“I don’t think it’s ever too late, Mark. Remember when Jesus mourned over Israel and said, “…how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37) It’s easy to feel the passion He felt for backslidden Israel. All heaven rejoices when even one sinner comes to repentance (Matt. 17:7). But the Bible also states that the good shepherd rejoiced when he recovered the lost sheep (Matt. 18:13), and the woman rejoiced with her neighbors that she had found the lost coin (Matt. 15:9).
By Tim Massengale
Pastor Mark North studied the New Convert Information Card on his desk. Finally he reached a decision, picked up the phone and punched in a number. On the third ring Elder Vernon Baker answered.
“Hey, my friend! It’s Mark. Have I caught you at a bad time?”
“No, not at all,” the elderly pastor replied. “What’s up?”
“Well, we had a young man visit our service last light. He came to the altar and received the Holy Ghost – or perhaps I should say he was refilled with the Holy Ghost. He’s a backslider. He said he used to attend your church about six years ago as a teenager. You baptized him I think. His name is Clayton Morris. Ring any bells?”
“He received the Holy Ghost? Wonderful! I remember Clayton well. He and his mom came to the Lord during a revival over ten years ago. They both received the Holy Ghost. His mom quickly backslid, but Clayton continued coming. I think he liked a young lady in our youth group. Anyway, after a couple of years he got caught up in high school football and stopped coming. We stayed in touch with him and his mom until they moved out of town three years ago. I ran into him several weeks ago at the mall and we talked at length. I told him we missed him, were still praying for him, and hoped he would get back in church. I could tell he was still tender to the Spirit so when he mentioned he had moved to your area, I encouraged him to look you up. He’s a great young man. He must be, what – about twenty-two now?
“He just turned twenty-three. He wrote on his information card that he used to attend your church so I felt I needed to give you a call.”
“Well, I’m thrilled to hear he’s back in church. I think he has real potential. If you can get him grounded in truth, he will be a solid saint.”
Mark nodded. “We already have him set up for a home Bible study and he said he would attend our New Life Class on Sunday morning. He really got a great touch of God – spoke in tongues for over ten minutes and jumped all over the place. He seemed to really pray through. I talked with him afterwards and he spoke very highly of you. I felt like he’s sincere in his desire to live for God.”
“That’s fantastic!” Brother Baker exclaimed. “That’s a real answer to prayer. We have had him and his mom in our Prodigal Ministry for a long time. This could be an inroad to getting her back in church too.”
The Prodigal Ministry
“I hope so too,” Mark replied. “Now, what’s this Prodigal Ministry? You been holding out on me? I thought I knew all the programs and ministries in your church.”
“It’s a part of our Outreach Department. Tom and Sandy Hoffmeier oversee it. It’s our ministry to reach out to backsliders. Once a person leaves the church we have a system set up to contact them several times a year by mail, telephone and occasional visits in order to invite them to various church events. We also pray for them regularly. It’s my conviction that we have an obligation to never forget them and to keep reaching for them as long as they are receptive.”
“Does it work?” Mark asked.