Doug Garasic is the founder and vision pastor of The Movement, a vibrant, growing, multi-site church around Youngstown, Ohio. Over the years, Doug has been on a number of mission trips. It was this experience that led him to build a church focused on missions, it's why they are called The Movement rather than ____ Church. Enjoy these thoughts as Doug encourages us to live a Notorious life.
I have a love and hate relationship with fast food: I hate how much I love it. One chain restaurant’s 40-year slogan encapsulates the problem in the American church. Thousands flock week after week to steepled, stained-glass buildings expecting, as Burger King offers, to have it their way.
Here’s the problem with that ideology: Jesus cannot be the center because WE are. In more than 10 years as a pastor, I’ve seen thousands claim Jesus as their savior and I have baptized hundreds but a few years back, I came to crossroads. My realization? Despite large crowds in our multi-campus, multi-generational, ethnically diverse church very little real life change was happening. Upon discovering the gospel of Luke 15, I embarked on a journey that would change my life as well as the lives of those around me.
According to Luke, at this point in Jesus’ journey, he has been healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching the kingdom of God, and setting captives free all over the countryside. He gets to a place where huge crowds of people are following him waiting to see what he does next. Yet, he infuriates the religious leaders, who hate that Jesus cares more for sinners and tax collectors than about rising through the ranks of the Pharisees.
For the first time in the gospels, we see that Jesus has a crowd of tax collectors, teachers of the religious law, and others labeled “notorious sinners” all gathered at the same time (Luke 15:1-2). What Jesus decides to say to a crowd made up of both the elite religious and the scum of the earth is critical to understanding of the gospel and how he expects us to live.
Jesus tells a story of a Shepherd who had 100 sheep. One drifted away into the wilderness, and the shepherd leaves the comfort of the 99 and goes after the one. The Shepherd found that one lost sheep, picked it up and carried it home. When he returned, they celebrated because he found something that was very valuable.
We often miss the extreme joy and fulfillment that is found when we stop focusing on having things our way and start helping others find true peace in Christ. The story in Luke 15 gives amazing insight into the heart of God. In particular: Each lost sheep is precious. Instead of rejoicing that he had 99 healthy sheep, the shepherd risked his life to go after that one scared, tired, helpless sheep. That is what God does for us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, literally gave his life for his sheep. He endured more pain and persecution than we can imagine, all for the hope and joy of being reunited with us. How willing are we to do the same for God?
Instead of catering to the “have it your way” mindset of those who are settled and complacent like the 99 sheep, today’s churches need to set their sights on risking everything to go after that one who is lost and hurting. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we need to follow the example he set: laying down our lives and sacrificing our comfort to reach those who are far away. God will bless our efforts and give us fulfillment and joy beyond our wildest dreams, if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones and walk the path He has set before us.
Check Out his Book Notorious: The Gospel Jesus Intended on Amazon.