The 99 and 1
Preached October 2006 at Christ Episcopal Missionary Church
Often I challenge young priest about their empty pews urging them to become more involved in evangelism and their community. As church numbers continue to crumble it is not just an Anglican problem but one that travels across all denominations. Community involvement sadly seems to be a thing of the past. Pastors are satisfied with the few they have. Jesus challenged us with a story of the Good Shepherd. He asked, "If a man should have 100 sheep and one should stray, should he leave the 99 and go after the ONE or should he stay and let the ONE drift away?”
There is safety in numbers. Within that 99 if there is teaching, praying and fellowship they look after each other. But the ONE who has left should be sought. They are lost, hungry, and possibly dying; they need attention. The church today is lacking in outreach and abandons the ONE while playing to the 99, but it just might be that the ONE is the future of the church. Too many ministers want ready made pulpits, and are not willing to work for it. They would be happy if others go out and find others for them to preach to. But they, themselves, are not interested. Practically the trouble with this is that when new people do come, ministers who want no part in evangelism, they just want to show off their intellectual stances, they preach but do not inspire.
Gone are the days when ministers, and they could sit back, show up on Sundays and receive a check on Monday. With youth dying on our streets, parents losing control of their children, unrest of civil strife in the world, the preacher needs now more than ever to go out and preach the gospel away from the safety of the pulpit. We are mindful all churches are not guilty of this lack of leadership. Many works tirelessly to bring the lost home, they go on a desperate search for the ONE, knowing that the 99 is well taught. In some cases we see a church beginning with 4 or 5 members, one year later they have 300 members. Much of this has nothing to do with the pastor, but the 99 who did their part.
This gets me back to the ONE. If the ONE that goes astray and you go after them, you will find that in so doing you might just meet another 99 (or ONE ) who might just return with you. There is a message for all who seek God's grace. We should never squander the chance to meet and greet the 99, but the ONE should never be left in the cold.
This is not an easy task and will never be so, but when we see neighborhood Night Clubs are filled, we must do more to lead others away from a path of destruction and bring them home to the kingdom of God. It should be a continuous work that builds faith, IT IS A DUTY. Along the way there will be setbacks but we must never give up. Jesus did not.
Let us remember theses 3 things…
*For every one that is brought to the church there is joy in heaven.
*For every one that is reached, maybe there are others around them that will follow their example.
*For every one that gives their life to Christ, there may be 10 family members that will follow their example; therein the church will be filled.
In Jesus we find hope for our lives. The church is the only happy alternative to the violence, pain and positive family structure. We should take every opportunity to give aid and counsel whenever we can, no matter how filled our pews; there is always ROOM FOR ONE MORE. Not just the ONE that has gone astray, but the ONE who sits on the curb hearing the church bells ring and wonders, “Could they be beckoning me.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be ascribed. Amen