Mason Carmichael’s Story: Netflix, dinner alone, sleep, repeat. That’s how every evening went for me back in 2017. And I thought I wanted it that way. A few months before, I had decided to walk away from a staff position at my church to take a job in sales. I moved 40 minutes down the road, leaving my church and community behind. After being gently and rightly reprimanded by my Pastor, Charlie, for repeatedly showing up to lead the youth group unprepared, I decided to leave the church and walk out on God’s calling for my life. I thought that’s what I wanted.
Even though many from the church reached out to me and encouraged me to return, I spent nearly 9 months in self-created isolation. I was too prideful to admit what I knew to be true: I missed the church. I missed connection to both Christ and others. I missed my friends. When I was at my lowest point of isolation, God extended me a lifeline through our Executive Pastor, Stephen. Stephen reached out to me and asked me to run the soundboard at church that coming Sunday. It felt nice to be needed and being asked for help really boosted my ego. For Stephen, this wasn’t just a desperate plea for another volunteer. This was him acting like Christ, chasing me down like a lost sheep.
One phone call changed my life forever. The people of the church were faithful and continued reaching out to me. When I showed up that Sunday, no one asked, “Where have you been?” No one looked at me in judgement. Instead, everyone simply said, “We’ve missed you!” It was genuine. That made all the difference! I reconnected to the church and joined a small group again. I began serving, and eventually, I was invited back onto the staff. God had a plan and He moved through these people to bring me back. I have now been a Youth Pastor for 3 years and my wife and I are now in the process of planting a church.
Mason’s story is a powerful one and illustrates what the Bible teaches in 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.” If you’ve ever watched National Geographic, you know that the antelope or wildebeest the lion takes down is always the one that is separated from the herd. Satan uses the same tactic. He waits and watches for someone to separate themselves from the Body of Christ then pounces. Sometimes we are separated because of travel, illness, shame, embarrassment, and/or hurt feelings. No matter the reason, we are all prone to wander and need to be brought back.
Why do we chase strays?
- Chasing strays communicates that everyone matters. A price tag tells you what something costs. The price tag on our lives is Jesus. He established and demonstrated your value through His death on the cross. People matter to Him; therefore, they should matter to us.
- Chasing strays demonstrates the heart of God. Passages like John 21:15-17 and Ezekiel 34:1-10 clearly communicate God’s heart for His people to be shepherded well. This is not just the role of leaders, but every follower of Christ; see Hebrews 3:13.
How do we chase strays?
- It takes intentionality. It takes intentionality to notice when someone is missing on Sunday morning or from group. Too often, we are consumed with our own agendas to notice.
- It requires sacrifice over selfishness. You’ve noticed they’re gone, great! Now you have to go after them. It will take time to make that call or send that text. It may mean giving up some of your lunch time, TV time, or social media time. It may even mean stepping into the messiness of their lives.
- Go after them before they’re even gone. Send them a text the day before service or group. “Can’t wait to worship with you tomorrow.” This usually gets some kind of response. They may respond; “I’ll be out of town,” or “The kids are sick.” This can reveal ways to serve and opportunities to follow up, even when you know where they are. For instance, “Hope you had a great trip this weekend. I sure did miss seeing you. Can’t wait to hear about the trip at group.” This is a great way to “know well the condition of your flock.”
Chasing strays is important work for every disciple-maker. In our experience, it is often one of the highlights of the week; connecting with those who have missed and may be tempted to disconnect and reaffirming how much they matter to us and God.
This post originally appeared at: Chasing Strays | Relational Discipleship Network (rdn1.com)