Several years ago, the late Jim Cress, who was serving as ministerial director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, visited a church I was pastoring and shared a message that helped focus my personal approach to ministry. His insights into Luke 15 gave me the framework and clarity to shape my practice. The focus was on three short stories that Jesus told: the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. These represent three general groups of people who are leaving our local faith communities.
The lost coin represents those who stay in the church but are disconnected. They may attend faithfully and seem like they are engaged in a life of faith and discipleship, but they are in fact lost inside the church. They have formal religion, but no heart. They have embraced institutional customs, but they feel no forward movement or passion. The apathy level is high and the routine is mundane. This group is bored and disengaged.
The lost sheep represents those who simply wander away. Perhaps they miss a couple of connect groups, skip the occasional program or Sabbath service, and begin to accept appointments and responsibilities that take them away from opportunities for service and community. They know Jesus exists, but over time they have simply forgotten to listen to His voice and have wandered away, just like the sheep in the story did.
The lost son represents those who have consciously chosen to leave. They have weighed their options and made a choice to step away from church in an act of defiance or rejection. Often they are actively blocking out the voice of Jesus from influencing their lives.
All three types are disconnected from Jesus in some way. These kinds of disengagement happen to people of all generations. Each of Jesus’ stories includes several insights for how to reach these different kinds of people. For the next five weeks, we will open up five short stories—these three plus two others—using a fresh perspective that will challenge and focus your call to discipleship and service. Each of these encounters with Jesus is filled with rich applications for our lives. They call each of us to make a change. We hope that each week, you will continue to ask yourself which moment with Jesus changed your life—and that you will actively seek such moments as you move forward.
Japhet J. De Oliveira
Boulder Adventist Church
The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier—John by Jon Paulien
Commentary on John by Charles Spurgeon
Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John by Edward W. Klink III
John: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching by Gerard Sloyan
John for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) by N. T. Wright
Luke for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) by N. T. Wright
Luke (Teach the Text Commentary Series) by R. T. France
Luke (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by David E. Garland
Luke: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary by Richard B. Vinson
Mark for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) by N. T. Wright
Mark: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary by R. Alan Culpepper
Mark (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Mark L. Strauss
The Desire of Ages by Ellen White
The Gospel of John: A Commentary by Frederick Dale Bruner
What the Gospels Meant by Garry Wills