What is the value of one sheep?
Does that value change if it is only one among one hundred? How about if it is one among a million?
You may be tempted to determine the value based on who that one happens to be. If it is your best friend, you may be inclined to rate them a little higher than, say, the millenial who has left the church. If they are someone who has done you great harm, you may not assign any value at all.
But what actually determines the value of one sheep? Who gets to be the one who decides? (I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t you or me.) The Father is the one who makes that determination, and he has declared each and every one to be valuable enough for the Son to die. That’s not always the metric we use in determining; we tend to be a bit more pragmatic about it.
In the realm of missions, we tend to be a LOT more pragmatic.
Churches try to determine if the person has been “called,” and they look for evidence that the person has or can acquire the necessary skills. Sending agencies often decide who is worth accepting based on whether they think the person will “get the job done.” Donors support those they think will stay the course and thus make them feel like they haven’t wasted their money. Field leaders may decide who gets a visa slot based on their language abilities, or their evangelism gifts.
Each of these metrics may have something to do with the potential for productivity, but they don’t have any bearing on how much the Shepherd values them. The lens through which we look will make all the difference in the way we relate to them.