I remember the day my wife and I met with the pastor of the church we were attending. I asked for an appointment to speak with him, knowing I had this longing in my heart for “more”. More of “what” I didn’t really know. I just knew at that time, discipleship in my life was nonexistent. So, I asked him if “there was more to this walk with Jesus?” He replied, “Nope. Just keep coming to church on Sundays” while he was simultaneously checking his watch every couple of minutes, like he had something better to do. Needless to say, my wife and I walked away discouraged.
We half-heartedly continued to attend church. Eventually, God led us to a different church, only months after our marriage fell apart and our family was in shambles. We joined a completely different church family (RLM Post Falls) and started realizing there was so much more to our faith walk. Obedience to Jesus, lived out in real authentic discipleship relationships made all the difference, our lives were forever changed. Piece by piece our marriage and family were being restored.
A genuine Godly love from others and lifestyle that seemed to permeate every person changed us forever. People remembered our names and showed us they cared. We were invited to get involved in a homegroup and step into a new kind of relationships. My wife and I used to comment that “if we went missing, someone would know.” We built lasting relationships in the church! If we missed a weekend or a homegroup night, it was noticed. We would get a phone call to check on us. Sometimes we would get a call even when we didn’t miss, just to make sure we were ok. We were experiencing the in a tangible way that Jesus truly is the Good Shepherd through the actions of those who reached out and cared for us.
About 5 years after we joined RLM Post Falls, we got a call from the former church. Not asking where we were or if we are ok, rather asking if we would want to be removed. Removed from a “membership list”, Ugh. How sad and frustrating. We learned right then, exactly why it’s so important to check on those that go missing. Rather than become angry or critical this fueled a fire in me to live out the importance of not just chasing those that stray but being the hands and feet of Christ and going after them.
It’s incredible that more than 20 years have passed since we walked into Real Life and God would call Christy and I to full time ministry. In astonishment and humility God used those early experiences to call us to plant Real Life Ministries in the Silver Valley of North Idaho. We strongly encourage those who attend our church to get connected into a small group and build real relationships with other believers. We have multiple small groups and micro-groups of 3 men or 3 women, who meet throughout the week to read the bible and check on each other. I can’t possibly chase every stray that disappears, but collectively we can. If someone from the small group goes missing, someone else is going to notice. The reproducible process carried on through us into the culture of our church.
This is why we are so passionate about discipleship and connecting people to Jesus and each other. When we commit to relationships that are based on honesty and openness, the Holy Spirit ministers to us and others. We learn truths of the bible through conversations and actions, based on the greatest command to love God and love others.
Often, when someone goes missing from group or church, it’s because they are in some kind of turmoil. Sin, shame and personal offenses are big drivers of “I’m not really feeling church today.” Running away from the church or small group is harder if we get a call and realize people really do love us, regardless of what is going on.
We need to check on our brothers and sisters in Christ. It matters to the one that is lost and discouraged. Even if you can’t personally call or text someone you haven’t seen for a while, ask someone else to check on them and get back to you. We can share the responsibility of loving others as Christ does. Those that are lost or straying matter to Christ and therefore they should matter to us.
Real Life Ministries Silver Valley