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This year, the theme of the year as you can see up here, is thriving, fruitful, thriving, and reaching. Our verse for the year is Genesis 49:22. To be honest, it’s more than our verse for the year. I think it’s the voice for our church historically. Joseph is a fruitful bow planted by a well. His branches reach over the wall, and we feel like as a church, that this year is going to be a year that God has already done incredible things over the last few years. We’re fruitful and we’re thriving, and I feel that this year, we’re going to do a lot more reaching into the lives of those that don’t know him. Here in this passage of scripture, Jesus is telling a parable and it’s the story about the lost sheep. So, when Jesus teaches so often in the New Testament, he is teaching, he gives us parables and stories to help us to understand spiritual principles and he puts people in different kinds of groups.

You know, in Luke Chapter 15, he talks about the prodigal son. He talks about the lost son, the prodigal. But here in Matthew chapter eighteen, he’s talking about lost sheep. And so today, I want to focus on lost sheep. What is a lost sheep? You might be there saying, well, Ben, what is a lost sheep? And well, I’m glad you asked because today, I’ll talk to you about some things about lost sheep because I believe God has put in my heart that not only are we to reach people that don’t know him but, there will be those who we could categorise as lost sheep. People that were once in the fold but no longer anymore. I want to talk to you today about lost sheep. The first thing about lost sheep is that lost sheep are not prodigals. Matthew 18:12 says “What do you think if a man has 100 sheep and one of them goes astray?’’

So lost sheep of people that were once in the sheepfold but then they went astray. They didn’t reject the sheepfold. They weren’t all upset at it. But they weren’t upset at the gospel or the shepherd or anything like that. They just kind of wandered off. They just went astray. That’s difficult from the prodigal that’s described in Luke chapter fifteen. You would know the story. Many of you would know the story of the prodigal son. That is where there was this man and he had one of his sons come to him and say I want you to give me my inheritance now because I’m leaving. He grew up in the house and he overtly rejected a house and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. He wanted to go and do his own thing. That is not the same as a lost sheep. A lost sheep is someone who just went astray. Who is no longer with the ninety-nine but just kind of like wandered off. Do you know if anybody can you think of anyone right now who may be used to being part of our church and then just kind of wandered off. And it wasn’t because of anything bad. It wasn’t because anything kind of happened. It was just kind of like they just went a little bit astray. You turned around. You thought to yourself. Seen him in a while. Do you know, do you know, whatever happened to so and so? What happened to them? It wasn’t like there was a big blow up. It wasn’t like that they walked away from the faith. It wasn’t that they were all upset about anything. They just kind of got a little bit lost and kind of wandered off. That’s a lost sheep.

There are so many people around the Gold Coast that are lost sheep that were once part of the fold but have gone somewhere else. Right now, I’m talking to pastors all around Queensland and basically, they’re so grateful because now, they would probably say a lot that we’re officially over Covid. Covid didn’t really affect our church too much to be honest. But for a lot of churches it was like those for three years, Covid drastically affected their church. And many of them are saying, right now it’s like we’ve come through it and we’re over it. And what they’re basically saying is statistically we’re probably like what we were before. But everyone I know and including us would say that there were people that were there before COVID that after Covid never came back. That there were people that used to go to a church and then for whatever reason because of the break of habit or someone who is no longer part of the fold.

So statistically things can be pretty good, but the heart of a shepherd is you know what? There are some people that used to be part of the church. There was nothing wrong per se but suddenly, just got used to maybe just purely doing church online or got out of the habit of going to church and are no longer part of the fold. You know the fold is doing pretty good. The fold still has ninety-nine, but the heart of the shepherd is you know what? Even though the fold is doing good, there are still some people out there that used to be part of the fold, that the heart of the shepherd is for. Life of our church statistically, we’re the greatest we’ve ever been in our history. God is doing fantastic things right across all our churches. But I just hear the heart of the shepherds saying you know what? We’re fine. King’s is doing well but there are some people that are no longer part of the body that are no longer part of a local church. That have just wandered off. Nothing major but they just drifted off and even if we don’t see them, the heart of the shepherd still has them in his sights. I believe that for the life of the church, not only are we supposed to be reaching out to people who don’t know Christ, God wants us in 2023 to reach out to those people who were once part of it and just wandered off. You know who I’m talking about because some of you, someone is flashing in front of your mind and you’re thinking to yourself, I wonder where they’ve gone. What’s happened to them? They’ve wandered off. That is a lost sheep. The second thing about lost sheep is that lost sheep can be sought.

Matthew 18:12. What do you think if a man has 100 sheep? One of them goes astray. Does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one That is straying. This is another major difference between prodigals and a lost sheep. A prodigal is someone who rejected the house of God. Who rejected the way they were brought up. What do you do with the prodigal? Well the father did what he did. He just kept going about his business, waiting for the prodigal to come home. He didn’t go chase him because he knew that eventually he would come home. Maybe you have a prodigal in your life. Someone you raised up in the house of God. And despite raising them up and raising them perfectly right. They just decided, you know what? I don’t want what’s here. I want what’s out in the world. Can I tell you; you can trust them to the Lord. That the Lord’s hand is upon them. That you don’t need to worry about it or stress about it. The Bible says to train a child in the way they should go. And when they’re old they won’t depart. You know what that means? Maybe sometimes when they’re young, they do. But when they’re older, they don’t. Why? Because once they go and do that, the Holy Spirit doesn’t let them go.

I walked away from the Lord when I was a teenager. I grew up in a very Christian house. I had a very good upbringing. I grew up in church. But I just wanted to go out in the world. Can I tell you as someone who did that? It was not peaceful. Even though I tried to convince my parents I was having a great time. The Holy Spirit convicted me the whole time. That I’d be out on a Saturday night somewhere and it would turn into Sunday morning. I’d come home. It’s AM. Hop in bed. 8 AM. Open eyes. Wide open and this filter’s in my head. I should go to church. Look, get out of my head. My parents were praying for me. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t need to. I was a prodigal. And the Lord was going to draw me back. Friend of mine was a pastor for many years and all his children walked away from the Lord. But he raised them up in the ways of God. Now that they’re older they’re all started coming back. Two of his sons are board members in the churches that were in. One of their sons, we thought he would ever come back. The other guy was enjoying life too much. He was incredibly wealthy. He was incredibly handsome. He had a string of beautiful girlfriends. He was just doing his thing and enjoying his life and it looked like his life was blessed. Few years ago, he returned to the Lord and he’s a board member at the Maiden Minds Church and my friend told me about this guy. He says, you know what? He told me, he said, even though he was away from the Lord for 25 years, he had no peace. The Holy Spirit was on him the whole time drawing him and bringing him back and I want to encourage some people here. You got some prodigals in their world. Just be like the father. Go about your business. The Holy Spirit will orchestrate events and he will bring them back. Amen. But that’s not lost sheep. A lost sheep is someone that just wanders off. How do I get back here? It’s like in Psalm 23. Lord’s my shepherd I shall not want. Makes me lie down in green pastures. Lean besides the waters and yay. I walk through the valley. How do I get here? Doesn’t say that the whole flock went into the valley, just him. But what happened? The shepherd was still there. And let him out the other side. With lost sheep we can seek them. With lost sheep, we can go and touch base with them.

Lost sheep are people that you bump into over the shopping centre. Maybe at Robina, maybe at the Pines. And you’re there and that would be for you, Ashley. And you bump into them. And you think to yourself, whatever happened to them? What are they doing? Someone drops in your heart. That might be a sign from the Lord to say, you know what, go have a coffee with him. Just go and touch base. Just go and start drawing them back into the sheepfold because lost sheep can be sought. Maybe the very way they’re going to come back into the household of God is by us going and reaching out to them. Amen. Lost sheep can be sought. The third thing about lost sheep is lost sheep belong back in the fold. What do you think of a man who has 100 sheep and one of them goes astray? Seriously, mate. 100 sheep and one go astray. That’s incredible retention. That’s amazing and yet he would still leave the ninety-nine behind to go and get them. Sheep alright. Sheep’s out there on the green hills. The sheep’s feeding. Sheep is not causing any trouble. Sheep’s enjoying itself. But even then, the shepherd did not want them to be going out by themselves. The shepherd wanted to come back and come back to the household of faith. I firmly believe that there are some people that were once associated with King’s. King’s School, King’s Church, King’s Community Care. They were once part of a household of faith and drifted off. And we’re doing fine but I heard the cry of the Holy Spirit and the cry of the Father. Saying he wants them to come back home. That they belong with us.

Some people get a funny concept of church, and they think in our individualistic society we kind of think that church is like an optional thing that you know people say oh are you saying I can’t be a Christian and not be part of a church? Well no I’m not saying that. You can be a sheep and you can be out in the wilderness. But that doesn’t mean that’s the best place to be. Note from myself. Yes. I’m not saying I’m a better Christian than anyone else but I’m a better Christian than I otherwise could be by being part of a household of faith. Look at this lady that the guys helped. Being part of a household of faith. Sometimes we get so consumeristic around the church. We get so judgmental. Oh I love that church over there. Oh the boys. It’s just amazing. And oh there yeah, the kids program. They’ve really got it going on. And we get so consumer minded. About the church. When the reality is the church is more than just that. It’s more than just entertainment. It’s more than just the tickling of the ears. It’s more than just the stuff. It’s important for us to be part of a Christian community. Because the Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes, woe to him who is alone, when he falls. Yeah. Don’t say woe to him who is alone if he falls. Every one of us at some point, no matter how strong you are. Every one of us at some point is going to fall. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean backsliding from the faith. It means we’re going to hit something in life that’s so hard we can’t handle by ourselves. What would you need right then, that’s when you really need the church.

I used to think I was such a strong Christian. It’s just me and the Lord and subconsciously when you’re a pastor, you think, you know, I don’t need the church, but the church needs me. That was subconsciously what I thought. There’s been a couple of times in my life where I was hit so hard that I realised, no, no, no, even as a pastor, I need a local church. Classic example of that was when we got flooded back in 2011 and at that time, it just knocked me over and it just wiped me out and I remember that I was really struggling but I sent out one text message. 30 guys from our church came over to our place and helped me empty the contents of our house. Then we were gutting the house. One text. Message again. 30 guys from our church came and did that. We were looking for a place to stay. We didn’t spend a single moment in one of the centres that were set up for people without houses. Why? Because we had six people from the church contact us and say we would leave our houses today to let you come and stay here for a month if that’s what you need. And we went and did that. We stayed with our friends. At the time, one of my sons, it was his birthday. Trisha and I looked at each other and we said, you know what? We just don’t have the time to do his birthday. He’s young. He’ll get over it. He’ll forget about it. We’ll do something later in the year but on the day of his birthday, some friends of ours from our church came over with presents, they came over with cake, and they came over with decorations, and we had a birthday party for my son on his birthday. My wife didn’t cook a meal for a month. We had that much potato bake and lasagne. It was unbelievable. All because we were part of a church. The sheep is not supposed to be up by itself listening to podcasts of its favourite preachers. We need to be part of a Christian community.

I’m not afraid to say that we are better off. We are better. Together. Together. That’s the other. That’s the other slide. Yes Amen. There comes a time we belong and that’s why I believe God calls people to churches. I’ve never chosen a church I’ve been part of. Never once. Every time it was a call and how can you know? People move to the Gold Coast all the time. Where one of the churches they go visit in the first month. And then sometimes they come back. Sometimes they don’t. Whenever I talk to them, I say, listen just go where it feels like home. Yeah. Not wherever you think this has got the best program for me. You go where it feels like. Home and they come in; they say I feel like believing in a calling. I believe that God calls us to be part of a community. You know, we started a church at church at Logan Village and obviously, when you do that, you have people who live locally, come and check it out and often they’re from other churches and there was a church nearby that was having a lot of problems and a whole bunch of people from that church came and visited Logan Village and I remember thinking at the time when talking to them, I remember thinking, they don’t belong here. It’s not that there was anything wrong with them. They were good Christians, but I just sensed they belonged in another fold and that’s exactly what happened. That fold got a new leader. And the church went well. They said, look we’re going home, and I said God bless you. That’s where you belong. But we all believe we belong somewhere. We all belong somewhere.

Maybe you’ve come to this place, and you’ve been part of. Maybe you’re a lost sheep and you saw the signs and you heard about our church, and you popped in today to come and see us. Can I let you know you’re welcome? There you are welcome. So often people feel a bit funny. We forget about the lost sheep, right? We think about the lost. We think about that, you know, for someone who doesn’t know Christ, but the heart of the father is for some people. Some of his people are a little bit lost. Some of his people are just kind of wandering around a little bit. I want to let you know as a senior pastor of this church that if you’re here and that if that’s you, I want to let you know you’re welcome. Welcome home. The fourth thing about the lost is this, the lost sheep. Lost sheep are good people who live for bad reasons. Matthew 18:10. It started this scripture. He says, take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones. So, what I read to you before is not the whole context, okay? The whole context is the start of Matthew chapter eighteen, and the story is that these children came to Christ and the disciples were trying to tell them to go away and so, he came, and he was talking about these children.

Then, continuing that theme in verses six and seven. He says, whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he would drown in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences. For offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offence comes. So, he’s talking about lost sheep of people who either stumbled into sin or offended And because of that they were no longer in the fold. And he is saying those people still need to belong in the house of God. How many people do you know? Because something happened in the church, they’re a part of. Now no longer go to anyone. Something happened to them. And they said look you know; I think it’s better for me to be up by myself on the hills. How many people do we know? I’ll be honest with you. I’d never grow up on the Gold Coast. Love the Gold Coast and never want to leave now. Funny thing about Church World on the Gold Coast, they’ve got such a crazy history on the Gold Coast if I can be honest. With churches historically right across the whole region and I’ve never met a bigger group of wounded Christians in my life. As on the Gold Coast. More hurt people, more distrusting of leadership.

I’ve never seen it anywhere else in Australia. And I would put it to you that there would probably be even though the Gold Coast has a significant number of churches and a lot of larger churches. I’ll put it to you. There’s probably about five times more people not in church. As the ones that are going to church on a Sunday. How many students have we come through our college? That have answered an altar call. Responded to Christ. Prayed the sinner’s prayer. Maybe attended a youth group. But are now not going anywhere. Maybe something happened to them. Maybe they got their nose out of joint over something. Maybe something like that happened to them and now they’re not going anywhere. Basically lost sheep are good people who left for bad reasons. They didn’t reject it. But something happened; they’re no longer in the fold. It’s those people that the Lord wants to bring back. Why? Because you’ll never be able to go to a church and never can be offended. That’s why I always tell people that my philosophy is that I’m expecting that offences will come wherever I am. Jesus says offences will come in this passage of scripture. But woe to him who brings it. So that means you can’t orchestrate your life to the point that defences won’t come your way. It’s impossible. You know there’s been plenty of times I’ve driven at night. Maybe on the Gold Coast Hinterland. And there’ve been times when I thought to myself, you know what, I couldn’t be bothered having these bugs hit the windscreen in my car. So, I thought I’m going to try and avoid them. So, you drive, and you swerve, and you still end up in your car. It’s impossible. It’s impossible to be in any environment and not have the potential for offence come and so, we do our best to make things as least defensive as possible and I know in my own life, there’s so many one of the biggest disciplines you have is not to take offence to things unnecessarily but occasion someone gets hit with some kind of arrow and some kind of sling.

Sometimes we think well they’ve been offended. It’s too late. There’s no coming back. Can I tell you the scripture says there is a way back? And maybe there’s someone that you know that because of those very reasons are no longer part of the household of faith. Can I encourage you that maybe God’s dropping them on your heart? May we be like Christ? Leave the ninety-nine to go and see what they’re up to. The fifth thing about lost sheep is that lost sheep are often out of church. I go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying. He doesn’t go to the, he doesn’t go to the other sheepfold next door to try and get him back. It says, he goes to the one mountain to see the one that is straying. Lost sheep of people that are often out of church. Sometimes, we think of someone who’s left the church that they’re going to another one. Most times, it’s not the case. That often they’re not actually going anywhere and those are the people that we’re trying to reach.

If someone in a church leaf and goes somewhere else, they’re part of another fold, God bless. Praise God. As long as they’re part of somewhere. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about people that aren’t going anywhere. They belong in a church community. Lost sheep are often out of church. And the sixth thing about lost sheep is this. Lost sheep that return bring joy to the house. Matthew 18:13. If he should find it assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices over rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine. That did not go astray. He rejoices over one that returns even more than the ninety-nine that stay. What does that tell me? When a lost sheep returns to the fold, there’s great joy. One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few years because our church is over 45 years old, okay? We’ve been around the block a bit, you know? And one of the things I’ve learnt is that sometimes I’ll be in a room, and I just hear literally feel this ripple go through the room. You hear people get all a bit excited and that sort of thing. And then you talk and say, what’s going on? And they say, oh, such and such is back. Such and such might have left 20 years ago. Wasn’t going anywhere and then suddenly, they’ve come back and all the joy in the old timers. Because they’ve come back.

Sometimes when you’re a lost sheep, you think, oh, will anyone be happy if I come back? Will anyone accept me? Is the roof going to cave in if I walk in through the door? No, no, no. There’s going to be great rejoicing. You belong. Welcome home. This is where you’re supposed to be. And I feel in our year of reaching when we’re supposed to reach people that don’t know him. When we’re touching the lives of people that have never been part of the church. And have never heard the gospel. And that’s something we must always continually do. Let’s never lose that heart of the shepherd. To seek out that one. That one that used to be here. That one that got a little bit lost. That one that is straying and is not going anywhere. During trying to reach the new. Let us never forget the one. The one that is no longer here. And I believe that the Holy Spirit spoke to me. And I know it’s a very unusual sermon, so I apologise. It’s almost like a training day. But I feel that for people in this place the Holy Spirit is reminding you of someone. Maybe you bump into them in the forecourt at school during the week. And you realise I don’t think they’re going anywhere. What ever happened to them? Well you’re going to the shops, and you walk past them. And you realise, oh I remember, do you remember? Or you pop into the cafe, and you see them. And you think to yourself I wonder what’s happened there? What’s going on?

My encouragement to you is this. Those are little illuminations from the Holy Spirit saying take your eyes off the 99 right now. Here’s the one that I’m drawing past and maybe you’re the person to go and say hi. Maybe you’re the person to say, hey, why don’t you, you know, you’re always welcome to come back. Whenever I see someone out there, I say, listen, you know, you’re always welcome to come back. There’s no issue. There’s no problem. You’re most welcome. We’re your family. We’re your home because as much as I love the ninety-nine, God wants us to have a heart for the one as well. And so maybe you’re here and you’re thinking of someone right now. Someone’s mind is flashing in front of your mind. You know, the body of Christ is not just the past to do everything. The body of Christ is that all of us God uses in the work of the ministry and sometimes we think the ministry is grabbing the microphone and that’s just that’s not the ministry. That’s equipping the ministries out there. The ministries in the forecourt. The ministry is in the car park. The ministry is at the shopping centre. The ministries at football. Whatever it is. And God will illuminate someone to you and maybe even right now, someone’s face is flashing in front of your mind, or someone has dropped in your heart. Someone who used to be part of the church community and for whatever reason, not because they rejected it but for whatever reason, they no longer are and you’re thinking to yourself, hey, someone should do something about that. Maybe the Holy Spirit is saying, hey, why don’t we do something about that?

So, if someone is in your heart as I’ve been speaking. I’m trusting the Holy Spirit has been showing you. If someone has dropped in your heart, let’s pray. You know, the Bible tells us in Ephesians that when we’re to pray for people, we’re to pray for the scales to be dropped from their eyes. Some people can’t see past that offence. Some people can’t see past that hurt. We’re to pray for the scales to drop so that they can see that God wants them back in the fold. Amen. So, if you know you can think of someone right now, someone’s face is flashing in front of your mind. They meet the criteria of what I put out here today. If that is you, if someone’s been dropping in your heart, just put up your hand because we’re going to pray together. We are going to pray right now and we’re going to pray that God will draw the one back into the fold. Whilst we keep reaching for those that don’t know him. Whilst we keep reaching for those that have never heard. God still has the heart for the one that was once part of the flock and is just simply strayed.

Father, in the name of Jesus. I pray right now. I thank you Lord for these people, Lord that were once a part of a local church. They have not rejected you. But are just still but are not part of a local church. I pray Father right now in Jesus’ name. That as you’ve put them on our hearts Lord God, I know it’s because you’re working on their heart. And I pray Lord that you give us the words that we need to say Lord God. Give us a heart, Lord God, to be able to share with them. Help us Lord knows. How we are to have what we can do to reach them because lord, you want them to return to the fold. And I thank you Lord that because of that, there will be great rejoicing. As we prove faithful Lord in the ones that you have given us, Lord, I know you will give us more. So, I pray Father for those that don’t know you, those that have wandered away from the flock Lord God, that as you are drawing on them, that you would call them back onto you. I thank you and I praise it Lord in Jesus name. Amen.

Ps Ben Naitoko

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