Over twenty-five years ago, I remember being invited to a leadership meeting at my pastor’s house, and we started the meeting with prayer. The pastor then began speaking to each small group leader to ask them about this person who had visited and then another person that had not been to church for a while. I remember thinking to myself, “If these people do not want the goodness of God, then let them be. It’s on them if they do not come to Christ and serve in the local church.” There were times when my pastor became quite passionate about FOLLOWING UP on these people…yet it was a mystery to me as to why he was so adamant on making sure that we had done everything we could do to make sure that these people were given every chance to know Jesus and get involved with the local church.
Fast Forward twenty-five years later
My context finds me in Asia where I was teaching an Evangelism/ Discipleship class at the Malaysian Theological Seminary. And I was teaching on ‘Follow up’ and the Holy Spirit brought two parables to mind that I shared with the students: the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.
15 Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners to hear Him.
2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”
3 And He spoke this parable unto them, saying,
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave
5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
7 I say unto you that likewise more joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.
8 “Or what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle and sweep the house and seek diligently until she find it?
9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost!’
10 Likewise I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
After reading this passage outloud and listening to it in Chinese, I asked my seminary students from all over the world what this means. Our student from Kenya said this: Aren’t we our brother’s keeper? Another student said, “Following up is at the very heart of God.” I shared with both students that they have captured the meaning of these two parables, and I related this to what my pastor was doing in that very first leadership meeting that I attended so many years ago. It is the heart of God to notice people, and care enough about them to love them enough to call them up and make sure that they are ok. But what is even more important is for these people to get connected to the local church…God’s supernatural instrument that is designed to change their lives this making things better for them.
When I pastored the International Community Church of Estonia, I shared with the leadership in the church that we are responsible for every single person that walks through the door of our church. Somehow, they have decided to come to our church and experience God’s grace and mercy. And now it is our responsibility to develop a relationship with them and continue to compel them to come in until they are planted and are growing and developing in Christ.
I really liked what the seminary students shared: aren’t we our brother’s keeper and that follow up is at the very heart of God!
As you can see, this is a vital and necessary aspect of ministry in the body of Christ. So it is not surprising as I reflect back all these years ago why my pastor was and still is so passionate about reaching out to people and going after them. But at the same time, there can be a resistance to following up on people, and the biggest excuse I hear is this: ‘Well, I am too busy to follow up on people. I have a life to live and I just cannot concern myself with all of these things.’ In light of what I have just shared, this excuse pales in comparison to weighing it with the heart of the Father. I shared with my students that when we see a principle in God’s Word that communicates a value that is located next to God’s heart, the next step is to order our lives in such a way that we make time by prioritizing time in our lives around God’s values.
Are You Too Busy
One of the greatest examples of my pastor that I must share is that he is not too busy. Now what does this mean? It is does mean that he is not doing anything, because he is engaged in kingdom business. What it means is that he has prioritized his life around values that are located next to God’s heart. The result of this prioritizing is demonstrated by his having time for the important things that we need time for. And following up on people is one of those values that is so important for us to do.
Time: A Precious Resource
The life application of this parable has the potential to be life changing. We must prioritize our lives around the values and principles expressed in God’s Word. If we do this accurately, then the result is that we do have time to do what is needful. As you are already thinking about your life and the values that you live by, think about all of the things that you do that grab your time and ask yourself if this is what you should truly be doing with your time. For many of us, there are activities that we are involved in that possibly demand our time, but the activities do not align with the values that we have accepted and believe.
My Own Journey
On a personal note, the use of time has been somewhat of a journey for me. I remember years ago (1990) I had this dream to be a high school golf coach. I prayed and asked God for this, and I shared that I would not be happy if I did not get the job. Well I received what I asked for, and I had one of the most miserable experiences of my professional life. After the season was over, I was exhausted and frustrated, and as I was spending time with God I asked the following question: Why did this happen Lord…I just do not understand? And this was what rose up in my heart and I believe that it was from the Lord.
You got what you asked for.
Was it wrong for me to ask? I do not think so. What I learned from this is to be careful what I ask for from the Lord. I just might get it. What I should have asked for was something that aligned with His will for my life.
Hence, I encourage you to think about how you use time in your life, and that you align your time according to your values. The value expressed here is right next to God’s heart. If you ask God for some time so you can follow up on people, He might just grant you this request.
Love and Miss You,