Outer Circle Christians (Part 3 of 6)

[I recommend that you take a look at the 1st and 2nd posts or if you’d prefer to view the entire essay you can find it on my website.]


“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:3-7

The Messiah that the Pharisees and other God experts made up in their minds would choose them for his Inner Circle. They were the best “Christians” in town, so certainly they would be his Generals while all the actual bad people wouldn’t even make it in his army. That’s why they couldn’t understand what he was doing eating meals with LGBTs and lazy drug addicted homeless people – oops ­– I meant “sinners and tax collectors.”

His lost sheep story meant that he came especially for Outer Circle types, the people least likely to succeed in society and in the Church. “I’m not willing to give all my attention to you,” implied Jesus, “I gotta go out and find people who have totally lost their way.” He doesn’t just accept outsiders, he goes way out of his way and chases after them! The ninety-nine ought to be mature enough to not need his constant attention. It was the disoriented sheep that were incessantly on his mind. “Don’t make this flock all about you guys! There are wandering sheep out there; and I’ve got to go find them and bring them back.”

We tend to think that we’re the good people and that it only makes sense that he would treat us with special attention. Of course, he does treat us kindly and with great care, but in his parable the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine, not in an oasis, but “in the open country” while he goes after lost lambs. I don’t mean to imply that God has a limited capability to attend to all his creation at once. We know that he’s omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, but we should also remember that he’s a Shepherd on a mission to recover wandering and disoriented sheep. We’re not the only ones on his mind. He’s relentless about locating and luring back to the flock every lost lamb that will let him carry them home.

Much unlike us so-called Inner Circle Christians, it’s the ones on society’s margins to whom he gives special attention. He doesn’t just welcome them into our clubhouse when they come in their own power, but searches them out and carries those who can’t walk for themselves. He carries the ones who need carrying, the rest he invites to join him in his passionate pursuit of hobbled lambs.

“Yeah, but isn’t it their fault that they can’t walk? They ran off and tried to live without the shepherd, so shouldn’t he make them walk home? I mean, no one held them down and pumped drugs into their veins. They’re poor because they won’t work. If they’re gay they chose to be gay. (Well, maybe or maybe not. I don’t know, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard people say.).” But do you think Jesus even cares how people got themselves in their predicaments? Does he have a probationary period for those who wandered out of his pasture and needed to be carried home? It seems to me that it’s the ninety-nine with the greater responsibility to stay close to the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake and then join him in his loving project to gently carry the wanderers home.

“Does he not…go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”

He’s not sitting on his hands, waiting for people to come home. He seeks relentlessly “until” he finds that one lost lamb. He maybe patient, yet it couldn’t accurately be said that he’s in any way passive about bringing the cast offs home. God is the ultimate missionary. He’s more obsessed about bringing his children back home, so if you want to be near him you’ll have to join him on his recovery missions.

He’s an Outer Circle Savior. If you fancy yourself an Inner Circle saint will just have to get used to it.

If you’re an Outer Circler with unconverted Outer Circle acquaintances and friends (people who, if there were a vote on the least likely to be sane and/or successful) pray for them today and for yourself to share God’s love with them asap.

If you’re an Outer Circler with Inner Circle friends, you might consider passing this on to them.

2 Replies to “Outer Circle Christians (Part 3 of 6)”

  1. Thanks for adding the action challenge at the bottom! I know what you are saying is true but struggle with what am I to do with this challenge? Move to the inner city?


    1. Good question, Mike. I’ve been thinking about it for days. The first answer is yes, some should relocate to a city to minister to the poor. A lot more than already do. They are called to submerge themselves in an impoverished neighborhood here or abroad. (A great book on one urban missionary order is Sub-Merge by John Hayes, the founder of “InnerChange.” My Outer Circle friends are part of it. Hayes is brilliant and compassionate.

      I’d say that at the other end of the spectrum of involvement is something every Christian can do, and that is find in or near their own community a genuinely poor person and befriend him/her. They live un-roofed or nearly, and they need someone to care, listen, and share what they can. Simple as that. Let your lives intertwine and show and share God’s love in whatever ways as the Spirit leads. Through a church in the City I’m tutoring an at risk (i.e. from a poor, single parent home) 3rd grade boy in reading, writing, and math. Easy.

      Of course, in between those two approaches there are a thousand other options of how one could do their part in reaching out to the world’s destitute. I would point out that relief (of immediate basic needs), disciple-making, and community development are different priorities that require different skills and commitments. The latter requires what I think of as a Nehemiah-type ministry call. Nehemiahs have the big picture of the entire community in mind and concoct long-range goals to initiate social and economic change in that community. SF, along with every urban area in the world, needs these types – obviously, developing countries need it most.

      I know you have family in South America and have experienced what I’m talking about. I’m sure you know about tons of opportunities to connect with such needy people in that part of the world, whether you do so from here, periodic trips there, or you relocate there to do it.

      In the meantime I recommend the book by Ash Barker called, Making Poverty Personal and/or 101 Ways Your Church Can Change the World: A Guide to Help Christians Express the Love of Christ to a Needy World by Tony Campolo. And may the Lord lead you in becoming an Outer Circle Christian of one sort or another.


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