I’m a church person. I’ve gone to church my whole life. I can tell you exactly the one Sunday I missed since my parents started bringing me to church in first grade. I was sick (although it was a self-inflicted illness). And even as I write this it still bothers me that I missed even that once.
When I go to church each weekend, God doesn’t throw a party. He doesn’t celebrate I showed up to worship him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me or delight in me, its just that he expects me here. On the other hand, when someone far from God comes to church and starts to see his or her need for God, God throws a party. Jesus tells us this much in Luke 15:7. He says, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
God throws a party when those who are separated from him come back to him. God throws a party when they stop running from him and begin recognizing their need for him. If this is what makes heaven celebrate, then to be a growing disciple of Jesus means that we need to celebrate the return of lost people in the same way.
Honestly, I have some work to do. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, I jumped up and down and called my friends and family, I celebrated. I don’t get that excited when I hear stories of people going back to church or reconnecting with God. I’m happy to hear them, but I don’t have the same level of excitement.
For me it begins by personally investing in people who are far from God. I haven’t been doing that lately. As a church person and as a church worker, I tend to have relationships with people who are church people. My first step is to begin by praying that God would bring someone into my life who is far from God. When someone you specifically care about returns to God there is a far greater excitement when that one person returns.
For whom are you praying to return to God? Do you find yourself in church circles all the time or do you have many opportunities to meet un-churched people? Palm Sunday and Easter are the perfect opportunities to invite them.