Posted by: sdunnpastor | August 15, 2010

LOST PEOPLE MATTER TO GOD

“Lost people matter to God.”

I still remember Bill Hybels utter that phrase back in the 1980’s, as I watched him on tape providing the scriptural and motivational foundation for doing the work of evangelism. Famously building upon the three parables found in Luke 15, Hybels reminded us that we should never consider anything more important than helping reconcile people to God. In the ensuing two decades I have heard many a pastor, from prominent podiums to small, almost unnoticed pulpits; echo Hybels’ words.

The natural inference from that statement is that “Lost people ought to matter to God’s people.” In 39 years of ministry, I have no doubt that lost people matter to God; but I deeply question whether lost people matter to God’s people. Oh, on an intellectual level when we are trying to be theologically correct, we will all say that lost people matter to us.  Our actions and our attitudes put the lie to such assertions.

1. Do we really believe that people are lost without Christ? Christian Smith has coined the phrase “moralistic, therapeutic deism” to describe what passes for the gospel in many churches today.  The moralistic dimension affirms that people really can be right with God (and spend eternity with Him) if we are simply good enough. Goodness has been substituted for holiness and so we seem to believe most people who try hard enough will earn a passing score. Or we operate from some deep conviction that a loving God would never make us live with the consequences of choosing sin over His love. The Cross may make great jewelry but it is optional in terms of salvation.

2. We act as if the already persuaded are more important than the yet to be persuaded. Too many Christians and too many churches take care of themselves first, giving it the bulk of their time, their passion, their attention, their resources.  Evangelism gets what’s left over. And Heaven forbid we step out of our ministry or worship comfort zones to make the Gospel accessible to those who do not yet know Jesus.

3. We celebrate birthdays but barely speak of New Birth. Maybe that’s because we have more birthdays than New Births. We make elaborate provisions to celebrate one more year on this planet but rarely make any provision for a person experiencing the first year of their eternal life on this planet. In fact, we grieve when someone forgets to give us a gift for another year of being “absent from the Lord”, but seem unperturbed when the gift of eternal life goes unclaimed.

Do you have a plan for building redemptive relationships with people so you might help them become reconciled to God? Or are you too busy with work, church programs, and personal trivial pursuits to give the lost a real priority?  Does your church have a strategy for going and sharing the Good News with those who do not yet know Jesus? Or are you too busy with bake sales, class parties, prayer meetings, making the church’s trains run on time?

Lost people matter to God.

Lost people should matter to God’s people.

Would your priorities and actions reflect that?

Posted by Dr Steve Dunn, Lead Pastor at the Landisville Church of God and Chairperson of the Commission on Evangelism of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God.

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