Recipe for Community Ministry: The Lost

What can your church do to grow? I believe God is calling every congregation to engage in the kind of ministry Jesus did and reach out to the least, the lost, and the left out in your community. Jesus gives us this recipe for community ministry in Luke 15 through the stories of the lost coin, the lost son, and the lost sheep.

In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells a story about a son who does the unthinkable and asks his father for his share of the inheritance while his father is still very much alive! Worse yet, this son goes and squanders all he was given in “foolish living.” He literally financially bankrupted himself pursuing a morally bankrupt life! He hit rock bottom and found himself longing to eat the food he was feeding to pigs. He decides to return home and confess his sin and ask his father for mercy and to hire him. As Jesus tells the story, while the son was still a long way off, the father sees his son, runs to him, throws his arms around him and kissed him! He throws a party to celebrate the return of his lost son and welcomes him back in the family. Oh, the love of the father!


But not everyone was thrilled. The older brother who had never left was bitter and refused to welcome his brother or celebrate his return. He did not share in his father’s joy, but rather had contempt for his wayward brother and for his father. And I’m afraid that the attitude that many churchgoers hold in our hearts is like that of the older brother: we are not really interested in seeing wayward siblings restored to the family. It is easy for us to think that they have chosen their path and deserve what they have coming to them!

But God is calling us to adopt the posture of the merciful and loving father in this story. It is important to note that the father did not go an interrupt his wayward son in the middle of his hedonistic living. The father didn’t go shame or scold him into behaving. Yet the Father also never stopped watching or waiting. And when the son was still a long way off but beginning to make his way home, the father ran to welcome him home.

What would it look like for your church to actively engage in watching and waiting for wayward sons and daughters who may be longing to make their way back to the Father? How can we cast off the “older brother syndrome” and adopt the mercy and love of the Father? I applaud congregations who prioritize recovery ministries and open their doors wide to all kinds of people. And I would encourage you to gather a group together in prayer to discern what God is calling you to do reach out and embrace lost people seeking to find their way home to the loving embrace of our merciful Father. And when a lost one comes home, celebrate!
Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or Like us on Facebook: