In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep:

“So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (ESV)

Did you get that?  When a person – lost to sin – comes to Jesus, He throws a party in heaven! 

Some Adventist churches are working hard to reach out to the “lost sheep” of their congregations.  A recent study (ICM, 2014) conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry showed that roughly one-fourth (27%) of the churches surveyed had a special reconnecting ministry in place to reach former Adventists and inactive members.  However, the remaining nearly three-fourths (73%) did not. 

The primary support system for these ministries is through the NAD’s contract with the Center for Creative Ministry.  This Center offers trainers, Webinars, access to an 800-number hotline, as well as video and print resource materials. However, as you can see, with only one in four churches taking advantage of this type of resource, this is currently being underused.

Overall, it is likely that a larger investment in this type of ministry is needed in order to expand it more widely. If you are interested in learning more or developing a ministry of this sort for your local congregation, please reach out to your local church or conference to find out what resources are already in place.  If none are, then your interest and dedication might just be what is needed to make a change in peoples’ lives!

Just as 99 sheep was not good enough for the shepherd in Jesus’ parable, being comfortable with our congregations “as is” should not be good enough for us either. We should be doing all we can – going through the countryside (or city as it may be), seeking tirelessly, braving the elements (which are generally more figurative than they are literal in this case) – to find those who need to be brought home to Jesus. 

And when they do come home, it’s definitely time for a party!