Purpose Driven Life: Message 6
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
February 20/22, 2004
Made for a Mission
Good evening/morning Fellowship! It is good to see you, and you have made it to the 5th of 5 purposes in the PDL…and it has gone fast, but gone wonderfully well. When we put up these sails, I prayed that God’s Spirit, his divine wind, would blow through this place, and God has done so. And when we look at those sails, I want us to pray for God’s wind to continue to blow strong and to blow long.
We have looked at the purpose of worship, that we are planned for God’s pleasure, at the purpose of connection, that we are formed for God’s family, at the purpose of growth, that we are created to become like Christ, and last week the purpose of service, that we were shaped to serve him. Now, all of these purposes are vitally important, but the one we are looking at today…sharing, how we are made for a mission…is the one purpose that we cannot fulfill in heaven. It is for this purpose that we are still on the earth…and it is this mission that unites all of us who have been drafted to serve on God’s team. We are here with a God-given mission.
Occasionally Christy will send me to the grocery store with a list of things to get. And I get in the car, a man on a mission, to go attack the store and come out with all the stuff I’m supposed to get. Now, about 98% of the time, I get in the store and realize that I forgot the list. And most of the time, I can maybe remember one or two things but that is about it. So, I do the best I can. And for some reason, I’m always drawn to the ice cream section. When all else fails, ice cream is always a good thing to get. So, I come home from the store with my chocolate mint ice cream and maybe some Diet Cokes…and she says, “Where’s the stuff?” “Right here! See…right in the bag.” And she says, “Ice cream and diet coke? Are you kidding? Where’s the real stuff? Where’s all the stuff you were supposed to get? Where’s the broccoli and celery? (I never remember things like broccoli and celery…selective memory). Where’s the milk? Where’s the sweet potatoes? The Romaine lettuce?” Then I explain that I did the best I could, but I forgot the list…I forgot what I went to the store to get. And she’s not exactly experiencing marital bliss as she stares at me in disbelief that I have once again gone to the store and forgot the list, even though she reminded me to take the list as I was going out the door.
Now, it is one thing to face my wife when I’ve gone to the store and forgotten why I was there in the first place. But one day you and I as Christians and you and I collectively as a church will stand before God, and he will say, “What did you do with all the time, ability, and resources I gave you? Did you do what I asked you to do?” What are we going to say? Are we going to say, “Oh, yeah. Well, we did a lot of stuff. We had a great time together, and we made some memories, had some laughs. But we kind of forgot…what did you want us to do again? Oh yeah—that’s right. We did some things associated with the mission, but we were pretty busy just living life. It is crazy down here, you know…it’s not like it is up there in heaven.”
Hey, that’s not what I want to say. It’s one thing to mess up with your wife, another thing when we realize that one day we will give an account to Jesus Christ. So, why did Jesus send us to the store? Or in other words, why are we on this planet? What is our mission that we are made for? What is our mission as a church, and how does God want each of us to be a part of it?
Jesus said to his followers, including you and me, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are a sent people…we are people on a mission. Our privilege and responsibility is to share God’s love and life-changing message of grace to a world that desperately needs to know him.
Jesus did the hard work of dying on the cross for the sins of the world, so that people could be forgiven and come into relationship with God. He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, but before he did, he gave us the ball. He said, “Now it is up to you. I’m giving you the ball.” Jesus has placed his mission in our hands. Matthew 28:19-20 says, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the every end of the age.” He will be with us, but he won’t do it without us. He has designed the church composed of people like you and me to be essential to his plan to reach people for Christ…and there is no Plan B. He’s not going to send angels to the do the job. He’s not going to drop down a few billion pamphlets. He’s not going to write messages in the sky. He has chosen to use his church and Christians whose lives have been changed to reach the world. He wants to use you. We have good news to share, and God has made you and me the core of his communication strategy.
How do we do this as a church and as individuals? How do we fulfill this mission?
And let me say that what we are talking about today is core to our church. As elders, as we have been in the process of formulating our vision over the next years in the life of our church, it is this that God is impressing on our hearts. Many people are wondering what is our church going to be like? What crazy thing is Jeff going to do? Am I going to like it or not?
Well, what we are talking about today is central to our vision moving forward. We know biblically that what God is doing in the world is reaching the world through healthy churches. That’s what he is doing. And we believe that by God’s grace and a lot of great leadership in the past, that we have a healthy church, where the Word of God is taught, where godly leaders lead with unity, where people are growing spiritually and serving faithfully…it is a healthy church…which is an awesome thing, and we want to do all we can to maintain and strengthen that health. But we believe that is only part of what God wants to do. He wants our church to be internally healthy, but not internally focused.
We believe that the next step for our church is to turn our focus outward…to place our focus and effort on reaching this community and our world for Jesus Christ—which is what he asked us to do. Our vision is to build a healthy church that profoundly impacts the world around it…that is not focused on us, but focused on those God has called us to reach. We want to do all we can to reach people for Christ, so that we can grow them in the faith, connect them into community, and equip them to serve in God’s kingdom—and then to share God’s love and life-changing truth with a world that God wants to reach. Our future is going to be about reaching people right where God has placed us, and then the world beyond.
If you are willing to go this next step with us, we are going to be learning how to be an externally focused church, that has at the forefront of our hearts Jesus’ mission and God’s heart for those who are the least and the lost in our community…that is focused on reaching this community and impacting our world. We want to be fully the church for the sake of the world.
Today I want us to focus on our individual responsibility to make this happen. What is God calling each of us in this church to do as we fulfill our God-given mission. How do we do this? Jesus gave us some strategic advice just before he left for heaven. Turn with me to the book of Acts, and we’ll look at Acts 1:8.
This is just after the resurrection and before Jesus went up to heaven, and the disciples were very excited and very curious about when Jesus would return to set up his kingdom on the earth. That was their preoccupation, and a lot of people get very preoccupied with that today to. But Jesus corrects them. Look with me in verse 6, where the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Jesus is saying, “Hey, don’t be preoccupied with the coming kingdom and the end times and all that…that will happen when the Father wants it to happen. In the meantime, you need to focus on what your job is—not the Fathers. He’ll set the dates, and here’s what you need to do—and if you do this, you’ll be plenty busy.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 He gave both a job title—witness—and a job description—to go to Jerusalem, where they already were, and then on to Judea and Samaria, and then the whole world.
So, Jesus says, “Look, don’t waste a bunch of time trying to figure out when I’m coming back. You focus on your job. You be my witnesses.” What is a witness? A witness is someone who has seen something or experienced something and tells others about it. That’s it. You see, a lot of times we get all wierded out when we think of our mission, to let others know about Jesus Christ, because we have all these strange ideas about this mission that some people call “evangelism.” When we hear that word, we have all kinds of bad images in our heads. Maybe people think of those guys on TV that have the big hair and shiny clothes that say things like, “JESUS.” And they talk about how if you send them a hundred dollars God will give you 100 times more.
In fact, maybe when you hear the word “evangelism” you think of this…
We have all kinds of crazy ideas about evangelism and what it means to be his witnesses. And even though we’ve kind of ruined the word “evangelism,” the original meaning is really a great world. It means to herald, and most often referred to good news. To evangelize is just to share the good news of what God has done in our lives so that others can experience relationship with God too. We have good news to share, and all God asks is that we who have been changed by Jesus Christ share with others how God wants relationship with them too. That’s his strategy for reaching the world—is lives who have been changed sharing with others how God can change their lives too. Occasionally he uses people like Billy Graham to do that on a large scale, but his core strategy is to reach the world by using people whose lives have been changed. The greatest evangelist is not Billy Graham—but a changed life who is willing to share the good news of what God has done in their life and wants to do for others.
So, how do we do that? Well, he gives us a simple strategy of how to go about it. He told his first followers: start right where you are, impact the area right around you and people who are close but different from you, and then the world. So, let’s talk about our mission…what God has called us to do.
- Reach those in my world (Jerusalem)
What God is first calling us to do is reach those right around us, where he has already strategically placed us. That’s the starting point. God reaches us, and he wants to use us to reach others. To one of the guys Jesus healed, Jesus said, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” The woman at the well immediately told all the town to come and see the one who must be the Messiah, and they came.
We learn a lot from such stories about how to reach those around us…though it is very simple. They did two things: 1) they went back to their world of relationships and 2) they shared the good news of what Jesus did for them. That is how God wants to reach people, with changed lives…so how do we do this?
1) Start where God has placed us
When I say “my world,” I mean my world of relationships. God has given each of us our own little network of relationships—our family, our neighbors, our coworkers, our fellow students. And what often happens when people become Christians is that they leave that world to go hang around Christians all the time, and yet our mission is to go to our world of relationships and be a witness.
The Bible tells us to be different, but to stay where we are to make a difference. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells people in bad marriages and even slaves in bad situations to stay where they are, because God has placed them there to impact their spouses and their masters. He is saying, “Think missionally. God has placed you right where you are for a reason—to reach those who don’t know Christ yet. If you leave, who will be light to them?”
Often when people become Christians, they get all excited and want to leave where God has placed them. They grow weary of being around people who don’t share their same values, and to be sure they need to be connected to people who will help them grow…but I believe that in most cases what God would say is similar to what he said to those groups in 1 Corinthians: Stay where you are. Light the darkness. If you leave, then who will do so?”
Please don’t be fooled into thinking that the height of Christian commitment is to be in full-time Christian ministry. If you know Christ, then you are in full-time Christian ministry. God has asked you to represent him full time right where you are. He’s asked you to light the darkness. When people become Christians, they often tell me, “I want to quit my job and go into ministry.” And that might be what God wants, but I always challenge it. Stay on the front lines…pastors are here to equip and encourage…but we need people on the front lines. It is so hard for me as a pastor because I have this huge hurdle to get over…people find out I’m a pastor and immediately put up their guard. You have a huge advantage—and take the opportunity that God has given you to be light.
I’m not saying that is easy…but that is our mission. When you spend time with people who may be far from God and you focus first on those who are friends and family and coworkers, you are living the mission. You are doing what Jesus asked you to do.
2) Share the good news
God wants us to be his witnesses, which means that as we develop and continue in relationship with others that we share the good news of what God has done for us. Most of us know that already, so why don’t we do it? Why is it so hard?
One reason is because we believe the myth that people aren’t interested in talking about spiritual things. But nothing could be further from the truth. More than ever in our culture people are open. Every single poll and survey I’ve seen has demonstrated that Americans are more interested in spiritual things than they were ten years ago. A recent Gallup survey discovered that 65 million Americans have no church home but 34 million of them would say yes if someone they knew invited them…that’s 34 million people waiting for an invitation! Think about that.
Another Gallup poll found that teens would rather talk about God than sex, drugs, or music. What teens is he talking to? Did he go to a monastery? No…teens in our culture claim that they would rather talk about spiritual things than anything else.
So that means that opportunities to share the good news are all around us every day. What God is calling us to do is to maintain friendships with those who may be far from God and be loving enough to share what God has done. And we have some great opportunities in our culture right now to do so.
Every week really is an opportunity to invite people to Fellowship…think about it, 34 million people out there waiting for an invitation. Next week is a celebration week for the 40 days, where we will hear stories and also have baptisms. One of the best ways you can share with others what has happened in your life if you are a new Christian is to get baptized and invite your friends…let them know that you want them to share this significant moment. Nobody is going to be offended with that. If you have not been baptized, let me encourage you to sign up to do so next week (the pastors are going to want to kill me), and invite your friends.
Also, the movie, the Passion, is in many ways an unprecedented event and opportunity in our culture. It is creating quite a stir, and every one who has seen the movie has been deeply moved. As it portrays in vivid form what Jesus did for us, people are going to be asking all kinds of questions about why he did so. And we can tell them. He did so because he loves us that much…he died to take the penalty for your sin and mine so that we could be forgiven and have a relationship with God forever. He did all that for us, and he just asks that we believe, that we receive forgiveness as a gift and begin a forever relationship with him. I’d encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to take someone to the movie, or ask if they’ve seen it. God is going to use this movie to spur incredible dialogue.
And let me encourage you to share the good news with others in a way that is dialogue, not just monologue. Be loving enough to have a conversation where you listen as well as you speak. Christians can be offensive when they come off as if they know all the answers so the other person might as well just be quiet. That’s not being a witness. That’s being a jerk. And there is a difference.
That truth was impressed upon me in a very signficiant way a few months ago. I had the privilege along with about 500 other pastors at this conference to hear some great speakers about leadership, one of them being Ronald Heifitz, who is the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Now, Ron is a great guy but does not know Christ…so not all of his ideas are going to match biblical revelation…but I’d think most pastors would be able to sort that out and learn from someone who has a lot to say. After all, he agreed to come and enter into dialogue about leadership, which was a great opportunity. Well, as he was talking he did let out a few things that challenged some peripheral biblical truths—and as he did, pastors started to get up all over the place to leave. I guess they reasoned that since he was saying some things that disagreed with their views of leadership, then they would just leave. And once a few of them did, it was a like a mass exodus. All these pastors starting getting up and leaving right in the middle of his talk. Honestly, those moments I was embarrassed to be a Christian and mortified to be a Christian pastor. I was ashamed, and infuriated that these other pastors would be so rude to a guest speaker who was not really being that offensive and was only there to serve. Imagine how they would feel if people did that while they were preaching. As some of them walked by me, I was tempted to hold out my foot and trip them. I don’t think that would have been sinful. I think God might have been pleased.
After a hundred or so people left, those that we open to dialogue were still there. And Ron started talking about Christians and dialogue. He said, “Why so often do Christians insist in monologue?” was his question. He said, “I’m very open to spiritual dialogue and very curious about what you have to say, but if you aren’t open to listen as well as speak then I’m not sure we can have a real conversation.” And then he said, “I’m really curious. I would love to know if I am invited to the feast, what is it at your table that is enticing. What is it that is good? I really don’t know and would love to.”
That’s what God is asking us to do. He wants us to invite people to the table, and let them know what is good, what is enticing…what God has done in our lives. But that does mean that we are loving enough and humble enough to enter into spiritual dialogue. The movie, the Passion, is going to present great opportunity to do so. But we have opportunities all the time. Americans are up for it. So, let’s be witnesses and share the truth and share what God has done in our lives.
God has placed us right where we are strategically—to be his witnesses. And we have the best news in the world to share. I’m so glad someone shared it with me. I’m so glad someone loved me enough to begin a relationship with me and share over time what it means to know Christ and live for him. And that’s what does. He uses changed lives to share with others how they too can come to God.
Jesus told his first followers to be preoccupied with that. That is our mission. WE need to reach our world.
- Reach beyond our world (Judea and Samaria)
Jesus told his first followers to begin by reaching their relational world, and then to extend that out…to go to Judea, which was like the countryside and to Samaria. Now, hearing the challenge to go to Judea would not have been a big stretch, but the Samaria thing would have been a challenge.
The Jews hated Samaritans, and racism was a really big deal in the 1st century—as it has been every century. Jesus was telling them to reach beyond their borders…to reach people who were around them but very different from them.
And he invites all of us to do so—to reach beyond my own world, my own comfort zone to go to people with different backgrounds, different educations, different languages, and different economics. The Bible tells us to span those boundaries, to build bridges, not to build walls.
That certainly includes socio-economic boundaries, which I think is the toughest to cross—but what Jesus wants us to do. In the book of James, the Bible tells us how real Christianity behaves:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Js 1:27.
When you read about Jesus’ life, you will find that Jesus constantly spanned boundaries and always rooted for the underdog. He did not ignore the needs around him but met them. He spent time with people that were different from him, people that we often marginilzed and looked down on in society. If Jesus were walking on the earth today, my guess is that he would be in an AIDS hospice, caring for those on whom everybody has turned their back. He identifies with those in need, and the Bible says that when we build bridges and help the poor, that Jesus sees that as us doing it to him.
Proverbs 28:27 says, ‘He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”
We are a church that cares for the poor, and more and more we need to be willing to break the back of materialism in our lives and give to those in need. We are a church that desires to build bridges to people in our community. We are a church that refuses to be comfortable, but spans beyond comfort to love others.
The last judgment of humanity that will take place is called the sheep and the goats judgment. And the point of the judgment is to see who really loved God and who just talked…who had a real relationship with God….and he is going to divide people into two groups. To one group, he’ll say, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gae me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me. Matt. 25:35-40. And later people will say back, “When did we do that for you Lord?” And He says, “When you have done it to one of the least of these.”
When you give a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty, when you give Christmas gifts to children who would otherwise have none, when you help give free medical care to those who are sick, when you give a Plano school child a new backpack full of supplies, Jesus said that it is just like you did it for him.
Here are a few of the key projects that we are engaged in as a church, and we have hundreds of people who are reaching beyond their own borders, their own world, to reach out with Jesus’ love.
- Assistance Center of Collin County
- Collin County Adult Clinic
- Hearts and Hammers
- Maurice Barnett Geriatric Wellness Center
- Plano Children’s Medical Clinic
- Plano Clothes Closet
- Plano Housing Authority—
- Plano Senior Center
- Real Options for Women
- Community Projects
At Fellowship, we are engaged in our community visibly displaying the love of Christ. If you want to know more about how you can be engaged, visit the CSI section on our website.
- Reach the whole world (uttermost parts)
We are told to be his witnesses to our own world, beyond our world, and to the whole world—to the uttermost parts…which does include Alabama, where I’m from, but beyond. He’s talking about the whole globe…that God wants us to take his truth and his love global. In Matthew 28, we are told to disciple the nations. That is our mission. And as a church, we have always been vitally engaged in global outreach.
Right now about 14-15% of the monies that you give go global, and we are committed to global outreach. In August, you’ll hear much more about our global strategy as we are refining it, but key in our global strategy is engaging believers here at Fellowship directly in world missions. Through short term mission opportunities, we want to touch the world. When I talk with people who have gone on these trips, every one of them tells me how it literally changed their lives…and even years later, I see that the impact doesn’t wear off. They are changed forever. When I was involved here in youth ministry, there was no doubt that of all the we did with teenagers, the missions trips were by far the most life changing…nothing else even came close.
We have various short term opportunities and will continue to have more as we focus our global reach. I’d love to see every participant at Fellowship go on a short-term trip within the next ten years. It would change our church.
One really great opportunity to consider is going to Mexico this Thanksgiving. Each Thanksgiving individuals and families give up their vacation time to go build houses in Mexico. We work with a pastor there in a Colonia, and in addition to building houses we build relationships, share the good news of what God has done, and reach out in love. We’ve been doing this for years and have made a significant impact—but the experience has made an equally significant impact on us. You might pray now about going down as a whole family. As long as yoru children are __ or over, you can go—and what an opportunity. We are planning to do that some time, and last year I took Collin down (Show picture) with me for part of the Journey Mexico mission trip—and he still talks about that.
Other short term trips opportunities this year include a trip to Russia and a trip to Cuba, another to Holland. Also, some are going to suffer for the Lord on a short-term trip to Hawaii. All these are open for you…you can call the church for more information.
We have also sent out full time missionaries from this church and focused efforts on resourcing indigenous leaders. We have people who have retired early to be able to travel overseas and represent us there.
God wants us to be engaged in the world, through our giving, through our praying, and through our going. Pray about how God might want you to be engaged.
You and I are on mission. We’ve been sent by God with something to do. We can’t leave our list at home. We can’t forget why we are here. You and I have the most engaging mission of any—to be part of what God is doing in reconnecting people to himself. Nothing is more exciting or significant than that.
He asks us to reach our world…to reach beyond our world…and to be part or reaching the whole world. That’s the mission we are committed to.
And you know what, if we do that as a church—as we live out our mission and focus on reaching our community for Christ, we need to be prepared. There are huge implications as we live out our mission of reaching the world for Christ. Here are some of those:
- Fellowship will be a growing church
If we are doing our job of making friends with those who may be far from God, sharing our lives and stories with them, inviting them to experience God’s presence here, then we will grow and we need to prepare to grow. We need to make room for growth. The early church was committed to the same mission, and as a result they turned the world upside down the book of Acts says. It also says that God was adding to their number daily those who were being saved. Pray for us as we make room for growth to reach more people for Christ, and let’s be willing to sacrifice to make that happen.
- Fellowship will be a messy church
If we are reaching the right people, we will reach people whose lives are messy. Our were and maybe are. Jesus hung out with people whose lives are messy. If we are focused on reaching our community, then we are going to get messy.
And that’s what God calls the church to be. Think about it. The perfect church looks something like this:
- 50% of the people are living for Christ
- 50% of the people are new in Christ or searching
If the first 50% are really living for Christ, then they will be fulfilling their mission—which means they will be reaching out so that the next 50% are here too. At Fellowship, we’ve always had the reputation that we’ll take anybody. Everybody is welcome here.
People with bad marriages—welcome
People with messed up family situations—welcome
White, black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab people—welcome
Poor people, rich people—welcome
Athletic people, disabled people—welcome
Sinners and saints—welcome
To complain that Fellowship is full of hypocrites and sinners is like complaining that Medical City Hospital is full of sick people. That’s why we are here…to reach the world for Christ—and that’s who we were when we came to Christ. So, let’s not have a hospital with all doctors.
- Fellowship will be a visible church
We will become known in our community as a place that loves people. Already our mayor has said, “Where did you come from? I’m seeing you everywhere now.”
- Fellowship will be a partying church
In heaven when people come to know Christ, there is a party—and when new life is happening in a church, the place is full of joy. Families are designed to have babies, to see new life…and that is what makes a church a house of joy. We want to build an effective, love-filled, joy-filled place…with lots of new life…and God is doing that already.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. Let the party begin…