Introduction: In a discussion about outreach, a fellow told me that
at his church “we preach the straight gospel.” I understood they just
preached church teachings with no frills and outsiders should be
attracted to an honest message. “How is that working out for you,” I
asked? He lowered his head and confessed they had one new member in
the last ten years. Luke records Jesus’ amazing strategy for
outreach. Let’s jump into our study and learn more!

  1. Lost Things

    1. Read Luke 15:1-4. If Jesus put that question to you, how
      would you answer it? (I’m no shepherd, but if the ninety-nine were in “open country” I would let the one go to
      protect the rest.)

      1. Why is my answer wrong? (Jesus asks the question as
        if the answer is obvious, so His answer must have
        been the automatic answer of his listeners.)

    2. Read Luke 15:5-7. I’m not trying to be contrary, but if
      your pet makes you hunt for him, how would you react?(I
      would be glad to have my pet back, but I would be annoyed
      to have to chase after it.)

      1. Compare my reaction (and yours?) to God’s reaction.
        What does this teach us about Jesus? (He loves to
        pursue us. He delights when we repent and turn to
        Him. We are loved.)

    3. Read Luke 15:8. Recall that I was annoyed with the lost
      sheep. How is this story different? (The coin has no
      responsibility for being lost. I am at fault for losing my

    4. Read Luke 15:9-10. Why not just tell the sheep story? One
      dumb sheep runs off. That seems a good comparison to me
      when I run off from God. Why add the story of the coin?
      (The most obvious reason is that God wants us to know that
      the “lost” problem involves Him. I think our next story
      more clearly makes that point.)

    5. In the stories of the sheep and the coin, what attitudes
      of God come through? (He claims an ownership interest in
      us. He targets the lost. He works hard to retrieve the
      lost. He rejoices in the lost coming to Him. You, the “one
      sinner,” are important to God and the angels.)

  2. The Prodigal

    1. Read Luke 15:11-12. Is there anything fair about this

      1. Anything you think is unfair? (Normally, a son
        receives his inheritance when the father dies. In the
        meantime, the son helps the father. Because this was
        the younger son, he would get half the inheritance of
        the older son. The father loses one-third of his
        assets and the benefit of the son’s labor.)

    2. Read Luke 15:13. Do you think the father had a good idea
      about his son’s intentions for the future?

      1. If so, why did the father agree?

      2. Would you tell your son “No. This is a bad idea, it
        will turn out poorly,” and then hope that by the time
        you die, the son will have become more mature?

    3. Read Luke 15:14-17. All of the money is gone. Has any
      good come out of this? (He came to his senses. It was an
      expensive life lesson.)

      1. I hear of parents who engage in heroic efforts to
        restrain their children from bad behavior. What does
        this story suggest about that?

      2. Consider the lop-sided approach in all of these
        cases. God does not seem to work very hard to keep
        the sheep/coin/son from getting “lost.” But, He does
        engage in serious effort to recover the lost. Why?

    4. Read Luke 15:18-19. The son’s desire is to be like a
      “hired hand.” Previously, he was dissatisfied with being
      a son. How completely has his attitude changed?

      1. Would his attitude have changed if the father refused
        to let him go? (This makes the point about change
        coming from within, not without.)

    5. Read Luke 15:20-24. What is the son’s opinion of his
      proper status? (“I am no longer worthy to be called your

      1. What is the father’s opinion of the son’s status?
        (“This son of mine … is alive again.”)

      2. What has the father gained? (He had a son who did not
        want to be a son. He only wanted money. He now has a
        son who wants to be with him.)

        1. Or, am I being too kind to the son? Did he only
          come back for the food? (He did come back for
          food, but the incredible love of the father
          undoubtedly changed his heart.)

          1. Parents, consider what happened here if
            you have a prodigal who wants to return
            home for food (and work).

    6. Read Luke 15:25-28. Is this how you would react if you
      were the older son? (I would be worried the younger son
      was now threatening my inheritance because he made poor

    7. Read Luke 15:29-30. Is the older brother a true son? (He
      views his service for the father as “slaving” with no
      opportunity for celebration.)

    8. Parents, put yourself in the place of this father. The
      younger son just wants your money. The older son thinks he
      is slaving for you. What kind of children do you have?

    9. Re-read Luke 15:28 and read Luke 15:31-32. Is the father
      chasing after the older son? (Yes! He “pleaded with him,”
      and he tells the son he owns “everything.”)

    10. Have you thought it might be good to come to God just
      before you die so that you can do what you want and still
      have heaven?

      1. If so, what is the problem? (One is that you miss
        “God with you” – Luke 15:31. You miss having the
        riches of God right now. What you view as “slaving”
        is actually ownership of God’s blessings.)

    11. Who is the most sympathetic figure here? (The father! His
      sons treat him badly. He treats them wonderfully. The calf
      sacrificed for the younger son belonged to the father, not
      the older son. The father gave up his rights to let his
      sons have “rights.”)

  3. Conniving Manager

    1. Read Luke 16:1-2. What is the problem? (The manager is
      “wasting” his employer’s money.)

    2. Read Luke 16:3-7. What is the manager’s problem? (The
      manager will have trouble making a living because he is
      out of shape and proud.)

      1. What is the solution to the problem? (To cheat his
        employer! He will benefit himself at his employer’s

      2. I’m a lawyer, would you like your lawyer doing this
        to you – cheating you to benefit himself? (This gets
        a lawyer disbarred and sent to prison.)

    3. Read Luke 16:8. Would you commend your lawyer (or
      employee) for doing this to you?

    4. Read Luke 16:9. Who is speaking here? (Jesus!)

      1. Have you ever heard religious leaders say, “We don’t
        use the methods of the world to bring new members
        into the church!” What do you think about this point
        of view? (It is completely at odds with this parable
        and Jesus’ comment!)

    5. Let’s step back a moment. We have read four parables: lost
      sheep, lost coin, lost son, dishonest manager. What is
      Jesus trying to teach us? (He wants to reclaim the lost
      because He unselfishly loves them, and He wants us to use
      the most sophisticated, diligent, cunning efforts to find
      the lost.)

    6. Read Luke 16:10-12. Is Jesus teaching us to be dishonest?
      (No.) What is He teaching us? (We have “worldly wealth”
      and He expects us to use it to advance the Kingdom of

      1. What is “worldly wealth?” Study Luke 16:9 very
        closely. (What does the world value? Intelligence,
        beauty, talent, and money. If we are entrusted with
        any of these, we have an obligation to use them
        “shrewdly”( Luke 16:8) to advance finding the lost. If
        we don’t, we will not be entrusted with “true riches”
        ( Luke 16:11). That is a sobering idea.)

    7. Friend, how shrewd is your church in finding the lost?
      Will you commit today to using your very best strategy and
      talents to seek the lost?

  4. Next week: Jesus, the Master Teacher.