given on Sunday, March 11, 2012–the third in a series
Let’s review the last two weeks before starting in on today’s thoughts. Two weeks ago, the idea of evangelism was introduced. The point was to remove the negative emotions that are conjured up when that word is heard. The Big E of evangelism really is not that difficult but is really the Big Easy.
Of course it is not easy to evangelize if we do not know how to talk about it. Therefore last week the emphasis was to understand what the good news is that Jesus told use to share with others. Evangelism is the gospel, the gospel is the good news, and the good news is John 3:16—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
Unfortunately that still is an abstract idea rather than something concrete. Each one of us might interpret this differently, but the closest words I can find include descriptions of experiences that create emotions filled with love. The test, I believe, is when someone makes a comment like “it certainly does not take much to make you happy” about how I live my life. The kingdom of heaven or of God is that state in which we experience a sense of awe, joy, blessing and/or peace in our life.
The definition and the understanding of the kingdom of heaven and/or God are for continual discussion. This makes Bible study and discussion important even critical in order to follow the Great Commission each of us is tasked to do. But study is ongoing, and the next question is to ask with whom are we to share the good news, today’s topic.
Preparation for the sermon today was triggered by a little bit of humor that showed up at home this week. The paper is titled, “You might be in a country church if . . . “ Needless to say the chuckles are also somewhat nervous chuckles:
You might be in a country church if . . .
- the call to worship is “Y’all come on in!”
- people wonder when Jesus fed the 5,000 whether the two fish were bass or catfish.
- opening day of deer season is a church holiday.
- four generations of one family sit together in worship every Sunday.
- the only time people lock their cars in the parking lot is during summer so their neighbors can’t leave them a bag of squash.
- there’s no such thing as a “secret” sin.
- you miss worship in the morning and by 2 pm you have had a dozen calls inquiring about your health.
Redneck humor certainly can lighten up a serious topic like small country churches, but underlying all humor is truth. The truth for us today is whether or not we can honestly identify who our neighbors are. We drive right past their houses. We stand in line at the store with them. We work beside them in the field, in the businesses, or in community projects.
Right now, stop and mentally name—or write them down on the bulletin—who lives between your house and the church. You passed them this morning and you may have even noticed whether or not the cars were in the drives. Do you know what church they attend—or do they even attend? Have you spoken to them within the last week? Have you ever invited them to come to church with you?
Undoubtedly the answers to these questions can be uncomfortable or maybe they are not. If you are answering these questions positively, then congratulations you are evangelizing. If you answer these questions and are a bit uncomfortable, maybe now it will not seem so fearful to ask others to join you in church.
Still, the people living between here and your homes are not the only ones to consider reaching. We know from the scripture we discussed in the first week’s sermon, Matthew 25:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ (MSG)
These descriptors seem so logical and they stand out when we live in a close-knit community, but do we reach out to all of them or to just a random one or two a year. That is the problem.
We all know which people are unchurched in our own community. We can drive into the parking lot and see who is here, but we also can see who is not here. Have you ever considered that targeted prayer might make a difference? Maybe prayers can include the names of people we want to see not only parked in the lot, but sitting in the pews.
The challenge of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world is not easy, but we can train ourselves how to do it. We can learn to see those who are unchurched, those who keep busy calendars and rest on Sunday, those who believe but don’t worship or study, those who would do anything for others in need and yet stay home on Sunday morning or take off for a day of recreation.
The Big Evangelism always sounds more difficult than it needs to be, but even the simple steps have to be carefully planned, prepared, and carried out. The task ahead for each of us is to find the way to use our natural talents to fulfill the Great Commission. To accomplish this task, we need to make a personal commitment, but also a corporate commitment.
We need to keep a positive attitude, pray, and study as we take our own understanding of the heaven/reign of God and find out how best to share it with others. We need to act so that the needs of others are met. We need to find energy from serving rather than dissatisfaction from not doing.
This may be one small, quick statement about who we are to share the good news, but we need some discussion time. The work started when the fair revenue was earmarked for an emergency need fund. The work continues as the teapot money is targeted for special giving. The work continues each year the apportionments are met, but . . . and this is big . . . what is our next effort going to be.
As we meet for our monthly meals, let’s talk. Let’s brainstorm some ideas that we might like to try. Let’s open our eyes and see our community through God’s eyes. Let’s pray for concrete answers.
Dear Holy Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
We hear a word, evangelism, and we begin to tremble.
We look around our sanctuary, and we sigh at the empty seats.
We drive down the road, and we notice who are not churched.
Though we are small in numbers, our hearts are ever growing.
Though we are in church, we still have no solutions.
Though we have dreams, we need to take action.
Guide us, God, to work together and to reach out to others.
Guide us, Jesus, to teach, to preach, and to heal as you did.
Guide us, Holy Spirit, to become energized and to step out in faith.
Today we begin the conversation about how to evangelize without fear.