The One and the 1

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:7

The physician Luke records a conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day over those who were spiritually lost.  The Pharisees focused on the found . . . Jesus looked for the lost.

The Savior told stories of a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.  The lost sheep was sought after by the shepherd . . . the lost coin was found in a routine cleaning . . . and the lost son was waited for.

In each parable, there was celebration when the lost was found.

I grew up in a church that encouraged us to bring people to a weekend service with hundreds attending.  The services were full of inspiring music, welcoming congregants, an encouraging message and a heartfelt appeal at the conclusion inviting our guests to “be found”.  Our strategy for the lost was bringing the sinner to the saints.

The results were not impacting.  Those who responded to appeal usually were disconnected or unconnected with other groups and needed a place to “belong”.  Being “salt” and “light” was packaged in an invitation to come instead of an influence to change.

The church has become inspirational and innovative in larger weekend experiences, smaller gatherings throughout the week and giving-back opportunities that meet needs in communities.  These well-maintained strategies, systems and support structures have become pricey and programmed primarily for the “found”, over the “lost”.

In this time of social isolation, distancing and quarantine; churches are adjusting from a primarily once-a-week rallying point to pervasive multiple digital touch-points. We are sharing, connecting, encouraging, studying, Facebooking, Zooming with adaptability, effectiveness and overwhelming opportunities.

The church’s programming expertise is kicking into high gear.  We are making it work.  We are caring for the flock.  We are meeting the needs of our elderly.  We are encouraging, praying, sharing and giving hope . . . primarily for the “found”, instead of the “lost” . . . primarily for the “99”, and not the “1”.

The early, first century church responded to unbelievers and non-followers amid pandemics with compassion, commitment and conviction.  Their sacrifice and service began to soothe and solve the hopelessness of the world.  Richard Blackaby writes, “Many historians believe Christians’ behavior in times of crisis ultimately transformed the Church. What the world sees as a problem, the Church views as a possibility.”

The first century transforming Church looked “out” just as it looked “in”.  

Here are five considerations as churches look to being intentional in reaching the “1” and how to address these changing times.

  1. Individual Renewal over Institutional Revival: I recently had a conversation with someone in the food service industry who lost two of his jobs.  We talked about simply being human . . . caring and sharing.  Think for the individual over the institution.  The church is a body, not a building.  The church is relational, not a resource.  Our mission is to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and our mandate is to deliver the message (Acts 1:8)
  1. Strategies over Structure. Too often, we become content in our comfort.  In Kingdom work, the message never changes, but the methods do.  Step out of the comfort zone.  If you need to have outside eyes and an outside voice, being them in.  Sometimes we are really too close to the trees that we no longer can see the forest.  Investigate . . . Initiate . . . Iterate . . . Innovate . . . Instruct.
    • Investigate: Ask the uncomfortable and tough questions.  Set preconceived ideas of success aside.
      • In our season of isolation, how do we fulfill our vision?
      • Is our vision dependent on gathering groups of over 10, who are not separated by 6 feet?
      • Can we make disciples, encourage people to love God, love others and love their community in the context of social distancing and digital interaction?
      • Where do we want our people to be in June (personally, family, work, church, community)?
      • Since we can’t access our buildings, stage performance, children and youth programs or weekend experiences, how do we provide what our people need over the next few months?
      • How do we budget, staff, program?
      • Is this the new norm?
    • Initiate: Start . . . maybe small . . . but, start.  Momentum only occurs with movement.
    • Iterate:   Rehearse.  Redo.  Repeat.  Figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
    • Innovate: I have a friend who often says, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.”  We often set aside innovation for institutionalization.  Why change something if its working . . . even if its inefficient, ineffective and expensive.
    • Instruct: Take what you have learned, teach them to your team, and make it part of your new normal.  Don’t waste the lessons learned.
  1. Give Help and Get Help. Give Help:  Many people in our churches have expertise and resources that our community needs:  accountants can help people navigate new tax requirements for small businesses; admins can help employees with unemployment filings; educators can assist parents with home-schooling strategies; those who like to shop can shop for those in isolation and shut-ins . . . the opportunities are unlimited.  Technology can help us manage the information.  And, there will be those who will need to Get Help:  lost jobs, relational issues, addiction relapses, new skill training.  Give help and get help . . . all through the body of Christ.
  1. Digital Engagement Gateways instead of Experiential Gatherings. We are expending great blocks of time with our digital gatherings.  Candidly, I’ve spent more time on my phone and computer with Facebook and Zoom than I have with people in my own household or neighborhood.  Our churches will have extremely limited access to engagement pathways for interested or new members.  Our welcome centers are no longer open.  Digital Engagement Gateways to our gatherings, small groups, and service opportunities allow us to connect with the “1” who is needing, searching and wanting help, hope and healing.  Let’s use our resources to “connect” over providing “content”.
  1. Pivot and Work instead of Pause and Wait. If we are honest, we all think our current situation will be over quickly . . . “this too shall pass”.  And, it will.  But are there lessons God is wanting us to learn during our time in the wilderness?  In the entrepreneur space, the term “pivot” empowers aspiring business developers to constantly evaluate and adapt.  Instead of “pausing and waiting”, learn how to “pivot and work”.

During these days, we need to see things in a different way and hear with different ears.  Blackaby gives us insightful encouragement, “keep your spiritual eyes and ears alert, for we may be at the brink of one of the greatest movements of God in recent history.”

Rest in The One and find the 1.

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