“When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” Matthew 9:12–13
I’ve been a pastor now for more than twenty years. During that time I’ve pastored many churches that were doing their best just to hang on, keep their bills paid and their doors open. What all of these churches needed was a fresh infusion of life, some new faces in the pews, and some hope that their church could grow and not die a slow protracted death.
Unfortunately, I was part of the problem. Just like everyone else in the congregation I was just prayerfully looking to heaven hoping for something to happen to get the church under my administration on the right track. I’d preach messages about evangelism and soul winning, I’d prepare sermon series on books of the Bible, famous Bible characters, Bible prophecy and a dozen other topics hoping that somehow my excellence in the pulpit would attract new people into the congregation.
What I failed to realize, and what so many ministers and congregations failed to realize, is that the reason why all the efforts we were investing into our churches and their services were wasted was because we were focusing on the wrong thing. We were focusing on ourselves. We were focusing on what we liked, and what we wanted, and what we thought the world needed. Most of the time our worship wasn’t really worship because we were focused on securing for ourselves a blessing more than being a blessing to God. And our attempts at outreach were ineffective because we never quite left our comfort zone, went out to the sinners in the world and truly reached them.
Jesus didn’t live life and do church like we do. And it wasn’t because he was a middle eastern Jew living two thousand years ago. The life he lived and the way he worshipped didn’t fit in his time and place either. The reason for this was because he actually invested himself and his time in being with those he was trying to save. He went to the people and shared what he had to say with them. He spent time with them in their homes. He met with them at the village well, in the market place, on the street, or wherever they happened to be.
He connected with people the religiously righteous avoided and when asked why his answer was, “I came for the people who are sick not the ones that are well. I came for the sinners, to call them to repentance, not the righteous.
When we as a church stop talking about reaching the world and actually leave our homes and church buildings and go out into the world and meet with, and talk to, and make friends with, and share Jesus’ love with the people there we’ll start seeing our churches grow. Jesus invested himself in people. He invested himself in their lives; when we get to doing what he did we’ll see the growth we’ve been praying for.