I was talking with a colleague last night who shared their passion for reaching out to young adults who have left the church. As they spoke, I was reminded of an exceptional feature written by Kimberly Luste Maran, Where is the Joy?
Noted author and church demographer, George Barna reported six out of ten (61%) young adults part ways with the church, despite being spiritually active as teens. Adventism’s preminent researcher on youth, Roger Dudley, found comparable young adult departure rates in our church, seeming to suggest we are not immune.
Jesus spoke about this, and in His typical style, He told a story:
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue” [Luke 15:4-7, Message].
My wife has all kinds of intriguing favorites. Among dark chocolate, and 80’s music, and triathlons, she also enjoys a curious series of books called, Where’s Waldo. She enjoys searching the pages, looking for this Waldo fellow. She scours the scenes inch by inch, and upon finding him, exclaims with great delight, “There’s Waldo!”
With humble pride, I would say that my wife Deirdre reminds me of Jesus. He is passionate about His church, and if anyone is missing. . . if anyone get’s lost, He searches for them, He pursues them, not satisfied with just hanging out with the “found.”
And as you might expect from the Lord of the Party, when Jesus returns from His all-out search party, He sends a text msg to all His peeps, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep.”
May I find joy where Jesus finds joy.
May I wonder “Where’s Waldo and Wenda?”
And with the success of my/our search party, may a block party bust out with Jesus-styled joy.
Headlines read, “Waldo, Wenda & Joy — FOUND!”
encounter: After reading Luke 15:4-7, reflect on the following questions with others or on your own (you’re always welcome to post your reflections here).
- Make a list of your top five favorite things. What brings you joy?
- When have you lost something valuable to you and later found it? Tell the story, including your emotions.
- What helps you maintain your joy in difficult environments or situations?
- If you were invited to the party by Jesus, as He celebrates a successful rescue, what would be your reaction? Would you share in His joy? Explain.