October 25, 2023 Leave the Ninety-Nine
How is your church allocating its time and resources—toward the ninety-nine righteous—or the one in need of a savior?
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 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 15:1-7 (NIV)
The Parable of the Lost Sheep is a powerful illustration from Jesus on how important it is to focus on seeking that one lost or unchurched person … even if it takes us away from the saved.
As perhaps the most outward facing arm of the Church, the ministry of communications and marketing have a huge role to play in going after the one.
Who is the one? The one is the unchurched person who has yet to give their life to Christ. The one is currently of the world and maybe hasn’t realized their need for a Savior. And while discipling and communicating to people within the Church is important for spiritual growth and community, going after the one is so much of the mission before us.
I’m certainly not advocating that you don’t worry about communicating to those in the Church. Those people still need led and fed through your communications and resources throughout the week. However, I am challenging you to consider how you are allocating your time each week.
If you could quickly estimate in your head, how much of your time every week is devoted to the ninety-nine and how much is allocated to the one? Is it 90-10? 75-25? Maybe even 60-40? No matter the exact number, I’d personally be surprised if that ratio actually favors the one.
We put so much time and focus on the Sunday experience that we can forget that there are another 167 hours each week that really matter, too.
So much of what we need to do is just get people to Jesus and let Him do the rest.
We need to smell like smoke as we are pulling people from the fire. And to do that to our fullest potential, we need to reallocate our time to favor chasing the one.
This is mission critical stuff, folks. It can be easy to forget, but there are eternities at stake here. Pursuing the people outside of our immediate church families is not only vital to their eternity, but also to the life of the church. In the United States, church attendance has been trending downward at a concerning rate for the last 20 years as outlined by this Gallup poll.
Most of those declining numbers are a result of younger people (Millennials and Gen Z) trending away from organized religion—Christianity included. The one probably fits in this group.
We’ve outlined the importance of this work and how we’re spending our time doesn’t reflect that level of importance. So, what can we do to right the ship and get things back on track?
Have Strategic Conversations
The most important step to reaching the one is to create a strategy that's actually focused on the one. It’s easy to say that might be your goal, but does the strategy align with that? We need to strategize around it and create tangible next steps for making it obvious that reaching the lost is our main focus.
Again, we are certainly not going to abandon the ninety-nine, but the allocation of our time doesn’t need to favor that group so heavily.
Bring the Ministry Heart
If you’re a part of a healthy church, I’m sure there’s a desire to reach and resource people in your community. So, we need to bottle up that desire and find ways to incorporate it into our communications and marketing efforts.
While we do this, we need to consider the felt needs of those in your area. What are the frontline pastors, ministers, etc. hearing from people? Where are they struggling? Where are people finding growth and success? Let’s amplify those messages to bring hope and help to those who don’t yet know Jesus.
Go Where the One is
What’s the target demographic you’re hoping to reach in your community? What’s their name and their story? And where do they spend their time?
We need to be where the one is with the right message for them. Almost every church we talk to is trying to reach young families—men and women in their thirties who have at least one child—in their communities. But how do we do that?
Here are a few things to consider:
- How can you bring value into the lives of those families? Start by thinking of resources and programs/events that can help them in their current lives. Maybe it’s about marriage, parenting or cultural issues to educate them on.
- Where are they at? That could mean a few things, but the priority here is where they can hear your message. From my perspective (as a digital specialist), that’s usually in the digital space—social media, YouTube, Google—or in places that bring value to their everyday lives (schools, community events, etc.). That means the Church needs to be there, too.
- Wrap it up and put a bow on it! Now we know the audience we’re speaking to and where they’re at. So, let’s get the right message in front of them at the right time. And no, that probably isn’t going to be a graphic from Canva. Use video, photography and other free resources to reach them with an encouraging word or helpful tool. If you need help finding out the right package for your audience, ask some of them in your church! There’s no shame in looking for feedback or testing things out. And then we can use all kinds of data to see what worked and what didn’t.
It's What We're Called to
7 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 (NIV)
Seems pretty clear, right? Jesus doesn’t mince words in Luke 15. Every one that is saved leads to great rejoicing in heaven. So, would you join us and help get the party started?
If you want to talk more about who the one is for your church—or how you effectively communicate your message to them, we’d be happy to chat!
Written by Aidan Wilkins