The Burden of Shepherding Wandering Sheep

As a pastor, I carry all types of burdens. A pressing matter that periodically arises in my mind concerns wandering sheep. Just this morning, I was reminded of several people I have not seen in worship in a long time. Early in my time alone with the Lord I thought of two or three families. As the morning progressed, however, a few families became many families. And as I always try to do when the Lord places someone on my mind, I prayed for each of them by name.

As busy and as big as CrossPoint is, some of the people I thought of may have been in worship last weekend or the weekend before, and I did not see them. Often I will ask Vonda about someone and she will say, “Oh, I saw them in the hallway. They were there.” Yet many times I will go weeks, sometimes months without seeing a particular family in worship.

My burden for these wandering families is two-fold.

First and foremost I am concerned for the family’s well-being. Why are they missing? Is someone sick? Did someone die? Are they struggling with a major decision? Are they running from God? How can CrossPoint help them? Is there something we can do?

After working through those questions then I struggle with the family’s level of commitment. Are they just lazy? Are they really sold out to the kingdom of God? Are they genuinely committed to Christ and His church? Why would they join our family of faith and then not participate when we gather for fellowship, worship and discipleship? Why would they join CrossPoint and then not support it with their involvement?

I know this is something only pastors and just a few others in the church wrestle with, and I should be used to it by now. But I still cannot understand how someone would commit themselves to a church with their membership, but not commit themselves the church with their participation.

While praying for these families this morning, I listed their names in my calendar. I did so thinking I might drop them a note in the mail, encouraging them to come to worship next weekend. As I chronicled the list the cynic in me spoke up and said, “You know that doesn’t do any good, Ryan. Remember the last time you mailed someone a note concerned about their involvement. They showed up for worship a few weeks and later thanked you for your note. Then they quietly disappeared back into the abyss of waywardness.”

I know you are not going to believe this account, but a few years ago I wrote a particular family a note. The next Sunday they showed up and what they said astounded me. One spouse said, “Thanks for our note. We really needed it. We’ve just been lazy the last few weekends. And your note came at the right time.” Then the other spouse chimed in (and I really wish they had not) and said, “It’s good to have you around to remind us every now and then how we need to be in church.”

Ouch! I walked away from that experience asking myself, “What kind of disciples are we producing at CrossPoint?”

I would be curious to hear your thoughts today about wandering sheep. I am always open to new ways to reaching JUST ONE MORE. I would rather the JUST ONE MORE be lost sheep rather than wandering sheep, however. Then again, they may both be the same.


11 Responses to “The Burden of Shepherding Wandering Sheep”

  1. 1 Tim
    April 23, 2007 at 11:26 am

    This is why i think we need to take this CONNECT process seriously and that it be our heartbeat to Connect… people to God, others, and their mission and also be concerned about the family. I have watched several families fall apart and several get in real trouble and that should be one of our major focuses. We think because they attend and serve that everything is going fine and actually everything is falling apart at home. Satan attacks the family unit as hard and as viscious as anything and we should take that seriously. Crosspoint is a great place. But, to be honest for some it has not been the easiest place to CONNECT to and when we are growing like we are it’s easy to think it’s their problem when we have some responsibility.

  2. 2 Ryan
    April 23, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Tim, thank you for your thoughts. I would be curious to know why you think it has not been easy for some to CONNECT at CrossPoint. I certainly think the effort on CrossPoint’s side is there. For example, tomorrow our staff connect with every guest that worshiped with us last weekend. Our Bible study leadership will do the same thing. Today our Adult Education Minister sent an email to every Bible study leader with the names of several families who joined this month bu have not yet connected to a group. What else do you think we could do as a church to help people connect?

  3. 3 Bill Walker
    April 24, 2007 at 6:09 am

    I think the connect process is very important. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus demonstrated this throughout his life, but he reserved his closest most intimate relationships to his disciples. These are the people who were most connected with Jesus during his lifetime. We need to have this same relationship with other Christians. After our relationship with Jesus Christ, our relationships of encouragement, hope, support, and challenge should be in small group settings. Unfortunately, most of our Bible Study classes are still large enough to be anonymous. If everyone of us will make the effort to get to know just one more of our fellow CrossPointers intimately, no one will fall through the cracks. If we depend on Ryan to always be the one shepherding the flock, people will inevitably fall through the cracks. We should make sure we have small groups of 4 – 6 couples/families that are always there for each other. We don’t have the quantity of staff to have ongoing personal interaction with all members through our staff only. Chritianity is built upon relationships — beginning with Jesus’ relationship with his disciples, our relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and continuing with our relationships with each other. If any one of these relationships breaks down or fails to form, we have the potential of “lost sheep” that have to be recovered.

  4. 4 Tim
    April 24, 2007 at 11:21 am


    I agree totally with Bill. I do not think this is a staff issue.
    Although I have had people comment about the overwehlming follow-up at first and then a dramatic drop in that interest by staff. And that is were many of us Crosspointers have dropped the ball. We need to take the time (and time is probably the problem, we are too busy!!) to develope intimate relationships with others as often as we should. I think we have more capacity for relationships than we think. We just have to set our lives up to let new people in. We also need to realize that alot of people do not think INAM they think IIAM (It Is About Me) and will never be happy with a place that is going to challenge them in the way you are challenging us.

  5. 5 Tim
    April 24, 2007 at 11:24 am

    Sorry about the multiple posts I did not see were it was accepting them until the last one. Please delete all but one!


  6. 6 Ryan
    April 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Bill, I concur. Great insight. So, as we grow larger, we must grow smaller and smaller even within our Bible study groups. There may be 50 people in a class, but there should atleast 7 or 8 smaller groups within that class. That is a tremendous idea.

  7. 7 jessica
    April 24, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I have found it very easy to connect at CrossPoint. During a time when my mom and I needed it the most, we heard about and decided to go to the Ladies only Bible Study (since our husbands do not attend church YET 🙂 We have really connected to this small group and have made some wonderful friends. We all pray for each other and are there for each other when we need it. I have more friends now than I ever have had. We even all sit in the same area in worship, it’s AWESOME. The G.E.M.S. class stay connected. We are constantly hearing from each other throughout the week with prayer request and updates and sometimes just a HI. So I have to say that CrossPoint goes the extra mile to connect…. the question is do YOU stay connected once you get there. I believe it is work on both parties, the church AND the member.

  8. 8 Anonymous
    April 24, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    People connect to what they are interested in. You can’t force people to connect and we have plenty of opportunity or things to connect to. No one forced 92000 to connect to the A Day game but people that were interested in it attended. You connect to what interest you. I see the same people what out the door every Sunday without going to SS. Some don’t want that level of commitment. I connected because I wanted to and found the place I wanted to connect. I think people wander because of a lack of commitment in our society today. People marry knowing they can divorce, people change jobs all the time because something is required of them at work. We are a throw away society and church is part of that. I think the casual lifestyle of the church in general causes people to wander also. There is no formality or tradition so they go from place to place to see what is happening instead of being rooted in something. Don’t get me wrong, I like the new way but I think it has changed the way people conceive the church. We as a people in the church are to encourage one another in the faith and to be accountable to one another. The church has gotten away from calling sin what it is and we do not call each other into account for those sins. If a person is really connected to God they will want to find their spot. Ryan, as my pastor, your responsibility is to be in prayer for your people and to open God’s word to us for instruction and reproof. The Holy Spirit will use that word to encourage or convict. We try to hard to play Holy Spirit. He does great job on His own without our help. A pastor that loves his people and prays for them will see God do great things. Gay

  9. 9 Jeff Cook
    April 24, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Personally I believe the process of “connecting with God’s people” at Crosspoint is wonderful. My family has been attending Crosspoint since last August and I for one have been able to connect thru our Sunday school classes(which are wonderful) and also by keeping children. My personal belief is that you will “connect” as much as you want to “Connect”. I had this conversation with a fellow Crosspointer recently and he said something equal to Tim’s statement above, he said he and his wife had trouble connecting. I told him that by coming to church and sitting and observing what Crosspoint had to offer was not doing him any good. The only true way to connect is to be a part of Crosspoint in as many ways possible.

  10. 10 Ryan
    April 25, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Bingo! I think each of yuo get it. Gay, thank you for the reminder to pray and preach. I have been more faithful to that pursuit in that last two years than I have ever before in my ministry. Just yesterday I gave our staff a copy of the entire church role and asked them to pray for each family–by name–every day of the week. Today I prayed through the first seven pages of that 47 page role. It was both a blessing and a burden.
    Jeff, I think you have nailed it. Some people have told me their friends are not interested in CrossPoint because we ask for commitment, genuine commitment. I have found this to be true, unless you CONNECT at CrossPoint, most of the time, you are really not interested in CrossPoint. The great truth about our vision and process to CONNECT is that we have three times as many people doing that today than we did four years ago. The Lord is certainly working, isn’t He?

  11. 11 Ryan
    April 25, 2007 at 10:39 am

    That would be church ROLL and not church role…although we all have roles in the church!

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