David S. McKemy
While I’m writing this book, our nation is involved in the liberation of Iraq. You can’t turn on the radio or read a newspaper without this topic dominating the news. I’ve personally listened for as much news as possible about this war.
At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, one of the cobra gunships being used by the army went down in hostile territory. When pressed for details of the mission and operation, the military spokesman refused to answer any questions for fear of hampering the rescue operation of the pilots of the cobra. All of a sudden the search and rescue of these men became a priority of our government.
On several occasions I’ve been told by Marines that they have a creed they live by from basic training to the battlefield and that is “No One Left Behind.” If a soldier falls or is injured in battle, he can feel comforted knowing he’s just become a priority of his unit.
I have to tell you this has really been on my heart since I first heard it. The fact that our military cares so much about our soldiers that they won’t leave a single person behind is an awesome thought. They will exhaust every means to find and rescue wounded or lost soldiers. Life is that important to us and our nation, yet life is only a mere vapor in the eyes of the Lord. Eternity is forever and there is no end to it.
We need some spiritual search and rescue teams in our churches to go into the trenches and find those who fell in hostile territory. The scrap heap of humanity is filled with the remains of those who have left the truth and have become another victim of the lies of satan.
We must not allow ourselves to come to church and be comfortable while within view of a seat that was once occupied by a precious saint of God – the seat of precious soul who is now “M.I.A.” We have ignored this for too long and have discounted it as nothing to worry about. We have humored ourselves with excuses and been critical of the individual that left us. We’ve pointed out how unreliable they are, how their walk with God is like a roller coaster, and they are so inconsistent in anything they do. It’s like we have this authority to decide who deserves to be rescued. I plead guilty to this, and I am more determined than ever to change that mindset.
Every soul is worth reaching for; every soul deserves to be rescued. It’s not up to the search and rescue team for whom to search. Their commanders give the orders and they follow them exactly as given. I don’t have a right to decide who needs to be reached. I have a mandate and orders from the scripture in Luke 15. It’s very plain and to the point.
Jesus never described a particular profile of the person we’re to leave the flock and go after. He views every backslider as a lost sheep and spells out how much effort He’s willing to spend looking for them.
There’s a part of me that wants to apologize for the amount of intensity that is bleeding through my words, but I can’t apologize for something I feel so strongly to write about. This thought of reaching the backslider has consumed my thoughts and mind. Time is something we don’t have a whole lot of. It’s something backsliders in your city are running out of.
How many more funerals will we attend? How many hospital rooms will we visit to see the face of a person God has dealt with us to visit or call and we just felt we never had the time? I am under a mandate of the Lord to deliver a burden to you He has placed on my heart. There are so many that will be left behind if we don’t love the lost as Jesus does. Can we truly stand before God with no regrets and feel we did the work He called us to do?
Taking the gospel to the lost world is what we generally think about in responding to the Master’s commission. We don’t usually apply it to the backslidden. As I have stressed before, I am not making light or discounting our efforts to reach the unchurched and nations who’ve never heard this liberating gospel. I’ll be the first to say let’s take this Truth to a new field of evangelism and reach as many brand new souls for the Lord as we can! However, I do feel we’ve made the role of reaching the backslider less of a priority than we have of reaching the one who’s never heard this message.
I’ve evangelized many years now and most of what I’ve done is reach for the sinner. I’ve focused on reaping a harvest of souls the saints have brought to the local congregation. I cannot count the times in meetings where we’ve had many receive the Holy Ghost to have the pastor subtract the backsliders out of the number of people who’ve prayed through. Fm not a numbers man, so this was not a big deal to me until I thought about it and realized our mentality as a movement about the backslider. We believe the Holy Ghost and water baptism in Jesus name are essential for salvation. When this happens to a brand new person we rejoice and shout. The angels rejoice about it and it is something to get excited about!
We get all excited about brand new ones and then we subtract out the number of backsliders who prayed through! We feel an accurate count of people who received the Holy Ghost doesn’t include backsliders! Yet we believe those people are lost until they pray back through and that there’s no level of how lost you are. You’re either saved or you’re lost! There is no in between in this.
So since we believe they are lost and have to receive the same Holy Ghost, which is sometimes referred to as a “renewing” for the backslider, how come we put them in a category that isn’t as exciting as talking about as brand new ones? Or when someone says they had 33 receive the Holy Ghost over a weekend there is a tongue-in-cheek question as to how many of those were backsliders as if backsliders invalidate the number?
Has it occurred to us that the Bible says the angels rejoice over a soul coming to the Lord, but in Luke 15 Jesus said He rejoiced more over the lost one that was found than the ninety and nine that never left? The Bible never stipulates Jesus rejoicing over the lost person that comes to Him even though I think its common sense to see that He does. Rather that He reserves that line for the backslider and tells His church that He rejoices over finding the stray and calls the neighbors.
I don’t think it would be right to make a priority reaching either category over the other one. I think it’s equally as exciting when a brand new soul or a backslider prays through. The experience they just received saved them both from the same hell! And it’s putting them on their way to the same heaven!
I wonder sometimes if this isn’t one of the reasons back-sliders feel slighted and unimportant to us. We go out of our way to assure backsliders that this is one of the lies of satan trying to discourage them. He will try to put thoughts in their heads that aren’t true. But when the service ends and the tears aren’t even dry from pouring their hearts out to God, someone will get in the pulpit and recognize the new soul that prayed through only to discount the backslider’s experience. The place erupts in worship over the new soul. Then the crowd is polled to see if anyone else received the Holy Ghost. The backslider that God just did a miracle for by saving their soul timidly raises their hand and their experience is downgraded to a good touch or a renewing. Some kind things are said and a heartfelt welcome back home is issued. The crowd may clap in approval, but there was a difference just made of the experience the new person received and the one they just received.
The bottom line is that the same Savior saved them both; we have just always viewed it differently. We’ve got to make these backsliders in our churches and communities a priority and a goal. We must adopt the U.S. Marines’ motto during wartime of “NO ONE LEFT BEHIND.” We must take it personally when hell deceives one of our own and is successful in pulling them out of the church.
We can’t control people and shouldn’t try. However, we can reach out to them, pray for them, get a burden for them, and love them like Jesus did. We can’t make them live for God and go to heaven, but we can make it very difficult to go to hell! Through your prayers, fasting, phone calls, emails, and your love touching their hearts, you’ll make their trip to hell the most miserable journey they’ve ever made!
They’re in your neighborhood and at your workplace. You see them at school functions, while making a deposit at the bank, and getting fuel for your vehicles! If you don’t see them anywhere else, I know you will see them at Wal-Mart! They will play it cool and pretend that they have their act together. They will try to make you believe that life couldn’t be better, but you and I know differently. They’ve lost their way; they’re miserable and despondent. Many don’t even realize the danger they are in.
You are on God’s “Search and Rescue Team” and back-sliders need to be thrown a lifeline. They need rescued – they need saved!
Who can forget the horrible loss that we as a nation experienced on September 11, 2001? Our nation and our values were viciously attacked in the most invasive way. The twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. were rammed with hijacked airliners. The terrorists made those planes into flying bombs to try and destroy the symbols of our heritage. They sent close to 3,000 people to their deaths.
During the early minutes of the tragedy, the emergency response was very fast. People filled the stairwells of the buildings that were under attack trying to get out. Firemen and policeman arriving on the scene gave not one thought about their own safety, but rather tried to get as many out of the buildings as they could. The diversity of people in those stairwells was amazing. You had everyone from secretaries, to janitors, to lawyers and administrative assistants, to heads of corporations, Fortune 500 company board members, and Chairmen of those boards.
Those firemen didn’t care who these people were or how much money they were worth. They had an understanding of the desperate situation at hand, and they hurried people along as they went upstairs to find survivors. They may have been short at times and even downright rude because of the catastrophic moment our nation was in. They yelled for the people to keep moving, not to stop, but to go faster. The building was on fire and had sustained the trauma of a plane crashing into it. Who knew if the structure would be able to stand much longer? Because of their dedication and love for mankind, several hundred of New York’s finest police and fireman perished while literally saving thousands.
Today we hail them heroes and rightfully so. They will go down in history with the greatest men in our nation. We admire their courage and esteem their bravery. We’ll never forget the enormous cost they paid so that others could live. I’m sure nobody got offended in how they hurried them and how they did whatever they could to get people moving faster. I’m guessing if someone’s feelings were hurt in the process, nobody would care about that now; it was justified seeing what was happening. We have a sense of under-standing about the abrasive way some of those people were rushed because the rescuers were trying to save as many lives as they could.
Yet when we see a backslider on their way to hell, we walk on eggshells, say very little, and pretend nothing is wrong for fear of offending them. It’s time we take that risk! It’s time we stop acting like nothing is wrong and everything is ok. We mustn’t say if they want God they know where to find Him.
From their viewpoint, they may not see the danger they’re in. They might think you are being nosy and getting in their business. If loving them is offensive and caring enough about them is forward in their eyes, then I say let’s take that chance.
We don’t have to be unkind and mean, just bolder than we have been and more desperate than we have been. We are talking about eternity and sometimes in saving a fellow Marine the one who is carrying the injured man may cause him discomfort and even pain. There is no other way to get the wounded man out than to carry him. All that will long be forgotten once that injured man is safe and out of danger. We should always be kind, respectful, gentle, and loving, but sometimes no matter what you say, they get offended. We have catered to this mindset too long. If reaching for a lost backslider is offensive to them, then they will have to be offended! They have all of eternity to get over it, but I honestly think the gratitude of you reaching for them will far overshadow any negative feeling they may give you while they’re still lost.
Remember, a drowning person will fight you and pull you under if you’re not careful. It’s because they’re not thinking clearly. You don’t listen to a person in that condition; you just do what needs to be done. Make up your mind right now and tell yourself that you are going to reach a backslider!
Every time you see a backslider in a store, at a funeral, wedding, or a restaurant, keep it in your heart that we don’t plan on leaving ANYONE behind – EVERY SOUL COUNTS!
The above article, “No One Left Behind” was written by David S. McKemy. The article was excerpted from the book Reharvested Fields.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”