The night I found out Julie (real name withheld) had moved in with her boyfriend, my mind reeled in unbelief. Julie had been a regular in my women’s Bible study group and on our college leadership team. I couldn’t believe she had become a ‘lost lamb.’
Lost lambs are people we’ve been discipling or mentoring who choose to live in sin and walk away from the Lord.
Entrust them to the Father’s care. These lost lambs are the Lord’s. He says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). He will protect them; He loves them even more than you do.
Surrender your expectations to the Lord. Dr. Neil Anderson explains the difference between a godly goal and a godly desire:
I had come to think of Julie as a daughter, but I had to surrender my longing for a continuing relationship. As the father of the prodigal son waited expectantly for his wayward son’s return, so you and I must diligently watch and pray for the return of the one on the run.
Pray for them. A discipler’s primary role is that of an intercessor. Christ is our example: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25. Cynthia Heald, in Becoming a Woman of Prayer writes, “For someone who has turned away from the Lord, I pray 2 Timothy 2:25, 26, “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
Keep in touch. As God leads, I write notes to those I have discipled. Sometimes I call, text or instant message them, just to check in. This lets them know I haven’t totally ‘excommunicated’ them. Neither has God. Staying connected reminds me to continue to love them from afar and to affirm them of my love for them, and not their sin.
. Allow Him to move people in and out of your life as He wills. Thank Him for the opportunities you had to minister to those who have strayed.
Trust God for the seeds sown. Pray for Him to prosper His Word and His work in the lives of those who have left. Let God be God of your relationships and ministry so He can accomplish His will for each lamb in His flock. As you let go of the lamb you have lost, remember God still has a hold on him or her. That loved one is engraved in the palm of His hand. “I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:15b & 16).
This article first appeared in Discipleship Journal and in September 2018, was printed as a blog post online with Lead Like Jesus. https://www.leadlikejesus.com/blog/when-lambs-stray