Going After Wandering Sheep

What do you do when you see a fellow believer making moves that are totally inconsistent with what the Bible says about life in Christ?  In my opinion (and in the Good Book) the worst thing to do is nothing.  We display the steadfast love and care of Jesus Christ when we gently and firmly go after wandering sheep.  The following steps are driven by Scripture and pastoral experience.

  1. Pray.  Ask God for wisdom.  Search the Scripture to ensure you are not approaching someone on a preference issue, and that it is indeed a clear matter of sin.
  2. Talk to them.  This isn’t always easy because, if they are wandering intentionally, they know where you stand and they know how they are choosing to live, and they know those two things are not congruent.  So, chances are they don’t want to talk to you.  If they do, that’s wonderful.  Skip down to step 5.  If they don’t, then proceed.  NOTE: Sometimes people don’t want to speak to you, but they don’t want you to think they don’t want to speak to you (twisted, I know).  So, they play a long-term game of cat-and-mouse phone and email tag that is calculated to make you think they wish to talk, when in reality, they do not.  Just watch for that.
  3. If they won’t talk, then get some input from a spouse or family member about what’s going on.  The goal is not to get into the nitty gritty details of what you’re seeing, but instead to say something like, “Hey, I’ve been trying to reach out to [name] and he or she seems unwilling to connect.  Who do you know who has their ear who is a fellow brother or sister in Christ?”  It might be wise to have that person approach them or at least to have that person encourage them to meet with you.
  4. Be tenacious.  Jesus didn’t stop pursuing me when I didn’t want Him.  He came after me!  Be careful not to be a poor testimony or break any laws, but really go above and beyond to connect with the person.  This might mean coordinating schedules so you show up when they get off work, or at a child’s game, or the like.  Just tell them, “We need to talk.  When can we do that?”
  5. Reassure them that you love them.  Remind them that you have taken notice of what is happening in their lives and you are concerned.  Remind them that you are not trying to be a burden to them but a help.  Remind them that you love them too much to let them wander away from Jesus, the Source of life.
  6. Ask carefully worded questions.  This will require work ahead of time on your part.  You must be very careful to avoid saying things that are going to make it more difficult to move ahead.  If you say, “You’re wife stopped by and told me you have announced your intentions to leave her.”, then that husband might leave your conversation and proceed to take out his anger on his wife for outing his intentions (in fact, this is often the case).  Remember, sheep who are wandering are mixed up.  They might have convinced themselves they are doing the right thing, but deep down they may know that they are not.  They are living in this conflicted state.  Carefully worded questions should help reveal what is going on without much trouble.  Here are some examples:
    • “I’ve been trying to reach out to you, and you seem distant or unwilling to connect.  Why?”
    • “I’ve noticed that you’ve moved out of your home.  Can you please let me know how this is a move that is in line with what Scripture says?”
    • “You’re spouse looks like he/she is in distress all the time and you are never with him / her.  What is going on?”
  7. Offer help that meets them where they are.  As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  If they have wandered away from the truth for a long time or they’ve convinced themselves that God is pleased with their actions when the Bible says otherwise, then it’s going to take time to put them on the path back to truth and walk them there.  You can’t just say, “That’s wrong, stop it!”  Shepherd them back.  If they make the initial turn-around, then great.  Encourage them and celebrate.  If they have the desire to do the right thing, you can help them work through the details.  If they don’t want to do the right thing, that’s where the problems come in and the tough questions arise.  You may have to ask a question like, “Can a true follower of Jesus Christ make a decision to directly disobey a clear teaching of Scripture and still call themselves a follower of Jesus Christ?  What did Jesus say in John 14:15?”  Be ready to ask that question.  If they are willing to admit they are not Christians, then the entire nature of the situation changes from reaching a wandering sheep to outreach to a lost sheep, and that’s a topic for a different post.

 

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