hundred were stronger together. He didn't assume that they could make it the rest of their lives without Him. He didn't forget about any of HIS sheep and neither should we. 

-- Cayla

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