Periodically, Christ followers debate on where a church should focus its time and attention—on reaching the lost or taking care of the found. Should we be seeker oriented or believer oriented?
Author Dave Earley offers an interesting perspective in his book, Evangelism is …: How to share Jesus with passion and confidence. In a chapter entitled, “Pursuing lost people,” the author explains that according to Scripture, the word, “lost,” means someone who is “missing out” (Luke 19:2-10), “ruined” (Luke 5:37), “disoriented” (Luke 15:4-6), “wasting his life and potential” (Luke 15:17), and headed for “eternal destruction” (Luke 4:34). That’s why Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
Regarding the issue of how to balance our time and attention, the author provides a rather thought provoking perspective.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)
God views lost people as being of such great value that they deserve an all-out effort. In the verse quoted above, Jesus is saying, “If a sheep is worth pursuing, how much more is a human soul worth seeking?” Jesus always taught that following God was a matter of not only doing what God wants but also valuing what God values.
Notice the great importance of the lost sheep. It was so important that the shepherd was willing to leave the 99 “found” sheep in order to retrieve the one lost sheep. This speaks volumes to us. So often we spend all our time, energy, and effort with the 99 who are found that we neglect the one who is lost. Notice the ratio here: one lost person takes precedence over 99 found ones. In the United States the ratio is more like 30 found and 70 lost. So, if one lost sheep could command a search that left 99 behind, how much more should 70 lost sheep command our energies and efforts over the 30 who are found?
We will have all of eternity to rest and hang out with the found. We need to be consumed with going after the lost.
How would this change our church budgets, schedules, priorities, and values if we took Jesus’ instructions and example to heart?
I would not argue for a church becoming seeker oriented, that everything a church does is focused on evangelism. I do believe we have to maintain a balance between worship, edification, and evangelism. But I do believe churches should be more seeker sensitive, that we strive to remove unnecessary barriers that hinder lost people from coming to Christ. If truth be told, most of our churches are very inward, believer focused. We need to start praying that God will give us a passion for lost people, and that we will value what God values. That is something I encouraged the leaders of our church to start asking God for.