For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:3-4
There is something very empty about the term “lost.” In our age of uber-connectivity, we have numerous technological tools at our disposal which enable us to avoid its grasp. If you have ever truly been physically “lost,” you know that it is a debilitating feeling, to say the least.
“Lost” is also a term that is used quite often in a spiritual context, though it has become out of vogue in some circles, seeming to be offensive. I’ve met pastors who refuse to refer to people as “lost” because they believe it fosters an “us and them” mentality, or it is too exclusive. Traditionally, “lost” has been used in a Christian/church context to refer to people who haven’t been born again, or experienced salvation, and who don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
I was curious at the biblical roots of this concept, so I looked it up. You may be surprised to find out that Jesus himself coined the term. He said of His mission, “[I] came to seek and save the lost.” The word “lost” here actually comes from the verb “to perish.” This idea echoes the concept that comes from Jesus’ mouth in John 3: “whoever believes in [me] should not perish, but have eternal life.”
If Jesus was finished working, it would make sense that the world as we know it would be at the end. Biblically speaking, the fact that Jesus hasn’t returned yet, and that the entire thing has not yet come to the point of consummation, means that the mission of Jesus is still taking place. But how (and through whom) is it taking place?
God is still calling people to Himself, and He is doing it through His church. Perhaps we could say it this way: He is seeking out the lost through the found. When Jesus said “Go make disciples” to his followers he meant it, and it is still happening in our day.
Praying for and reaching out to the lost is not wrong. As Paul says “our appeal does not spring from error.” It’s not insensitive, or mean, or close-minded to reach out to the lost. It’s not a bait and switch. Conversely, it’s faithful.
When God opens your eyes to the gospel, He is giving you a trust, or “entrusting” you with it. If you or I take this trust simply for the sake of using it on or for ourselves, we become akin to spoiled trust-fund kids. If we peddle this trust with impure motives, deceiving people, with the intent of pleasing man, we misuse and abuse it. God alone tests our hearts, and it is God himself who enrolls us on His mission to seek and save the lost. We become enrolled in this employ at the moment He gives us the gospel.
 Luke 19:10; Jesus also uses the term in parables like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15: “he was lost and is now found.”