A couple weeks ago my pastor, Brian Dolleman, preached a message called, “Grace Changes the Church.” In it he talked about three stories Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15 in which a lost item is found.
Do you remember the stories?
They’re about a lost sheep, lost coin, and perhaps the most famous, the lost (prodigal) son. Each of the stories are told to help us understand why Jesus was hanging around with sinners and to give us an idea of what our Heavenly Father is like.
Brian mentioned an important truth that is discovered when reading these stories. In each story the lost item requires an all out search or “search team” and once the item/person is found it’s time to celebrate!
After PB summed up the stories he reminded us that Grace must to be the church’s central issue. Anything else that we place at the center will take us off course. He talked about how it was time for “found” people to be part of the “search team,” ready to help lead people to Jesus. He encouraged us to be on the “party planning committee,” the kind of people that can’t wait to celebrate with those who have been found.
When he mentioned it’s time for us to be part of the “party planning committee” my mind immediately wandered to scenes from one of my favorite tv shows, The Office.
If you’ve ever watched the show you know there is a character on the show who is the office’s party planning committee chairperson. Her name is Angela and she is emotion-less and severe. She is definitely a person who could use a little Grace in her life. When she plans parties for the office she rarely takes others input into consideration and generally plans parties that she would enjoy.
Unfortunately this makes me think of the church. Often times we plan our parties (services) and forget who we’re throwing the party for (those who have yet to make the decision to follow Jesus). We must remember that the party we throw weekly is not for us. It’s being thrown for those who haven’t already been found.
The party may include party music that you don’t enjoy. It may include simple stories that you’ve already heard. The party attire is likely to help the people for whom the party is being thrown feel relaxed and at home. But again, since the party is not for us, this shouldn’t be an issue right?
All to often we get weird about these parties. The longer we’ve been throwing parties we forget what it’s like to be the guests of honor. We start asking why our preferences aren’t being catered to. We say things like, “How come we don’t play my favorite party music any more?”
Towards the end of the story of the lost son in Luke 15:28-32 the older brother is getting frustrated with the big party and his father’s actions:
The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celeb
rate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
Pastor Brian was exactly right a couple Sundays ago when he reminded us to be part of both the “search team” and “party planning committee.”
I would simply add, let’s be careful we don’t get bogged down in committee! It’s not about us, it’s about those who aren’t even here yet. Let’s throw parties that are relavent and attractive to outsiders. Let’s throw parties that make sense and help outsiders experience God’s incredible Grace.