This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the CNH District Convention. Now, in all honesty I wasn’t per se looking forward to this convention after hearing about other district conventions in the past from friends in the pastoral ministry and having sat in on our LCMS national convention back when I was attending seminary. Yet, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by just how positive and uplifting this event was this weekend! And after attending, I can truly say how blessed I was by the experience and have been refreshed in my faith once again.
The theme of our convention this weekend was “The Heart Of The Good Shepherd” taken from these words from John 10:14-16, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Jesus describes Himself in these passages as the Good Shepherd and us as His precious sheep. Just as sheep know the voice of their shepherd and trust him, so we know the voice of Jesus and trust in His love for us. He loves us so much that He even talks in this passage about laying down His life for the sheep. That’s the heart of the Good Shepherd for us!
Yet, if we listen closer we will hear the heartbeat of the Good Shepherd in a deeper way. His heart not only beats for us, the found, but His heart also beats for the lost. Listen again to the heartbeat of Jesus, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I MUST bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16) Do you hear it? His heartbeat is also for the lost, not just the found! LCMS President Matthew Harrison spoke at our convention this weekend on Jesus being Good Shepherd. During his Bible study he highlighted how Jesus states that He MUST go bring these other sheep into the fold as well. This is an imperative for our Good Shepherd!
In the last few week’s I’ve been hearing some interesting comments around St. Philip that honestly have saddened me. There are some who have expressed the following, “Pastor Travis is always talking about outreach and we don’t want to do outreach here.” I don’t know if that’s your feeling or not, but if it is, your issue is not with me, your issue is with the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the One who came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) Jesus is the One who said that He would leave the ninety-nine found sheep in order to find the one that was lost. (Matt 18:12) If you don’t like the fact that we as a ministry are focusing on outreach take that up with Jesus because it is He who has called us as His Body to “Go and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matt 28:16) and that we are to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). I am simply reflecting the heart of the Good Shepherd who desires “all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4)
Recently I came across this very convicting quote that speaks to this lack of desire to do outreach, “A church that does not desire to reach out to their community with the love of Jesus is a church that is basically telling everyone to go to hell.” Pause and consider those words for a moment. As difficult as these words may be to hear, they are true and they convict my heart. When a ministry doesn’t care enough to reach out with our Good Shepherd’s saving Words of love to their community this is basically what we are saying to them, because that is their eternal fate that awaits them without Jesus.
Yet, this is not the heart of our Good Shepherd. He doesn’t desire anyone to go to hell. He didn’t desire for you to go to hell; that’s why He gave His life for you so that you might be saved. He came and sought you when you were lost either when you heard the Shepherd’s voice through the sweet words of the Gospel later on in your life or when His words came to you and made you His precious little lamb in the waters of Baptism. He made you part of His flock by His grace; His undeserved love. Remember, unless you are of Jewish decent none of us were not part of the original sheep pen. We were “the nations”, those who were outside of the promises of God to His people Israel. Yet by His death and resurrection He brought us all, Jew and Gentile alike, into His fold called the Church and given us life in His name.
And Jesus MUST find those who still as of yet have not heard His voice because He does not desire them to go to hell either. This is the heartbeat of our Good Shepherd still today! It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us the found, but He loves the lost as well. His love is big enough for all, the found and the lost alike. As He goes to find those that are still lost, He invites us who hear His voice as the found to join with Him in His mission of love – to share the Good News of what God has done in Christ so that they too might hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. By God’s grace may this more and more become our heartbeat as well as a ministry here at St. Philip; one that reflects the heartbeat of the Good Shepherd!