Who Are You Bringing
“Who Are You Bringing?”
3rd Sunday in Lent ~ March 11, 2007
In the month of March we are focusing on bringing people we know to worship. We have set March 25th as Friendship Sunday as the day we encourage you to bring someone to Mount Olive. Last week Pastor Shearier spoke about the “Why” this is important. To sum it up – it is of eternal importance. Knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior makes the difference of life or death – heaven or hell. Why would we not want to share the important, eternal news of Jesus Christ? Our Old Testament lesson (Ezekiel 33:7-20) makes the case clear – if we are not with God (wicked or righteous) then we will perish. In fact there is even a strong warning for those who know the message of God’s salvation that they must speak. That is the Why – eternal consequences. Now the “Who.”
Who are you bringing to worship on March 25th. You notice I didn’t say “if” you bring someone – I said “who” meaning I am expecting you to bring someone. Wouldn’t it be great if every invitation we make would have a positive response and we would fill these pews on March 25th with new people? But we know in reality that not everyone we invite will respond to our invitation. In fact it will take hard work to get new people here to Mount Olive.
Jesus understood that not all who hear the Word of God will respond in a positive way. Here is a parable that illustrates that point - Matthew chapter 13, a familiar parable of the sower.
“And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.’” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV)
According to my math there is only one in four that responds well to the seed being planted. And we know who have shared the story of our faith with others, that we do see a variety of responses and only a few positive. We know there are those who won’t even listen to the Christian message. There are others who take on the faith as a passing fad and will soon fade themselves. Others only want a better life and when trials come they give up the Words of Jesus and doubt His promises. And there are others who the soil is prepared and ready for the seed – God’s Word – to take hold and produce fruit. I think one of the keys to this parable is for us to find soil that is prepared. As a farmer knows, a soil has to be prepared for the planting. Yes even the path, rocky ground and thorns can, with good preparation, become good soil. So, how do we find this good soil in people’s lives so that the seed will have effect? Who can we target with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we know will have some chance of transforming their lives? I know in theory we need to share the Gospel with everyone, but we can also be wise stewards and focus on these whose soil may be more prepared.
The first thing that is important is that we have to take the risk and try over and over again with the proclamation of God’s truth in Jesus Christ. We have to work hard at sharing the Gospel in a culture that seems to be more an more hostile to it. It used to be that we could count on in our American culture that people would have some working knowledge of the Christian faith and could even understand some of the language we use to talk about God. But times have changed and I believe we have to do a lot more work on preparing the soil, back to the basics, so that the seeds planted can grow. It is going to take hard work – but that is so much better than not doing anything at all. The only real failure in my mind is not that people don’t respond to our words of faith but that we don’t share it at all. We have to take the risk and the more we risk and scatter the seed the more chance we will have of success.
I would like to share a few quotes from the business world that focuses on how to succeed. The founder of IBM, Thomas Watson, says: "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate." Basically we have to take lots of risks of failure to produce success. The more we try the more chance of success. Or as Thomas Edison said, "There is only one good idea in 100 so I want to discover the 99 failures as quick as possible." We better be scattering the seed as much as we can if we are to see success. Again, true failure is not in trying but in not sharing our faith with the world.
It takes 9 times, of hearing the gospel in a variety of 6 mediums (letter, personal invitation, web etc.) before someone typically responds to Christ. That means we have to keep trying. Think about these statistics from professionals (people who make a living at these tasks). Roughly 60% of all basketball shots made don’t go in. 25% of all batters make it to first base. In an oil company, only 10% of oil wells drilled hit oil. For actors, only 1 out of 30 auditions turns up in something that is of value. Just looking at the statistics it doesn’t look good but the secret these professionals know is that the more chances taken the more chance for success. Yes there will be failure, but the only way to success is to try, try again.
So, what could be some bridges, some prepared soil that we can cultivate to bring people to worship here at Mount Olive. I already stared that the familiarity people have with Christianity may be fading but there are places and time that we can capture to invite people to God’s House to hear His Word of salvation.
The first bridge is Friends and Family. This is a tried and true are that produces good results. Why? Because these are people you know and who know you and you have built some trust with them. Coming up to a stranger to share you faith is hard because you don’t know them well and no trust has been built. But you have a relationship with your friends and family and so the soil has been prepared for you to plant the seed of God’s Word. Take advantage of this open door and invite them to church
Here is a good example of taking the risk with a friend. My daughter Kiersten, who is eight years old and attends a public school, learned one day that a friend of hers didn’t have a Bible. So she decided that she was going to get her a Bible for Christmas. She came home one day from school and announced her plans to purchase this Bible for her friend. At first Sara and I were hesitant because we were afraid of maybe offending this family. We didn’t know who they were or if they were even Christian. Would giving this Bible as a gift be taken the wrong way? But Kiersten really wanted to do this and so we worked out an arrangement that she used some of her allowance and we filled in the rest to get a basic Bible for her friend. She gave it to her friend after Christmas break and as far as we can tell it was received warmly. Kiersten took a risk, but I think it is one that will pay off in the future (despite Mom and Dad’s fears). Who do you know in your family or circle of friends needs an invitation from you to come to worship?
The second bridge or area where the soil may be prepared is when someone you know is facing a crisis or uncertainty. Now I know that in the parable of the sower it said that some will turn away from the faith when the face a crisis but it can also go the other way. People want hope and security in their life and are willing to seek it out. We can help by spreading the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We know of the security found in our God, lets share it with others in need. Who do you know that needs to hear a message of hope?
The third area we can find an open door is those who have some Christian experience but have not been to worship in a long time. In evangelism circles these people sometimes are called the de-churched. They have fallen away from regular attendance or participation in a local congregation for a variety of reasons. But they do have some knowledge of what Christianity is all about. We can speak the church language and they will know what we are taking about – so the soil is prepared.
We had a great example of this last month. In February we invited many of you who are regular attendees to worship to call on those who haven’t been here for awhile. We sent you a letter with two names you could contact and invite them to a special Sunday. Do you know what happened that Sunday in February? Our attendance increased by 150. Not all were here because of the invitation but many were – it worked! Who do you know that hasn’t been in worship for a long time?
Who are you going to bring on March 25th? Family or friends, someone facing uncertainty, someone who hasn’t been to worship in a long time? Talk to them, invite them, bring them to Mount Olive. If not on March 25th then on any Sunday. One other good thing that might happen is the timing of Friendship Sunday. Statistics say that if someone visits a church three Sundays in a row then it is a good chance that they will continue to come. Friendship Sunday is March 25th. The next Sunday is Palm Sunday, and the Sunday after that is Easter. Three good Sundays to bring someone. May God bless you invitations! Amen