For over half a century, it was considered one of the great unsolved mysteries in South America. On April 3, 1961 a professional soccer team had just finished a match and was flying back home to Santiago. The team was split up between two aircrafts; one made it back, the other went missing. For weeks the rescue teams searched, but there was no sign of the plane. The aircraft just vanished. Thirty-four people were presumed dead, including eight soccer players, the coach, several of the team’s staff, and friends. Finally, after 54 years, several Chilean mountaineers found the wreckage. The plane, unsurprisingly, wasn’t anywhere near where people thought it would be. The mystery had finally been solved.
There is no telling how much grief the victim’s families went through. Their sorrow was likely compounded by the unknown factor. In situations like these, the imagination tends to run wild. Perhaps some clung to hope that there would be survivors, but no one could know for sure until now. The victim’s families can, at long last, have proper closure.
Few things are more tragic than a missing person. For this reason, “AMBER Alerts” and other similar program are invaluable. Any effort to recover the missing is priceless.
Unfortunately, there is a place in our world where many missing people are simply overlooked. Sometimes these missing people even go without notice. The place this occurs is within the church.
It’s incredible just how many people fall away from the church without notice. I wonder how many people in the Lord’s Church fell away over the last year last year? I wonder how many of these people were contacted and sought after? I wonder how many members of these congregations noticed their absence?
In Luke 15, Jesus told three parables about the importance of finding the missing people among us. He speaks of the lost sheep, the great lengths the shepherd goes to find the sheep, and in application, the tremendous rejoicing that takes place in heaven when someone comes to repentance (1-7). Next, Christ tells of a woman who loses a coin, tirelessly searches for it, and rejoices when she finds it. Once again, we are told that heaven also rejoices when a sinner repents (8-10). Finally, Jesus tells the famous parable of the prodigal son. Here we see a father longing for his son to come home. When he finally does, the father rejoices, welcomes his son back with open arms, and throws a banquet (11-32).
We need some serious search and rescue teams in the church. No one should be able to leave the church unnoticed. This isn’t the responsibility of the ministers, however. It’s not even exclusively the responsibility of the elders. Ultimately, this task is the responsibility of the entire church. As Matthew 18:15-18 details out, it may start with just a few, but when pursued correctly, nearly everyone in the church should know of and be seeking to bring the person back to the Lord.
Sure, it’s hard to keep up with everyone in the congregation. Sometimes people fall through the cracks. However, let’s not only make this a personal responsibility, but a congregational one. Let’s do everything in our power to rescue those who are spiritually missing. Eternity is at stake.