The Church Exists for Non-Members
In this Lenten series, we’ve been looking at principles and practices that are essential in rebuilding our Church and our parishes. We’ve talked discipleship as the central mission of our parish; about the need for a persistent faith; and the need to step out of our pews to serve one another and to serve outside the church walls. Today we are speaking about the most fundamental necessary change, which is a change in attitude, perspective or thinking of who the Church is for. Pastor Timothy Keller says that the Church is the only organization in the world that exists for non-members. The Church exists for those who are far from our Heavenly Father, who are far from our Savior, who we sometimes call the “lost.” In Luke 15, Jesus tells us three parables that are all about the same message: (1) someone loses something; (2) something is found; and (3) there is a party. Luke 15:1-2 provides context: The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus is teaching the crowds about the Kingdom, and both sinners and tax collectors come up and have questions; Jesus not only receives them – he even eats with them, which in that culture meant that he considered them as family. The Pharisees and other religious leaders would have seen this and would have protested – this was an obvious sign to them that Jesus was not a holy person. To them, holiness meant that you separated yourself completely from sinners and anything sinful.
Jesus completely destroys this fallacy, and all of us, especially long-time churchgoers, have to be on our guard against the common fallacy that church people do not associate with sinners. Jesus teaches us this difficult message with the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The heart of a shepherd is to make the “lost” a priority. Imagine the excitement you have when you find a lost personal item, like your watch or your car keys. We should all have the same excitement when that one person out of 100 is in church on any given Sunday. If we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to have hearts that are close to those who are far from him.
Almost all of us have family or friends who are non-churchgoers. Some advice: first, invest and invite – both in your prayer time, and in finding appropriate moments to invite them to church. Second, get involved in a ministry. We need you to get involved in ministries, to make our church an irresistible environment for the lost. In Luke 15, Jesus makes it very clear that he throws more parties, he’s more excited, about reaching the lost than in anything else. Help us to make our parish the same way. Questions for Small Groups:
Read aloud Luke 15:1-2. Why do you think the religious leaders were mumbling about Jesus?
Why is caring about the lost vital to becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ?
Does part of you get jealous that God makes the lost a priority over you? If we are jealous, how should we deal with our jealousy?
On a scale of 1-10, how much do you care for the lost?
What could you do to help care for the lost: Invest & Invite, join a ministry, give up your seat at church at an optimal time?
Do you have someone you are praying for? Are you asking God to bring out someone into your life?