I was in discipleship group this week and we were talking about the challenge of discipleship and the revolving door in the church. My shepherd’s heart kicks in when I see people come in and out of the church. My heart breaks when I don’t see people that I know need Jesus in their lives and the cares of this world keep drag them further and further away from God. I can barely breathe when I think about them going back out into the same world they came from and expecting to get different results. I pray over the people God has called to City on a Hill Church fervently. I identify with a lyric from a modern song, “You cut me open and I keep bleeding love.” I think of Jesus when He said;
Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
As our discussion continued I explained how it feels to be a shepherd but sometimes shepherding is like herding cats! It is an almost impossible task. But I am always reminded what is impossible for man is possible with God. I shared sometimes it can feel like you run into a burning building and pull folks from the fire and when you get them out and into safety and bolt right back into the burning building. You run back in and carry them back out turn around only to see them running right back into the building again so you run back in and bring them back out again. Eventually it gets to the point where you start thinking, “How many times can I run into that building before you yourself don’t come out?” But your shepherd’s heart won’t let you stop. I think about this so much especially around Easter with so many wanderers in our city totally devastated by the church in the name of God. I can’t help it. Thinking of these people and knowing they don’t have a church family or a place to call home breaks my heart over and over again. Couple that with the constant concern I have for the people under my care and it can be overwhelming, save Jesus! Paul said it like this:
2 Corinthians 11:25-28 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers,danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Prayer is the key! Prayer is the weapon of mass destruction against all of the attacks of the enemy. I called our church to pray over those being baptized and our services this coming weekend. I didn’t call us to polite and demure prayers. I requested that everyone skip the formalities and get right into the “ugly faced” prayers. Prayers and move heaven and earth. Prayers that build hedges of protection around hearts and lives. Nothing is more powerful than the prayers of the saints. Prayer is a discipline of a disciple making disciple. Programs don’t make disciples, prayer does. Praying keeps us close to God even when we feel like He is distant from us. Jesus said it best when he said, “I wanted to gather you to myself but you were not willing.” As a pastor it can be so frustrating to see people abandon prayer, abandon their faith, abandon their God and abandon His church. They abandon the safety of the Gospel and go running right back into the fire. What should our response be? Let Jude answer for us:
Jude 1:22-24 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
We must be willing to snatch these people from the fire as many times as necessary because that is what Christ has done for us. Let me put it to you from a line from a rap song, “The Messiah died so I can preach Jeremiah. I run through the earth snatching cats out the fire. I always preach Christ when I rhyme baby. Cuz I ain’t got time for no jive baby.” Christ died so that we could set up outposts just outside the gates of Hell and snatch people from the flames. We must be committed to making it hard to go to Hell in St. Petersburg, FL or wherever you are. Not only do we catch fish but we must also clean fish. Meaning not only do we bring people to Jesus for a salvation experience we must also bring people to the Holy Spirit for sanctification. This happens in discipleship. We started this blog talking about the revolving door of the church. The question is how does it get shut for good? The answer is discipleship. This weekend we will watch as many, many folks take their next big step in discipleship by being baptized we must then teach them to obey everything Jesus commands and when it gets tough remember Jesus is with us always.
There is no cure for the shepherd’s heart. I don’t want one. I don’t need one! I will feel the same way Jesus felt about lost, wanderers and those under my care until I see Jesus. I will always want to gather them to Jesus like a mother hen gathers her chicks. There will always be a daily pressure on me for the churches in St. Petersburg, FL and around the world until Jesus comes. I will keep running into those burning buildings and pulling people out until Jesus comes no matter how many times I have to go in. God has blessed me with an incredible rescue team called City on a Hill Church and He adds daily to those willing to suit up and do the same, snatch cats out the fire. One thing I do know, “I always preach Christ when I rhyme baby. Cuz I ain’t got time for no jive baby.” Be encouraged!