“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 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 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.This story makes me happy. I find it beautiful. But it also scares me.
When you pursue the lost sheep, leaving the 99 behind, you run a risk. You run a risk that the 99 won't be there waiting for you when you get back.
Maybe they'll find another shepherd. They'll join another campus ministry or wander over to another church. Sure, your name will be dragged through the mud ("Seeker-sensitive" gets thrown around like an insult in some circles), but the folks will be okay.
But what if they're not. What if you go after the one and get back and your flock is scattered? Would you think that that risk was worth it?
The call to follow Jesus into mission requires us to take that risk. We avoid it as best we can (developing retention systems and structures), but minimizing a risk isn't the same thing as removing a risk.
This is why it matters so much that those who shepherd God's flock recognize that they serve under the Chief Shepherd. If he isn't watching over the 99 when we go after the 1, we can't really be free to go after the 1.
Have you ever been afraid of losing the 99, going after the 1?