Being the Church of Jesus

Jesus said that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. And He told us – “As the Father has sent ME, so send I you.”

In other words, Jesus has sent us to seek and to save the lost. And the Great Commission tells us that we are to seek and save the lost among the world’s ethnic groups.

But the American church seems to have lost its way. We design programs to perpetuate what we have but according to statistics across the US, we are failing miserably. Very few churches are doing any more than growing from other church’s members (called transfer growth) or baptizing their children (called biological growth) without making a dent in the ‘lostness’ of our nation. This includes LLBC. In fact, the church of the US is making very little impact upon our nation. There are a fewer number of people attending American churches today than 20 years ago, even though the population has grown considerably.

Remember the words of Jesus:

“Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in…” We invite but no one accepts our invitation. We seem to have forgotten that Jesus’ words were to compel people to come into the KINGDOM not the building.

We have lost our urgency! Notice the urgency in the words of Jesus in Luke 15.

Luke 15:4-7 1 lost out of 100 (lost sheep) especially verse 4
Luke 15:8-10 1 lost out of 10 (lost coin) especially verse 8
Luke 15:11-32 1 lost out of 2 (lost son) especially verse 20

Notice the common themes:

· Diligence in search – until found or returned home!
· “Rejoice with me” (vss. 6, 9, 22-24)
· Rejoicing in heaven (vss. 7,10, 32)

We have lost the urgency of reaching the world for Christ! We seem to have forgotten that those without Christ face an eternity in hell. We live in a generation that is more concerned with self preservation than being our brother’s keeper.

Look at the issues of the next election:

· Get us out of Iraq
· Get us more money
· Get us health care
· Get us, get us, get us….

Even the church has lost its way. 80-85% of the churches in the US are in decline or dying. On average, about 10 churches die every single day. Why?

I believe that there are two major problems of the church:

First, we are too concerned about what goes on in the building and not concerned enough over what is happening outside the building. The world is going to hell while the church sits in its holy huddle and sings ‘Kum By Yah.’

The work of the Holy Spirit is to make us like Jesus and empower us to do the things He has called us to do. Jesus was out in the world where sinners were. He loved them and ministered to them and called them out of sin into eternal life.

Luke 15:1-2 - Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." NASU

If we are going to be like Jesus we need to be more concerned with what goes on outside the walls of the church and reach out to people there.

That is not easy! It is much easier to come to the building and worship and praise the Lord with our brothers and sisters and pray for missions around the world. But we have been called to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come into the kingdom. And we cannot do that unless we get out there where the world is and love them as Jesus did, and then hope to gain an opportunity to share with them the hope that we have in Christ.

So we need to get outside the walls of the building.

Jesus called us to be salt and light in this world. That means that we are to change the world by our influence and light the way to the One who is our hope. Yet the church has lost its voice in the world, which is the second major problem. We have become so much like the world that we no longer have anything to offer.

Jesus told us to go into the world but not to be like the world.

· Our values should be different from the world.
· Our lifestyle should be different from the world.
· Even the way we think should be different from the world.

And the reason is because of our devotion to Jesus and our allowing the Holy Spirit access to our lives to mold us and make us what He desires us to be. He will use the Word of God in our lives if we will spend time being taught from it, as Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit in Arabia.

But even though we are different than the world, we are to understand our culture – the world we live in. We are to know what makes people tick…why they act the way the do and believe what they do. Only then will we understand them enough to share the message of salvation with them in a way that they may respond to.

When I was in high school my pastor, Rev. Elbert Whitwell, counseled me about the ministry. He told me that I needed to learn about many things so that I could talk to people no matter what they did in life. Wise counsel from a man in his 80’s in 1971. 37 years later that advice is just as valid for us today.

When we went to Brazi as missionariesl I fell in love with the place. It was beautiful. I loved the climate. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I loved their sports. I loved the food and especially the COFFEE. But I soon discovered that though the people of Brazil dressed like we did, for the most part, we were not like them.

They had assumptions that we did not have. They had values that we did not have. Their way of thinking was much different from ours. Even their education system was different from the way we were taught. But until I learned these things, I could not help them to find Christ.

Interesting thing about Brazil, because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, evangelicals and Catholics used the same words to express different ideas.

Something that I have discovered since returning to the US: Evangelicals and the lost use many of the same words to express different ideas as well. And unless we are willing to examine our culture and know the culture that we are called to minister to, we will continue to be ineffective.

That is what the Lord has laid upon my heart. So how do we change to reach out to the world? How do we become so close to Jesus that people see Jesus in us, yet we are able to relate to them and be able to share with them why we have a hope in Jesus Christ?

It will require a refocusing of the ministry of the church. We are building oriented. To our credit, we have a strong doctrinal understanding. We have a burden for world missions. We are willing to invest in those ministries that we believe are important.

But how do we turn outward? How do we change so that we are effectively influencing our community?

Change is always hard. Think about dieting. Many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. We would be healthier. We would even feel better and probably have more energy. But the sacrifice is too often too great. Why? Because it would require change and we don’t like change, even though we don’t like the results of not changing.

We are comfortable with things the way they are in the church, though we may not like the results. We like doing things the way we do, though we don’t like the empty pews and the lack of excitement and the loss of influence upon our society.

So what do we do?

We seek the Lord with all our heart. We pray for revival. We seek inner renewal. We pray for each other. We read the Bible. We learn to love and obey the Lord with all of our hearts, then follow His leadership no matter what the cost.

 

 

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