Meanderings of a Minister


Go Get the Wanderer

Come Home

James MacDonald, in his book, Come Home:  A Call Back to Faith[1], reminds us that the book of James ends with a command instead of a salutation:

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. [2]

 What does it mean that someone has wandered from the faith?  Well, put plainly, they used to be in the pew or on the row with you, but are not anymore.  They used to sing the songs of the faith, but now their voices are silent and they are not there.  They once helped take up the offering, teach Sunday school, work in the nursery, or even be on the church board, but now they are missing in action.  How does this happen?  A number of ways.

First, there are some that simply did not want to be corrected or listen to scripture tell them what to do, so they walked away.  They had a pet sin they did not want to get rid of, so they walked away.  They chose the sin over the Son.  They were not going to let some preacher, fellow Christian, or family member tell them they can’t do what they like or enjoy, so they walked away.

Second, there are those that simply are too selfish to remain in church or walking with the Lord.  They only get a couple of days a week to sleep in, spend time at the lake, or ride their motorcycles, jet skis, or ATV’s, so they give up on church.  They give up on those they once called brother and sister, but more importantly, they give up on the One they once called Savior and Lord.  They would tell you they are followers of Christ, but they aren’t following anything but their own selfish ambitions and desires.

Third, there are those that have been wounded by the church, so they walked away.  Someone in spiritual authority said the wrong thing, or did not say the right thing when they were going through a tough time, so they checked out.  Now, they equate that leader’s actions with the whole church or with Jesus Himself, so they are no longer counted among the saints.

Fourth, there is the ashamed.  They have fallen and can’t believe anyone even cares if they get up.  They can’t accept forgiveness and insist that they have to earn their forgiveness and restoration before God.  Since they cannot, they stay away convinced that the rest of the holy people in church would never accept them and that everyone knows what they have done.

Lastly, there is the distracted.  They simply have taken their eyes off of Jesus and are sinking in the mire of life.  It is not that they are against church or against Jesus, they just don’t think of Him anymore.  They just don’t seem to have a radar for Him to be one anymore.

MacDonald reminds us that there are many wanderers out there and they are not all wandering for the same reasons, but that we have a responsibility not to condemn them for wandering, but to leave the 99 and go get the one.  He calls on the church to care about those we once called family.  He encourages us to get uncomfortable so that others might be comforted.  I guess the only question left is whether or not we will hear the Father’s heart and do what He is doing and love who He loves.  I wonder if we will listen to the Father and His will for the wanderer.

[1] MacDonald, James, Come Home:  A Call Back to Faith.  Chicago:  Moody Press, 2013.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

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