“Lost people matter to God”
That’s the mantra, the driving force, the motivation for a pastor by the name of Bill Hybels. You may know the name, his church is Willowcreek – a large church (VERY large) in Chicago. The church didn’t start large, but by being focused on reaching lost people, the church has grown and helped change lives. What’s interesting is that they have continued to look at their work and realized they needed to make changes in order to help people make the deeper connection to God. I love the fact that they didn’t just fool themselves into thinking all was good because they were big, instead they took a good hard look at their ministry.
All of this brings up 2 questions – do we see people as lost? If we do, do we care if they ever get “found”? I would think we do see people as lost – after all, we sing Amazing Grace, “I once was lost, but now I’m found…” So now the question becomes do we care if others ever get “found”?
I began to think about this because in our Core Leadership meeting we talked about one of our church goals – to intentionally connect with visitors and the community around us. We talked about how the goal was a good thing because we know that God has called us to help people know Him. We talked about the truth, as we understand it, that people who do not know Jesus, who are not living out a life of faith and following Jesus, are headed for an eternity without any joy and without any peace – what the Bible describes as a constant existence of wailing and gnashing of teeth – in a word, HELL. Yes, I know we as Methodist don’t like to talk about such things. But, that is what we believe. Jesus is not just a nice idea – he’s the difference between an eternity of joy & peace and not that. He’s the difference between experiencing abundant life or struggling with a sense of hopelessness.
The Bible says that all of heaven rejoices when a person turns back to God and away from a life of sin and selfishness. The Bible tells us that God is like a father who watches and waits to welcome home the ones who have wandered away. The Bible says we are called to be “fishers of people” – we are called by God to be used to help save those who are facing an eternal struggle; called by God to help others find the joy and peace that can only come through the gift of Jesus Christ.
But how? That’s the question.
I read an article this morning by someone who left a church in the middle of a sermon. They didn’t condemn the church, but they were tired of all the gimmicky work being done by churches. Pastors in jeans and sandals and Starbucks in the gathering area outside the Sanctuary was too much for them. They feared the fakery – they saw smoke and mirrors where they thought there should be a real connection among the people. What they said they longed for was relationships and authentic people.
I would say they’re right – real relationships and authentic people are the key to helping others find a connection to God. But, the ability to do that doesn’t mean having Starbucks, neither does it mean wearing robes and singing 18th cetury hymns. The setting of the church is important for helping people feel comfortable enough to make a connection, the people of the church are the ones who must reach out to make the connection.
It seems to me the way to help others be found is to build a relationship with them even before we see them at church. The way to help them see the value of being found is telling them how our foundness has made our life more than we could ever imagine – in other words, tell them how God has changed our life and how much joy we find in being near him. Then, if it’s true, tell them how we find God in a real and meanignful way when we come to worship or Bible Study or work with others to do mission and ministry.
I find people are often ready to talk about their church – “You should come, we have starbucks and a good time. We have a great church. We have friendly people with big hearts.” However, I don’t think people need another place to go, they need something that brings joy and peace and life – they need to experience God and to see for themselves how much He loves them. Are we ready to say – “you should come with me to Asbury, its a place where I get connected to God and a place where God adds joy and peace to my life”?
THAT just might move someone from the “lost” column into the “found” column.
Lost people matter to God, but how much does that matter to us?
Holy high-five to you, Mike