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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Rewiring the Parables | ‘Where’s My Sheep?’

‘What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.’

Matthew 18:12–14

 


 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many shepherds.

But I do know lots of teachers. My daughter, Charlotte, is one. She teaches PE. As part of her extra-curricular activities, she leads school ski-trips abroad.

I don’t know a lot of lost sheep either.

But I do know a lot of lost people. We all do. The world is full of lost souls. We’ll meet some of them most days on our frontlines.

All of which provided the inspiration for my rewiring of this parable, in which the ‘Lost Sheep’ becomes the ‘Missing Pupil’. On a school ski-trip to Austria, Ollie becomes separated from his teacher and classmates in a white-out; and is left stranded, alone and in peril, on the mountain. It was not a conscious act on his part. He didn’t deliberately abscond. Circumstances simply got the better of him.

Similarly, in this parable Jesus talks about a ‘wandering sheep’. A sheep that was once part of the flock, secure in the fold, but is now absent.

Twenty years ago, research showed that for every regular churchgoer there was another who had stopped going. They had not rejected their faith. But, for whatever reason, they had just dropped out of the habit of going.

This was an observed church-wide phenomenon, which prompted several initiatives aimed at bringing them back, including ‘Fresh Expressions’ and ‘Back to Church Sunday’.

It also showed that church itself can be a frontline. And that’s unlikely to have changed.

Take a look around your church. Has anyone stopped coming?

Maybe, it’s only now as you read this that you realise that you haven’t seen them for a while. Maybe it has been a gradual process and they have simply dropped off the radar. Maybe this happened years ago. Maybe you could call them, text them, seek them out on social media. Maybe, if they still live in the neighbourhood, you could drop round and see them.

The shepherd found his wandering sheep and returned it to the fold. Charlotte found Ollie and re-united him with his classmates. In both cases there was great rejoicing.

But maybe it’s as important to prevent someone wandering in the first place.

Take another look around your church. Is anyone struggling? Is there a danger they may wander?

Maybe a shepherdly hug is all that is needed to keep them in the fold. That too would be a cause for rejoicing.

___

Mike Elms
A lifelong adman, Mike is now Chair of Trustees at CPO (Christian Publishing & Outreach). You can read the ‘Missing Pupil’ at www.parablesrewired.com

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