Recently I was visiting the post office when a woman came in who was
obviously distressed. She even interrupted the transaction at the window to
ask permission to hang up a flyer calling attention to a lost dog. The clerk
agreed, and offered tape so it could be secured to the door, making it all
the more obvious to anyone entering the facility. I, of course, took a look
at it myself and found that the dog had just gone missing that
Having had more than a few dogs through the years I thought of the
likelihood of it returning safely on its own, and that perhaps she was
over-reacting a bit. She’d included the dog’s name, height, weight, and
address, along with three phone numbers. And they were posted all over the
area. On my way out I saw three more attached to utility poles. But then I
began to see something more. Something actually special.
Sitting at a red light I studied the flyer a bit more closely than the
glimpse I gave it in the post office. There was his picture with what I
assume were the family’s children, and all of them, the dog included, had
the most joyful expressions on their faces. I realized that this was a
matter of love. Love for the lost dog and love for the children. I thought
Isn’t it amazing to see the great lengths people go to in order to locate
a lost pet? And how soon the search begins. It usually starts as soon as we
realize the animal is missing. We’ll comb the neighborhood by car and on
foot. We ask all the neighbors to keep an eye out. We’ve already
mentioned, publishing flyers. And it won’t take long before we’re
calling the radio stations and area papers. We may even offer a reward.
Perhaps the church can learn something here; How long does it take for us to
begin the search for a church member who is missing?
Does it begin the day they go missing, like it
would for a dog? Or maybe we hold off a week, giving them the
benefit-of-the-doubt? Do we wait a month? Two? How long does one have to be
gone from the church before concern sets in?
Again, my experience with dogs tells me that the
longer they are gone the chance of finding them fades. Time is of the
essence, so the sooner the search begins the better. So what can the church
do to bring home those who wander off? By now it should be obvious that we
must act promptly. Elders are the shepherds of the flock. Like the Parable
of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15), they will certainly “leave the 99” to find
the one gone astray immediately. But the 99 might be of help and even yield
We can begin by acting without waiting for others. Last summer a neighbor
brought a pair of beagles to my home. They weren’t mine, but she thought
they might be and acted. And I for one appreciated it. She continued until
she found where they belonged. No one asked. She just did it. So can we.
Look down the pew and see who is missing. If they were dogs you would be
concerned. How much more then do they deserve, being the Great Shepherd’s
Care Groups can (should) step up. We attempt to place every family in a
group, but that tends to take several weeks, and some are not interested in
being included. But that doesn’t mean a group can’t be assigned (or even
volunteer) to keep up with them. Pay them the attention you would to a new
People deserve to be wanted. They deserve to be loved. They deserve to be
found. Imagine how strong the local congregation could be if we would just
start treating each other like dogs!