I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15.3 TNIV)
This verse was spoken by Jesus in the context of him being ridiculed for “welcoming sinners and eating with them.” Then he tells a story about a shepherd who loses just one sheep out of his flock. Even though he has plenty more, he leaves them to go find the one.
I read this story and can’t help but think about how we do ministry. In a world full of programs and discipleship classes and building campaigns and worship services, do we have the one sheep in mind or the ninety-nine?
Are we doing everything in our power to seek the one? That one person who is broken from a destroyed marriage and has never heard the hope of the gospel? That one person struggling with addiction and doesn’t know there is freedom in salvation? That one student who is thinking about having sex with her boyfriend and doesn’t know a savior who can satisfy? Are we thinking about that person?
This idea is a game changer, isn’t it?
Just think about it, what if we viewed Sunday morning through the context of the one sheep? Through the context of the outsider? What if we put on their glasses and planned a service on a Sunday morning? What would it look like?
I’m talking about every aspect of a Sunday morning from the parking lot, to the chair they sit in, to the bathroom they walk in, and to the room they drop their kids off at. I’m talking about everything from the person who holds the door to the person who speaks from stage.
If we truly believed and lived this idea, everything we did would be about making them feel comfortable, making sure they could find their way and making sure they hear the hope they need to hear. We would make church something familiar to them, not to us.
I work in a ministry model that gets criticized all the time for not being deep enough, being too much of a show, being too loud, or not having enough discipleship classes. We are all of those things. You know why? Because my neighbor whose life is wrecked, who is in desperate need of the hope of the gospel, feels more comfortable at a Coldplay concert on a Friday night then he does at a church on a Sunday morning.
You want to know why I speak simple truth on a Sunday morning? I do it because Sam is a freshman in high school struggling with acceptance and when he’s being asked to smoke weed, he isn’t going to be thinking about symbolism in the Gospel of John. No, he’s going to need to know the God of universe accepts him for who he is and the friends he makes when he is a freshmen will determine the direction and quality of his life.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in solid theology and excellent teaching. I believe in discipleship and investing in the next generation. I believe in raising up men and women who live and breathe the gospel of Jesus. I’m just suggesting their may be a better venue for this than a Sunday morning. Because none of that matters if we can’t get them in the door.
Here’s the deal, God throws a party for the one. And maybe we should too.