Leaving the 99 and finding a mission that IS possible


There are two movie franchises for which I’m a total, unapologetic homer – Jason Bourne and Mission:Impossible. When one comes out, I’m headed to the theatre. So, last week my wife and I went to see the latest MI installment, Fallout.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is the spy. He doesn’t lead the Pretty Difficult Mission Force, after all. The point of each movie is to create a scenario where it doesn’t seem possible he’ll save the day, but he does. To do that, he needs a team.

In Fallout Hunt’s dedication to his team puts billions in danger. In the opening scene his decision saves a friend’s life but allows the terrorists to get plutonium that could build three nuclear bombs, each small enough to fit in a suitcase and capable of being detonated anywhere.

As you can imagine, the CIA is displeased with Hunt for not allowing his friend to die in order to secure the plutonium and eliminate the threat. The possibility of dying is the job, he’s told. But later on, IMF Chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) points out to Hunt that what some consider his weakness – his devotion to his friends – is really his strength.

For a long time I wondered about the math in Jesus’ parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7). It just didn’t seem right to put the 99 at risk over trying to find one. I’d rejoice over finding the one sheep too, but be even more relived the rest of the herd hadn’t been eaten by wolves or a bear. Does the life of one count that much, to leave the others on their own?

I realized this parable wasn’t about placing less importance on the group, but showing the worth of the group in the first place. We tend to have less empathy for a group. An individual, however, is different. Shrink something down to one person, and we start to connect. You see a face, not a statistic.

It's easy to get comfortable in “our 99.” I’m as guilty as anyone. Each week falls into a rhythm – work, home, dinner, sleep, church on Sundays and Wednesdays, then repeat. Before we know it, football season has arrived. That roars into the fall and HallowThanksChristmas. We blink and winter has ended, the school year is closing, and we’ve been so busy we’re wondering where the time went.

I’d like for you to consider a way this year to go looking for the “One.”

Going back to school doesn’t have to be all about busier schedules and even worse traffic. For the last several years I’ve been a mentor in a local school. What are some requirements for that? Be there for 15-25 minutes once a week. Check in on how that test since your last meeting went. Listen to that student and learn about his life. Share your own story and some wisdom you’ve picked up along the way. Talk may come over a game of chess or checkers; you might help them review for the quiz next period.

These students live in a world where everyone has a voice, so it often feels like no one does. They want someone to hear them out and offer advice. In that exchange you’re going to share from where your decision-making comes. There’s nothing sneaky about telling that student your relationship with Christ is a big part of your life. It’s simply part of the math of who you are.

Prepare yourself to be surprised, though. That guy with the baggy pants is smarter than you’d expect. The girl who appears to be all about friends and social media thinks deeper on subjects.

I began meeting with my student when he was all about Pokemon. This year he’ll be preparing for graduation. He lives in kind of a rough neighborhood and doesn’t have much of a relationship with his dad because prison makes that difficult. But he’s involved in extracurriculars and a bright kid, much brighter than he realizes. His counselor and I are brainstorming college options for him next year, something once completely off his radar.

Before you think this is one giant humblebrag, know I realize the real credit goes to him. Other counselors and teachers have stepped in as well. I’m no Superman. I’m just a guy who shows up.

To help the One, we have to be willing to leave the 99. I understand work schedules and such may keep you from mentoring at a school, but there are other options. Find a place where you can help, a place where you can have an impact. But if you want a solid place to start, check in with your local school.

Christians often feel at odds with the culture, and for good reason. Our faith, it seems, can be interpreted as weakness. We’re seen as outdated and unwilling to change. But that identity as a Christian also compels us to serve. It calls us to step beyond our walls and reach others. When we follow through with that we’re compelled to leave the 99 to find the One.

And that becomes our greatest strength.   

evangelism, schools, service, student ministry, students