February Deacon Training Lesson
Review of Biblical Mandate:
Ezekiel 34:16 “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will watch over and shepherd with justice.” RSV.
The Identity of tasks involved in Pastoral Care.
1. The Identity of Lost Sheep
Matthew 22:1-14 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Lost sheep are those whom God has chosen for salvation, but simply haven’t been changed by the Holy Spirit, yet. They’re part of the elect, but their conversion just hasn’t happened.
How do you know whom God has chosen for salvation and whom He hasn’t? You don’t. That’s why we cast the net as far as possible.
2. The Identity of Stray Sheep
Here’s the dilemma: how do you tell a fake sheep from a stray sheep?
There are some people who have lived their whole lives in church and for all purposes looked like Christians on the outside. But really, they were just going through the motions. They didn’t really believe it. They think they’re saved, but they’re not.
I John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
The old word we used to use for this is “Apostate.” Someone who looked like they were a Christian, but who fell away eventually and proved they never were.
Matthew 7 :22 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
That’s the scariest verse in the bible. It shows that some people who are involved in the missionary activity of the church are only faking it.
A stray sheep is someone who falls away from the church and the faith. Maybe it’s a broken relationship. Maybe it’s sin that’s the cause.
If someone “strays” there’s a simple test to determine whether they’re a stray sheep or a fake sheep.
If they were truly a Christian, then at some point they’ll turn around. They’ll confess their sin and return to Christ.
If they never turn around, that’s proof positive they were never a Christian to begin with and were only going through the motions.
3. The identity of Injured and Broken Sheep
These are members of our church who are hurting from either physical needs or spiritual needs. But it also includes people who are living in sin.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
2 Corinthians 12:21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.
I have a situation going on where I know someone in our church is co-habitating with someone they are not married to and I need to find a gentle way to address this situation that will hopefully encourage the situation to stop without them feeling ganged up on. I have the sense that this person is so new to the Christian life they may not be aware that living with someone you’re not married to is a ‘no-no’.
4. The Identity of the Weak Sheep
They’re lazy. This is probably the highest concentration in a congregation like ours. They’re involved at the minimum level.
Proverbs 19:15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.
This is someone who isn’t necessarily sinning grievously, but on the other hand they’re not exactly doing everything they can be.
One of the knocks against Presbyterians is that when there’s ministry to be done, they simply write a check and have someone else do it. I see this all over our church. That’s laziness.
Church is a country club for these people who are interested in a certain social circle rather than changing the world.
A Weak Sheep is:
- Involved in church, but not reaching their potential
- Cares little about others.
5. The Identity of the Strong Sheep
I Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
The key word towards the end of that famous passage is the word “always”. That’s what we’re striving for and probably won’t reach this side of heaven.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
It’s not that we have these elements perfectly, but there should be some manifestation of each of these elements in the mature Christian. You can identify them.
A strong sheep is:
- Knowledgeable about the bible
- Committed to weekly worship plus one ministry.
- Eager to help those in need and the church.