Posted: 10/17/17 at 9:55am. Post by Tony Brooks.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.(Luke 15:10 NIV)
Many of us have read the three parables in Luke 15 about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Jesus shared all three to remind the Pharisees and teachers of the law that God is seeking to save the lost. Lost is a term many people do not use anymore because of certain connotations.
The bottom line: God is seeking to restore relationships with all of humanity. We as Christians are called to build relationships with persons who may not have a relationship with God. Sunday School and small groups have an advantage in doing just that! Here are some ideas:
- Bring an environment of caring for people outside the church. Every Sunday in your class/group, make time for prayer of how God will bring someone in your life to bless with grace and love. They need to see Jesus in you! The truth is that most of our members spend all of their time with family and church family in sharing grace and love. If you asked every member to write down five people they spend time with, who are not involved in a church, could every member in your group do it? Build in an expectation that we are to reach out beyond the church walls.
- Get involved in your community. Every class/group should have an ongoing service project in their community. It is a way to think beyond ourselves and share God’s love.
- Have social events at least once a quarter. Many unchurched people will come to a fellowship event before they will ever set foot in a church. Make sure you are inviting people outside your church to social events.
- Are we more like the older brother or the loving father in Luke 15: 11-32? Are we willing to show forgiveness and love to persons? Do we feel that certain people have to meet our expectations of righteousness to receive forgiveness? That is how the Pharisees felt, and that’s what Jesus was speaking against!
Many years ago, I was trying to offer grace and love to a young adult in his late 20s who had left the church after high school. He had long hair and an earring. One Sunday he showed up for worship. During the welcome time, I saw several adults go to greet him. I was relieved.
After the service, he had slipped out before I could talk with him. I called him at home to ask what he thought.
He responded, “Tony, I appreciate you, and I enjoyed the sermon. You can come visit me anytime, but I won’t be back at church.”
When I asked him why, he said this: “You know the teachers who taught me as a child and teenager greeted me? They didn’t ask how I was doing. They didn’t say, “We miss you and love you.” Their first response was, “It looks like you need a haircut. What are you doing with that earring?” The point was made that he wasn’t welcome unless he cleaned up to meet their cultural standards. What a shame! They were like the elder brother of the prodigal son.
They need to be reminded of the end of this passage:
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ (Luke 15:31-32 NIV)