Shifting Our Priorities

Brandon Bowers - Lead Pastor | Awaken Church, Charleston, SC

I recently read an article online by Thom Rainer on “Why Churches are Less Evangelistic Than Years Ago.” You can find the full article here. He conducted a poll in 2015 asking for the top reasons churches do not see evangelism happening in their church or in their community. For those of you reading this who do not know “Christianese”, evangelism is basically telling people about the story of Jesus. Evangelism also includes sharing your own testimony and inviting others to follow Jesus too. When we share the story of Jesus an how He changes our own story we are in fact sharing the good news of salvation with them. That may be simplistic, but it’s also honest. I want to share the Top 7 Reasons from Rainer’s list with you, remind you of one of my favorite discipleship moments that Jesus shared, and then offer a few thoughts of my own.

Here’s the list…

1) Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people. 

2) Many Christians and church members do not befriend and spend time with lost persons.

3) Many Christians and church members are lazy and apathetic.

4) We are more known for what we are against than what we are for.

5) Churches have an ineffective evangelistic strategy of “you come” rather than “we go.”

6) Many church members think that evangelism is the role of the pastor and paid staff.

7) Church membership is more about getting my needs met rather than reaching the lost.

Jesus once told a parable in Luke 15 about a shepherd who had 100 sheep. The shepherd realized one day that he had lost one of his sheep, and he makes a decision to go out and find it. In fact, he leaves the 99 other sheep in the wilderness to go and look for the one that had wandered away and got lost. He was determined to search until he found it. Jesus tells us that when this shepherd found his sheep, he joyfully carried it home on his shoulders and then called a party to celebrate with his neighbors and friends because he had found his lost sheep. Seems logical, right?

Until you consider the context of this story.

This story irritated some people. Good people. Religious people. Pharisees and teachers of religious law. See, they were upset at Jesus’ lifestyle and practices. Jesus ate with sinners. Not just sinners, but the worst of sinners. The notorious sinners. The worst of the worst. Jesus was right there in the middle of it all. Sharing about the Kingdom of God and offering hope to the hopeless. The religious people were outraged.

So Jesus told them a story.

About sheep.

And a shepherd.

And it was so, so good.

Actually, it’s a story we need to memorize. We need to emphasize. We need to magnify within the walls of the churches we serve and lead. This story is the marching order for every follower of Jesus but particularly those of us who shepherd and lead flocks. It’s so easy to get caught up with the sheep we have and neglect the sheep that are lost. The ninety-nine we have demand food, demand attention, and demand our time and affection. While this may be masked in well-meaning programs, meetings, and events, the reality is that there are stray sheep all around us and often times we don’t even notice.

See, when I look at the list above, I honestly believe we could just stop at #1:

Christians have no sense of urgency to reach lost people.

That’s it.

Most don’t really care.

Most don’t see it as a pressing issue.

Most don’t actually understand what is at stake.

See, the shepherd who lost his sheep knew that disaster was on the way. Sheep wander. Sheep stray. Sheep are short-sighted and walk with their heads down. They are easy targets for wild animals, frequently defenseless victims. The sheep who strays will either starve to death, walk straight off a cliff, or eventually be attacked and killed in the wild. The shepherd knows this which is what compels him to leave and to search for the one. To do whatever it takes to seek and save what is lost.

Jesus said this was his mission, as well:

To seek and save the lost.

If we are to follow his example as disciples, we must do the same.

For those that shepherd it means we sometimes must shift our priorities. People over programs and pursue what Jesus most cared about. That staff meeting might have to wait or the new program we want slides on the list of priorities. The busy calendar and the internal focus of feeding the sheep you have is important. Yet, not at the cost of ignoring those that wander. The longer they wander the more at risk they become. There must be a sense of urgency. Eternity depends on it.

Sure, this might frustrate or even anger some of the religious among you, but trust me, it’s worth it. The celebration when the sheep comes home is priceless. So worth it, all of heaven rejoices when just one finds their way home.

Let me encourage you today to leave the ninety-nine behind.

Jesus would every time.

By Brandon Bowers, Lead Pastor

Awaken Church
Charleston, SC