The Other 9 Question

In a stunning scene, ten men cry out to Jesus to heal them of their leprosy.  He sends them to the priests and, on the way, they found themselves healed.  One of the men comes back, praising God, falls at Jesus' feet and thanks him.

And then Jesus does something remarkable.

He says "Record this as a healing.  And, since I'm omniscient, I know that all 10 were healed, so put me down for 10 healings.  And one conversion.  We'll count this Samaritan as a conversion.  Isn't ministry great, boys?"

I know Jesus said this because I'm confident he's just like me.

Now, if you wander over to Luke 17, you might read a different account.  You might hear Jesus ask "Were not all 10 cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?"

But I feel pretty confident Jesus didn't actually say that.

First, that may have demotivated his disciples.  We celebrate success and focus on the positive.  The disciples probably felt a burst of excitement and faith when they saw the man returned cleansed.  Jesus wouldn't blow that momentum, would he?

Second, that response may have made the returning, cleansed man feel unimportant.  He praised God, thanked Jesus.  Check and check.  This conversation about the other nine might make this new follower feel like his response to Jesus wasn't that big a deal.  Jesus wouldn't risk hurting someone's feelings, would he?

Lastly, that response may communicate an unhealthy obsession with numbers.  We love the Jesus who tells us to leave the 99 to go after the 1 lost sheep.  But the Jesus who says "Where are the Other 9?" ... he sounds a little greedy ... like the kid who complains that his birthday falling on Christmas day causes people to give him combo gifts.  Jesus wouldn't care about numbers, would he?

Would he?

This Other 9 Question challenges our satisfaction with who's currently involved.  It communicates a hard truth: a one-time encounter with God cannot substitute for throwing-at-the-feet devotion.  It challenges our willingness to settle for Who Comes rather than pursuing Who Must Be Found.

Most of us don't ask the Other 9 Question.  We forget the Other 9 even exist.

And we measure accordingly.

If you only measure Who Comes, you'll ignore Who Must Be Found. 

This is why we talked about the 1500 at Washington and Lee, the 1500 students who had no current connection with a campus ministry or a church.  This is why some pastors talk about the population of the greater community or some former pastors throw God parties for 20somethings on their back porches.  The Other 9 matter to God.

And this is why I say things like "Even if we reached as many students in South Florida as InterVarsity reaches nationally, we would only be at 10%."  Our metrics influence our strategy.

If you only measure Who Comes, your ministry strategy will exclude Who Must Be Found.

I'm pretty confident Jesus asked the Other 9 Question.  He asks that question even today.

How do you measure people who don't show up?

1 comment:

  1. Definitely bookmarking this post. Thanks, Steve.