As noted in the book Claiming Christ, the lost are not always where you’d expect to find them. Sometimes they are beside you. Sometimes they are in Church and in our families. And perhaps that is one of the reasons they are so often overlooked in our zeal to preach the gospel to all nations.
We speak of reaching the lost and going on missions to distant lands, but sometimes forget to consider those who are struggling right next to us. Perhaps we think that they have become immune to corruption or struggles with sin. They do go to Church after all.
Perhaps we have bought off on the shameful dismissal of “you’re just preaching to the choir”, and forget what God says about those who sing his praises while still in this fallible flesh.
Perhaps, we don’t want to allow for the possibility of apostasy residing so close to home. Because, if it is possible for our fellow church members to turn away from God in a splash of sin, then so could we. And in our dismissal, we are no different than those who passed by the seriously wounded traveler just prior to the arrival of the Good Samaritan.
It’s just easier, and seemingly safer, to just deny the possibility by ignoring the apparent failings of those beside us. Or better yet, skirt our responsibility by saying that such counseling is the ministers job. We claim to be friends, and even family, but we do nothing that might be messy to try and alleviate their needs.
Instead we trumpet biblically-sounding excuses, albeit out-of-context, like “don’t judge one another”, or “God will make them saved”, or “everyone sins”. But such excuses don’t excuse us from what the Bible lays upon faithful believers in caring for one another.
“My Brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth” [speaking of Christians who attend Church with you]…
and one of you with enough courage and love to do what the rest of this verse says about confronting them with their sin and trying to help them to turn their life back towards obedience in Christ…
”will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (Jms 5:19-20).
As an instrument of God’s grace, you could be used to actually save a fellow believer from eternal death. The context is not speaking of the physical death from cancer or old age, as if bringing them back to repentance could stop the aging process; it is speaking of Hell.
It is a call to mission. A mission hidden within the Church. A mission hidden within each of us, if we are willing to be sent out, and if we are willing to humble ourselves and heed the caring correction offered by those around us.
Consider the Lord’s words to all his disciples (not just the 12):
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go I am sending you” ! (Lu 10:2-3)
When the Holy Spirit moves in a believer, it begins to not only transform that person, but to accomplish the missional work of spreading the gospel of salvation.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Act 1:8)
From the home turf and radiating out to the furthest reaches of humanity, the mission of the Church is to preach, teach, heal, invite, correct, love, bless, represent, and bare the burdens of life with others. That home turf for Christians is the Church congregation where we worship, serve, and dwell as the Body of Christ.
The gospel must go out to the ends of the earth, but don’t ever forget to keep the “first love” active right at home. That means elevating the gospel in yourself, and also caring for the very souls of fellow believers around you.
If you do, you may well contribute to their very salvation!
Are you preaching to the choir? They need the truth as much as anyone!