Sometimes a verse or passage just sticks with me and I can’t get it out of my head until I’ve identified why God put it there in the first place. And so it is with Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and the goats. I’ve been thinking about this passage for a couple months now and yesterday I think I finally figured out why.
I’ve been having doubts about going to Honduras. Not doubts about going into full time ministry or even going to another country. I’d leave tomorrow if things were in place. I’ve just been having doubts about going to Honduras specifically. Katie and I are sure this is the country God is asking us to serve but my question has been why. Why Honduras? Yes, Honduras is the poorest country in Central America; yes they have the title of murder capital of the world. There are countless needs and injustices there, homelessness; sex trafficking, absent fathers, lack of water, food, education, the list goes on and on. But, Operation World lists Honduras’ Christian population at 96%! So why would a missionary need to go to Honduras if 96% of the people were already believers? Aren’t we called to go to the unreached? Shouldn’t I be trying to get to the Middle East or Asia where Christians represent 15% or less of the population?
And then I remembered Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the parable Jesus sends the sheep on into heaven while the goats, in disbelief, get shuffled off to hell. Many read this passage and think this is the separation of believers and non-believers but if you look closer at the passage that’s not what’s going down. The goats are believers, in verse 44 they call Him Lord, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’. The goats clearly label themselves Christians the way many in the world today do. To their amazement Jesus tells them they aren’t Christians and deals with them accordingly. There are a lot of “Christians” in the world today who are in for a terrible surprise at a time when there is no turning back, no second chance.
So, statistics may say Honduras is 96% Christian but it also says the US is 73% Christian and we all know that isn’t even close to being true. 73% might believe in Christ but believing in Christ doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than believing in medicine makes you a doctor.
Now my question is, was Jesus into herding goats? Obviously God will search far and wide to find a lost sheep but is a lost sheep the same thing as a goat? The answer I’ve come up with is they’re both lost so it’s close enough. Jesus didn’t say “Therefore go and make believers of all nations”, He said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”. We aren’t called to go around the world dropping off bibles in every language; we’re called to disciple all nations. There is a huge lack of discipleship in the church and the world today. I recently attended a conference where Pastor Frank Haynes of Christ UMC in Jackson, MS said the church doesn’t have a leadership issue, what we have is a discipleship issue. Churches are full of leaders, business owners, teachers, politicians, people who can get stuff done. One the other hand, when it comes to discipleship…. Does your church have a plan for taking believers and turning them into disciples? Does it have a mentor or apprentice program where seasoned believers help guide new believers into a deeper relationship with Christ? Are you challenging your congregations to define their personal ministry and use their spiritual gifts?
I have to believe that God calls some to be goat herders just like he calls some to be shepherds and I believe that is what God has called me to do. Who better to show how it’s done than someone who was once counted among the goats?