Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Getting the Message" by Mike DeCamp

Last weekend, the elders and ministers gathered together to work on another project that we have derived from our congregational vision statement.

“Growing hearts toward God—
                Where people are…
                                devoted to God in love.
                                                trained by Christ for life.
                                                                and led by the Spirit to serve.”

And the project we were working on?  EVANGELISM.

We discussed our views, some of the congregational comments from our Vision class, and how to develop better tools and efforts toward that end.  During the discussion, two comments in particular struck a chord with me, and I’d like to share the thoughts that I’m contemplating as a result.  As I am thinking these things through, I really think the first comment will be greatly addressed as we get a better handle on the second one. 

Here goes:

COMMENT ONE:  Evangelism has a negative connotation in our society, so we should call it something else; something less offensive.

Really, this shouldn’t surprise any of us.  Persecution has tended to follow Christians across the centuries and Christ himself predicted it.  More than likely a good deal of it comes because Christians “share their faith” with those who don’t have a faith, or those whose faith is contrary to Christianity.  I have three primary responses:

A.      Evangelism is NOT optional to Christianity.  It is our mission given to us by our Lord.  We are called to “pay it forward” when it comes to the Grace we have received, and we do that by sharing it with others that are still “like sheep without a shepherd” in our lost world.  “Go into all the world,” Jesus said in Matthew 28, “and make disciples of all nations.” (See Matthew 28:18-20)  In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul said: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”  (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

B.      Even in times when the message is not appreciated, Christians continue to share.

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  But Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.  Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Acts 8:1-4

As Christians, like it or not, evangelism is something we are supposed to do.  As a result, we may be disliked, insulted, and punished, but we must never scream “RETREAT!” and flee from our mission.  We can call it something else if we want.  “Community Outreach.”  “Sharing your faith.”  Whatever makes the effort not get in the way of the end result is fine with me, but we need to be about the business of making disciples. 

C.      Our message needs to have integrity.  No hidden agendas.  No mixed messages.  If our message comes from the heart and holds to the gospel, then folks will normally at least respect our effort.  For instance, we don’t feed the poor so that we can bring them to church.  We feed them because they need food, then we share the message because they need hope.  We don’t want to be guilty of hiding the message behind a fa├žade of service.  Whatever we do needs to be real.

And that leads me to…

COMMENT TWO:  We need to understand what The Message really is.

I’d like to open my response here with what it is NOT.  First, it is not our doctrine.  And, it isn’t our church affiliation, or even church attendance.  It isn’t our view of worship or our understanding of the purpose and point of baptism.  The message is not to "avoid Hell!”

All of those things are important.  They really are.  But, they are not at the core of the message.

So, what is our message to this dark world?

The Gospel = The Good News.  What is the “Good News” of our message?

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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17

·         Despite all of our personal failures and weaknesses, God loves us!

·         He has taken the first step…a drastic step…and before we have shown any interest in Him…to provide for us hope in an eternal life!

·         God will not count our faults against us, but wants to be reconciled with us…brought together with us…bonded to us.  He wants a relationship with YOU, ME, and that guy that lives next to you.  You know.  The guy who sleeps around, gets drunk, shoots off his mouth, and makes fun of your dog.  Yep.  Even him.  And, you have the job of telling him.

The creator of the universe…the King of all kings…the Master among the stars…

He loves, me, and that guy.

And, He is going all out to convince us to love Him back!

He is just looking for us to trust Him…have faith in Him…in that love.

The response of faith in the love of God will lead us to all of those other important details.  We can share those in our further studies.  However, it is the genuine trust (faith) in that gift of the love of God that will motivate us (and those folks we share the good news with) to take action.  That’s how God’s Grace has its effect on us.  It moves us to respond.

So, in my view, the message in a nutshell is:

God loves us and wants us with Him.  Jesus died to make that happen.  The Holy Spirit awaits our response.  We can find love, relationship, and an eternal hope in our trusting response to that loving sacrifice.

Is that something you can share?

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