Engaging Culture I: Do You Want To?
Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47
January 2, 2011
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Scripture reading: Matthew 28:18-20
Happy New Year!
There is something exciting about looking ahead and wondering what this year will bring – challenges and successes, joy and pain, births and death.
· I believe this is going to be a year unlike any other at TG.
As I said a couple of months ago, this year God is calling us to “engage our culture,” reach out, to share the great news of the Gospel (BTW: Evangelism simply means “sharing the good news”).
I cannot stress enough that this has to be your goal – the leadership cannot pull this off. In fact, have decided to avoid any of the typical outreach events and focus on your role.
· For that reason, we are taking a four-week break from Inscriptions to focus on equipping you for this challenge.
I also cannot stress enough that this cannot be accomplished by our own strength. We will need God’s help, just like I talked about last week.
Want to or have to?
There are a couple of ways I can talk about evangelism – I can either speak in terms of “have to” or “get to.” I can either try to convince you that you should or motive you to want to.
· It’s not that one is right and one wrong, it’s like stages –first you obey because you have to, then because you want to.
Q Isn’t that is with our kids? We make them clean up their room in hopes that they learn to want order.
The “have to”
There is a “have to” aspect to evangelism. We call that opening reading “The Great Commission,” not “the Great Suggestion.”
NIV Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
· In the Greek it’s an imperative, so it means what it says.
This is Jesus’ last orders, his standing command to the church.
Q Who is the church?
· It’s not the organization, it’s you; this is each of our responsibility.
“Yeah,” you say, “But that’s not my gifting, I am not wired that way.” It is true that God has given certain people of the gift of evangelism (Eph. 4:11) – they excel and sharing the Gospel.
Acts 1:8 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 ends of the earth.
Q Who has received power from the Holy Spirit? All believers.
Q Why are we given that power? To be witnesses.
· Not all of us are evangelists, but all of us must evangelize – to be a Christian and not doing this is to be in disobedience.
So, I don’t want to in any way minimize the mandate to evangelize, but I probably don’t need to belabor any more.
· If you have been a Christian for any time, then you know you “have to,” and probably feel guilty for not.
The “Get to”
Let’s focus on the “get to,” this is actually something you want to do, whether you realize it or not. Let’s take a look at what the disciples did (this is the account of the first church).
Acts 2:42-47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This is a great, compact description of the Christian life:
They devoted themselves – their new faith wasn’t an addition to their busy lives, it overtook everything else. They learned and grew, they prayed, were rooted in community.
43 ¶ Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
This isn’t a description of socialism, it’s community, the body caring for the body. There was no need for welfare.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
No wonder! Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that! Community, eating together, worshiping God, and just genuinely being happy.
Q Is this what we want for our church, to have “the Lord adding to our numbers daily”?
Remember how full the church was for the Children’s production? Remember the energy and excitement? That’s what God is calling us to. I’m not making a deal of numbers, but to give a visual.
Q Do you want that?
Q Do you want it bad enough to be a part?
Don’t get overwhelmed!
In this series, we are going talk about the “how to,” making evangelism both “do-able” and “not weird.” But that won’t do any good if you don’t want to.
· I know that many of you are sitting here convinced that you can’t and won’t evangelize (which is why I pray so much).
Q So for a moment, set that aside and ask yourself: If you could do it, would you do it?
I don’t know about you, but I can be overwhelmed by big tasks. If something looks insurmountable, it’s easy just to shut down.
Accordingly, the fear makes it hard for you to honestly answer the “want to.” Here’s three questions to help you break it down. If you answer “yes” to these, they you really want to “Engage.”
1. Do you really believe this stuff?
Do you really believe the world is deep in sin and desperately needs Jesus?
If you view evangelism as pushing something on people that they don’t want or need, then you will feel guilty when you do it. But if you feel like you are offering something they can’t live without (literally), then you will feel guilty if you don’t.
· That’s why I was such a lousy salesman at “Thing Remembered,” I felt guilty for selling overpriced, useless stuff.
That’s why the “really believe” is so important.
2. Have you been changed by the Gospel?
Years ago, my sister and I were in a mall in CA and watched a demonstration for Bose Speakers. The young lady doing it could not have been any more disinterested in what she was doing.
· Imagine that same demonstration by a fanatical customer.
Q What is the difference?
Excitement and passion about a personal experience. You are passionate about what is meaningful to you. This is so great that I can’t help myself from trying to share it with others.
Q Have you ever gone to a new restaurant, loved it, and texted your friends about it? That is evangelism.
But rather than talking about some great peanut sauce you enjoy for a few minutes, we are talking about a life freed from the destructive power of sin, we are talking about deep joy and satisfaction from community, and eternal fulfillment in God.
Wanting to reach out and share the Gospel flows from a heart deeply changed by the Gospel. If your Gospel isn’t touching others, it hasn’t touched you!
1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
· It has to be a hope that you have.
BTW: This is an advantage you have over me – up here, I will always be seen the salesman, but you are the satisfied customer.
Now, I’m not talking about the “how to” yet, only the “want to.” There are more and less effective methods. Passionately wanting to share Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean talking to strangers.
· Some people can do that, like Billy Graham, but most of us will come across as a telemarketer.
Ä If you are a Christian, but are no longer feeling it, we will be talking about that next week.
3. Do you want to see others changed by the Gospel?
So, if you really believe the Gospel and you really have been changed by it, and you don’t have a heart of stone then you will want to see that change in the life of others.
I don’t think you have a heart of stone, we do want to see lives changed – your friends, family, co-workers, and strangers across town and around the world.
· Other things get in your way: Fear, misguided priorities, not wanting to be a freak.
Let’s make “changed lives” more personal and less theoretical: A highlight of being a pastor has been Brady and Brandy’s 1st day, then watching the massive changes happening in their lives.
I know many of you feel the same; you’ve been a part of their story – guy’s group, their wedding, Hazel’s birth.
· This is a picture of “changed lives.”
At a pastors’ conference, one pastor talked on how it looks when a church is drawing closer to God, each others, and drawing other is. He asked a question that struck me deep:
Q “Don’t you want to have new stories of what God is doing, not just the same stories repackaged?”
Q Where are our other stories like that?
· I am not minimizing all that God has done and is doing, but there should be a “holy discontent.”
Don’t you want a new story every month, every week? Would it be great if every week your community groups are filled with stories of God’s redeeming work?
· More saved from the destructive power of sin.
· More marriages saved.
· Lukewarm Christians brought into full Christian life.
· More brought into community.
This is the sort of stuff that drives me. That is why I am doing this, and I hope it is why you are doing it. I want to see God be more and more glorified as people experience how good he is.
You’re doing it wrong
So if you answered “yes,” you believe this stuff, your life has been changed, and you want to see others changed, then yes, you really do want to be a part of “engaging our culture.”
Q Hopefully you are thinking: Why do I still dread evangelism?
· I think the problem is that you are doing it wrong.
Cecil has been trying to me to go jogging (maybe it’s pronounced yogging). He keeps telling me that it’s fun, but I have had a hard time believing him.
See, about 10 years ago, I decided that I need to get into shape, so I threw on a pair of old shoes, went out into the cold Fall morning, and ran really hard around my neighborhood.
When I was finished, my legs and feet were in pain, I was about ready to throw up, gasping for breath, and my lungs were burning from the cold air. I got inside and said “Never again.”
Over the past couple of years I have slowly gotten back into it, but still hated running, and decided to train for a half marathon for the challenge, not for fun.
Last week he finally talked me into running 8 miles, outside, on a cold day. I was pretty worried. But I found out that I have been doing it wrong. Turns out, done right, it is kind of fun!
Bad memories of evangelism
· I am pretty sure if you have the right motivation (“want to”) you dread evangelism because you’re doing it wrong (“how to”).
I remember my youth group going to Seattle to do “Street Evangelism,” because I “had to.” I was miserable the whole way there and relieved afterwards back (“Thank God that’s done”).
Q Do you have stories like that? Have they incorrectly become your definition of “outreach”?
Now contrast that to the joy being a part of those stories we are talking about. Make that what you associate evangelism with.
So here’s how we do it right. I have a simple formula: S+C+X=EC. (this follows our mission statement in reverse order). We engage our culture (EC) by:
· S: Striving – having a Gospel Perspective, living it out.
· C: Community – maintaining connections with outsiders, building relationship, and paying your relational dues.
· X: Christians – being able to clearly communicate Gospel.
The next three sermons will be about these things.
I didn’t say it would be easy
But one last point – I am not saying it will be easy. Nothing good ever is:
· Getting pregnant is usually pretty easy – having and raising a child is the hard part, but in the end it’s the best part.
· Falling in love is easy, but staying in love is a lot of work, but (again) it is the best part.
This “S+C+X=EC” stuff will require work. You are going to have to get out of your comfort zone, you will have to make room in your life for relationships.
You will have to make room in your church. We might have to make some changes; you might have to give up your favorite seat.
Q Will it be worth it?
One year from now:
· When the church is filled with lives changed by the Gospel,
· When each week brings a new story of God’s redemption,
· When baptisms are a regular event,
· When you have a good and godly pride and joy in what God’s done,
Then I will ask you that and you’ll say “Without a doubt.”
Q & A
As I said, we’ll talk specifics soon, for now I want to examine your own fears and pray that God give you a willing heart: Willing to stretch, willing to try, and willing to sacrifice.
Call to worship
Now we respond to God through worship, by singing and communion. But we also worship through our giving.
Giving is a very practical form of worship – it costs us something, and it also allows the church to do everything God has called it to.
· Giving is a joyful expression of worship and an earnest investment in what God is doing.
I seldom do this, but in light of both our financial situation and our goals in 2011, I need to talk a little bit about it.
I said that engaging our culture will take sacrifices of time and comfort level. It will also take financial sacrifices. It will take money for us do this.
Already we are running in the red, about $20,000. Giving is on a downward trend last quarter, which is the going the wrong way!
The church will get bigger and so costs will go up, but I don’t expect the visitors to foot the bill. That would be like asking your guests to help pay for their meal.
Q Are you really a part of this church? Do you want to be a participant in this new adventure?
Q Are you giving sacrificially to the church? (All of the Elders and Deacons are.)