The ‘99’ as well as the ‘1’

9 Mar

Let me begin by saying I love the ‘lost’ stories in Luke 15, in fact I think the parable of the lost son is quite clearly the greatest illustration of how God seeks, calls us home, forgives and restores us. I also don’t have much of an issue with the woman who lost a coin either. My issue is with these sheep! The parable of the lost sheep, like the lost son, helps us see that God seeks us but also that there is great rejoicing in heaven when someone truly accepts being found by God. I’m fine with that and of course loving teaching that story.

My issue is this; have we accepted that ‘1’ being saved is ok and so have lowered the bar within our ministry. Have we accepted that ‘1’ being saved is success rather than spending our energies in pursuing the ’99’. Now I know I am slightly twisting the teaching here but I do hear, and have probably said it myself, that “if only 1 or 2 kids come that’s fine because Jesus came for the 1”. Now of course this is true and of course Jesus seeks us as individuals and even 1 person choosing to repent and follow Jesus is cause for great celebration, both here and in heaven.

I think my problem is that we have subconsciously chosen to accept a lower level of success. My worry is that by choosing a lower level of success we then don’t put as much energy in and consequently we aren’t as daring, radical and adventurous in our ministry. Maybe it’s just that I am greedy, I don’t just want 1 young person to be saved I want 99. I don’t just want occasionally parties in heaven for individuals who get saved, I want hourly parties every day for the 99 who find Jesus.

It is worth noticing in all three lost stories there is a vast amount of energy spent in searching. The shepherd leaves the 99 and goes out search, the woman “lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully’ and we understand the father in the story was looking daily for his son to return home.

Maybe it is my greed for the kingdom but if I am going to put in that much energy, and youthwork is hard work, I want more to show for it. I would love to see the energy put into youthwork reap the rewards they deserve. Maybe its our Englishness of being ok with coming 2nd and ‘a 1-1 draw’ being acceptable. But we are talking about the lives of young people here, more than that we are talking about the churches ability to thrive and grow. So let us pray more, work together more, support one another more, imagine more.

This isn’t really a blog about theology or prayer or maybe even youthwork. It is a blog that hopes to encourage us all to aim higher and think bigger. We need to have a certain dissatisfaction with ‘coming 2nd’ or ‘the 1-1 draw’. I heard a talk while I was away which spoke about us needing to imagine what it would be like to have our ministry 10x the size it is now. With that image in our minds we then need to consider how we would change our behaviour, our planning and the investment of resources to make this ’10x’ change happen. I loved this and think it helps us consider now only what growth might look like but also what we need to do to enable it to happen. The first thing I think we can all do is to want more than we have before, to go for the 1, to invest in the 1 but at the same time long for a ministry that pursues and engages the 99 as well.

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