Sunday Message Supplement for 11 September 2022: “Discovering Disciples”

The scripture for today’s message is Luke 15: 1-10

Jesus spoke with despised tax collectors and “sinners,” thereby arousing controversy but also providing insights about helping people find redemption. Jesus utilized a pair of examples intended to dramatize the process of finding lost valuables and, by analogy, lost souls.

Jesus’ first analogy is about how a shepherd with a hundred sheep will leave the ninety-nine and pursue the lost one. After much searching, the shepherd was rewarded because he found his stray animal and then celebrated. In the second analogy, Jesus spoke about a woman who lost a silver coin. The woman scoured her house to find the precious item. Once she found the coin, the woman rejoiced.

Jesus’ narrative reveals more than two people simply seeking lost possessions. Consider three points: 1) a person will focus more on what they don’t have than on what they already possesses; 2) God doesn’t want even a single person to be forgotten or abandoned; and 3) there’s much joy from finding what was missing.  These last two points are crucial for an understanding of outreach and discipleship.

There are many people in the world who are spiritually lost even if they seem to have outward success. To be a whole person means that there is health in body, mind and spirit—the definition of holistic wellbeing. As God’s follower you can help every living creature discover a fulfilling intimacy with the Almighty.

You can be zealous recovering what you’re missing, and in many cases your attention narrows to the absent thing rather than on your existing blessings. The challenge is to not lose recognition of what you have, which in many cases is far greater than what you do not have.

In partnering with God to reach people we will also find new meaning for ourselves. Nothing is greater than the treasure you’ll uncover as you assist in the process of redemption. No amount of sheep, coins, or anything else can substitute for restoring lost souls. The difficulty of helping people find their blessings pays-off: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).

How can you translate Jesus’ story into action? The process of discovering lost people means that you will help your church accomplish outreach, which is partnering with God to help make new Christians. This begs the crucial question of how to search for and recover those who are alienated from God. Your faith family can teach and encourage you to reach people through effective outreach methods.

There are many ways that you can assist your church in effective outreach, first and foremost in cultivating a desire to serve God as a faithful follower. You can overcome obstacles by thinking and behaving in a way which better utilizes your time, talents and treasures, to reach people who are estranged, discouraged and wounded.

Before you go on a mission to save the world first consider your spiritual health. No amount of outreach or discipleship can substitute for first getting your affairs in order. Of course, you needn’t be even near perfect before helping other people. Yet it’s worth asking if there’s something missing from your life. Once you have forged a marvelous intimacy with God you’ll find fulfillment unlike within any other relationship. With God, you won’t be lost; without God, you’re lost already.

Our church is a faith family called to help make new Christians through outreach and then to help existing Christians deepen their spirituality through discipleship. Our church policies, politics and personalities either help or hinder us. Everything from our physical facilities to our welcoming of visitors can make or break our efforts. This is why churches must be vigilant in adjusting their styles and methods.

Think about what you’d do if you lost a diamond ring. You might be willing to turn your house upside-down in your quest, and you would feel wonderful if you recovered the gem despite a messy search. Consider how much more precious is a human being, and how important it is to help with a person’s redemption. Thinking about outreach this way can clarify priorities amid many distractions.

Effective outreach is tough because it requires constant updating of methods and techniques. Internally, each of us as God’s disciples must bridge the gap between who we are and what God wants us to become. The ongoing mission of the church—that’s us!—is to help reach and restore people, even if this process is inconvenient.

Understand that there are lost souls deserving rescue. In the work of encouraging people you’ll be a faithful disciple. So let’s become partners and do whatever it takes to make our church a place to help people find God and then grow in their transforming relationship with the Almighty.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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