There is a great debate in the Church right now on how to be relevant in this post-modern world. Because the mainline church is struggling to grow, we are falling all over ourselves trying to reach the next generation. There was a group of people sitting in the diner the other day discussing this very thing. We talked about gimmicks, models, and strategies. As I sat there listening I wondered why we are trying so hard to be "with it" that we just "don't get it." We need to be in touch with the world, not in sync with the world.
You know what? The Church ought to be a little strange. We ought to be a little off-kilter. If people come to the church because the values of the world have diminished them and they are looking for something different, why would they be attracted to us if we are like the world? Therefore, if we are a little odd, a little weird, that is good. It is as if we are saying, "What you are looking for, you will not find in the world!" People respond to real people who have a real love and passion for God! The gospel does not have to be dressed up, dolled-up, souped-up, or given a makeover. The gospel does fine by itself.
The early church knew this. The power of the early church was rooted in prayer and discernment from the Holy Spirit. If the church today made itself more available to the power of the Holy Spirit, believe me, people would notice. This would lead the church to speak to the real spiritual needs of people. In addition, when the church starts doing that, people will listen.
I like the story I heard one year at Reunion about a bakery in the wrong end of town. It was located in a really, really bad part of town. The bakery was small, rundown, and nondescript. Five o’clock every morning the aroma of delicious bread emanated from that bakery. People would line up around the block to get their hands on that bread. That is a parable for us as the church. It is not about appearances or gimmicks; it is simply about offering the bread of life. People are so spiritually hungry that all we have to do is offer the bread of life with passion and authenticity, and they will come from all over to taste it.
Does the sweet smell of Christ emanate from your life? Are you sharing your witness? Are you letting your light shine?
The unavoidable truth is that we are called as Christians to bear witness, to testify to the hope that is within us, to tell people about Jesus--to make disciples. Now, this may scare some of you to death. Nevertheless, take heart and listen closely. By the grace of God, you are able to preach. You do not do it on your own power. This is why Jesus said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the age." Jesus is always with us, helping us, and empowering us to share the good news. I know he is. As a Minister, I have heard many great sermons from the church. The church is covered in wonderful preachers.
I heard about a woman who had a friend who was an addict. Her addiction was destroying everything she loved. Most people would have said, "Well, we need to pray the she gets the help he needs." That is not what this woman did. She wrote her friend a letter telling her that she was going to lose everything including her life unless she went into treatment to receive the help she needed. Then she wrote in her letter that the only one who could make her whole is Jesus Christ.
Now, where did she get the power to write a letter like that? Jesus said, "Go and make disciples and I will be with you always."
He was a young man still living at home. He was rather quiet and kept to himself. One day his coworker found him in the restroom crying. His coworker asked him if he could help. The young man confided in him. He told him that his girlfriend was pregnant, and he had just revealed this to his parents the night before. They are very strict and religious. They screamed at him and said that he had embarrassed them and shamed the family and told him that he should never set foot in their house again.
What did his coworker do? He reached out, put his arm around him and said, "I am sorry that happened to you. I am sure this is difficult for your parents, and I am certain this is difficult for you. But I am a Christian, and I believe that God loves you, and his love will help you through the most difficult situations."
Now how was that coworker able to say something like that? Jesus said, "Go and make disciples and remember I am with you always."
I remember ministering at a youth camp several years ago. The worship service went late. I did not get up to speak until about eleven o’clock. It did not help that I had the flu. However, it was the last service of the week, and I had to finish. I do not know what I said. I was so sick. I was just trying to get through it. I thought it was the worst sermon I ever delivered.
After the service, a teenage girl approached me. She looked very angry. She said, "I have to find out if something is true." I replied, "What's that?" She said, "You mentioned tonight that God loves me. Do you believe that? I do not believe anyone has ever loved me. My dad left me and my mother abused me, and I moved from one institution to another. I've been sexually abused, neglected, and you are telling me that God loves me?"
I looked into her eyes, and said, "That's right. I know this. God loves you. You want to know how I know. God got up on a cross and said, 'This is how much I love you.'" She paused for a moment and tears began rolling down her cheeks. Then she said, "Well, if God loves me, then nothing else matters. If God loves me, that's all that matters."
Deep down you know there are people all around you who need the love, forgiveness, grace, power, strength and comfort of God in Jesus Christ. Give me one good reason why you would not want to share it?
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, give us new eyes to see those around us who need your love. Give us new hearts to be sensitive to those who need your love, and give us the courage to share your love. Amen. Can You Make a Disciple?