A Passion for the Lost
There are a lot of titles that Jesus uses to describe himself: Bridegroom, Bread of Life, Cornerstone, Good Shepherd. But there is another one that stands out as completely different than all the rest: “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34).
Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties and enjoyed their company. From the Gospels it appears that, in fact, Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders (ouch!). Jesus loved being with people and they felt it. Even little children wanted to be around Jesus, which speaks volumes about what kind of person he was. Jesus had a passion for the lost.
I wonder how many people would say that First Free is a church that loves unbelievers. The command to love is the most repeated command in the New Testament. It appears at least 44 times. What is the Great Commandment? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Love God and love people. If we don’t love people, nothing else matters.
I like to ask the new people who come to First Free, “What attracted you to our church family?” Out of all the people that I’ve asked this question, I’ve never had one person say, “it's because of your theology.” No one has ever said “it was your stained glass windows” or “it was your full calendar of activities.” Instead, the most common response I receive is: “I felt an incredible spirit of love toward me that drew me in.”
Did you catch the focus of the love in that sentence? Many churches are full of members who love each other but still the church is dying. They have a wonderful fellowship among the members but they don’t have a love for the unbeliever. The reason some churches don’t grow is because they don’t love. People want to go where love is.
Love draws people in like a powerful magnet. The opposite is also true: a lack of love drives people away. We must love unbelievers the way Jesus did. After all, we are Christ-sent disciples. Without His passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
During the weekend of February 24-25th, we will be holding our winter Outreach Weekend. We will be exposed to several ministries we support that God is using in our city of Minneapolis: New Salem Church in the Powderhorn-Phillips neighborhood, China Outreach Ministries on the U of M campus, and Community Emergency Services in Ventura Village. In our pulpit that Sunday morning will be Alejandro Mandes, the EFCA All People and Immigrant Mission Leader. He will challenge us to open our eyes and see those that God has brought into our lives, especially the immigrant population. He will challenge us to love our neighbors and to be a “friend of sinners.” Won’t you join us?