“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:12-14)
Which of the following is true of your church? A) Most of our time, energy, and programs focus on taking care of the “ninety-nine,” the people who attend church regularly.
B) Most of our time, energy, and programs focus on going after the lost “one,” finding and evangelizing those who do not know Christ nor attend our church.
Contemplating the above will bring some conviction to many church leaders today, including me. Most of us spend countless hours caring for church members but precious little time going after the lost. And in most churches the vast majority of effort, money, and programs go towards keeping the existing church members happy. But before you get too down on yourself, please understand two things:
1) We have been brought up and trained in a church system that is focused upon caring for the existing church members and maintaining the status quo. We do things the way we do because we were taught to do it that way and “that’s the way it has always been done.” And even when we go to a conference or read a book to try to “think outside the box” we often buy into the wisdom of men and the latest marketing strategies. So don’t be too hard on yourself; we are all products of the church environment in which we have grown up.
2) It’s not too late to change. We can think not only “outside the box” of church policies and traditions, we can also think “inside the book” by examining the Scriptures to find out what a New Testament church ought to look like – what it is that makes it strong, what kind of leadership structure works best, how decisions should be made, how people should be treated, and what it should be known for. Many of the other devotionals in this book talk about these things so we don’t need to here. Instead we will focus on the mission of the church in the words of Jesus: looking for the lost.
"Let’s set aside the tyranny of the urgent and the demands of church life, and let’s intentionally go out of our way to go after the lost by going to where they are, talking to them about what concerns them, and finding ways to connect them to God."
Jesus talked about looking for the lost quite a bit. He talked about the woman who lost the coin and looked all over for it. He talked about the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one. He told us about the son who was lost and then found, and how the Father rejoiced but the brother who had stayed at home did not. He made it clear that we are to go after the lost, and that when one sinner comes back to Him, it is to be a cause for great rejoicing and celebration in heaven and on earth.
With this in mind, isn’t it about time that we go out to the highways and byways to invite people to the great banquet that He has prepared for them? Sure, not all will come – Jesus told us that in the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22 -- but our obligation to obedience calls us to go out and invite them to come to Jesus. He has a table prepared for them that has their name on it. He sent the invitation; it’s our job to persuade them to come.
Let’s set aside the tyranny of the urgent and the demands of church life, and let’s intentionally go out of our way to go after the lost by going to where they are, talking to them about what concerns them, and finding ways to connect them to God. As we do so there will be great rejoicing in heaven as lost people find their way home and put their trust in Christ.
And as for the ninety-nine, sure there might be some grumbling over the lost sons and daughters who come into the church and upset the status quo. There might be some jealousy over less time, money, or programs for them. But as they catch the vision for going after the lost, as they learn how to seek the lost and lead people to Christ, they too will be rejoicing as they see lives changed.
Let’s Pray Together:Lord, forgive me for the times when I have been too busy to share the Good News or invite someone to come to You for forgiveness, healing, hope or whatever the need might be. You set a table for me and for everyone I meet; give me the right words to invite them to Your banquet and persuade them to put their trust in You. You alone are trustworthy, Lord. You alone have the Words of life. Help me and the leaders at my church to look to You and to the Bible for instructions and examples of what our church should look like and how we should organize our leaders, treat our people, and conduct our meetings. Help us to reach the lost all around us. Bring people to my mind and ideas of how to reach out to them as I pray for them now...(continue to pray for the lost and for ways to reach out to them as you feel led…)
Related Resources: Megachurch Can't Be the Goal of the Future -- A video by Francis Chan on Biblical Mission Why Small Groups Won’t Work -- Video by Todd Engstrom on the importance of believers going out and reaching the lost where they are at in the community rather than staying sheltered in small groups. (The video isn’t against small groups but encourages us to go out in the community to connect with those who don’t know Christ. Small groups and relational ministry obviously play a valuable role in the Body of Christ and the making of disciples.)