Friday, November 8, 2013

From the Newsletter: Funeral or Rebirth

A couple days after the business meeting, the Moderator of my church texted me and asked, “is FBC headed  to a funeral, or are these the labor pains of a rebirth. I think and pray it is the latter”
I think it will be the latter, because it is the kick in the pants that we have all needed. I’m serious. Every church should be a disciple making church. No church gets a special dispensation, a get out of evangelizing and disciple making free card. Jesus commands us to “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 (Matthew 28:18-20). He also makes clear that if we don’t bear fruit, the ax will come.
That goes for ever church, and every person. And if we don’t do this, it will be the end of First Baptist as a church family. We don’t live in a Christianized world where people just drift into church because “it’s the right thing to do”. Those days are gone. We know this. We know that we live in a post Christian neo pagan environment, and the younger people are, the more true this is. What this means is that we have to be faithful to the call, and if we are not willing to do what God has called to do, we will die from disobedience. I believe that the future of our church could be very bright, this crisis can be the very thing that re-launches us in a new and fresh way, because we are being shown a flashing neon sign that says if we are making disciples, we live, and if we don’t, we die.
Now, as I say that, let me add these thoughts.
First, this is why we have been focusing in on evangelism and apologetics recently. This is why over the last 6 weeks we have done The Reason for God: Conversations on faith and life, a DVD study thinking through how to have conversations with those that don’t know Christ (which we may re-run at another time if there is interest). This is why we are starting a new study next week on Mark Dever’s book The Gospel and Personal Evangelism. This is why we are encouraging you to be Matthews, to do the My Hope with Billy Graham outreach, inviting people into your homes, sharing a DVD based gospel presentation, and then giving your own testimony and answering questions as you can. This is why you will see an idea that Linda Dougherty has suggested in the newsletter, and this is why, if you have an outreach idea kicking around in your mind, you need to share it. Everyone has different gifts and different abilities to see things. Don’t be shy. We need to all be all in when it comes to changing the direction of the church.
But second, understand that our drive to change the trends has to come from love for the lost. If we try to go out to make disciples just to save our church, it won’t work. People can see through that approach. If they think we are trying to using them “to save our thing”, they will walk away in disgust. Our motivation has to be obedience to the commission and a love of the lost. We need to have a broken heart that people are facing a very real eternity separated from God. So often, Christians share, but we do it without love. We are so busy trying to convince people that we are right that we don’t convince them that we love them, which brings us around to that old adage that “people don’t care what you know till they know you care”. Our heart has to be their good. I preached at a funeral recently, and I spoke of heaven and hell, and talked about their future in a very real heaven or hell, and the hope of the gospel, and someone told me after that “preaching that message was the wrong message for these kind of people”. I responded with comedian Penn Gillette’s comment that “if you believe that someone is standing in front of a truck, at a certain point you tackle them”. Love of the lost and obedience to Christ is the only thing that makes you tackle them. Only this drives you to say, “There is no better news in all the world. To not share it is an act of cruelty and evil”.
We are often accused of being unloving for telling people they need to turn to Christ. This is patently stupid. If Christ is the way the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him, as John 14 makes clear, what is unloving is to not share that news. We need to be sharing the hope of the gospel, because the future of the church rides on it, but more importantly, because we are commanded to, and because we love the lost.
Third, see how the gospel empowers you to do evangelism despite your fear. The gospel actually gives you the strength and courage to share the gospel. I know that evangelism is scary. I get that. I really do. I’ve had those movements when I try to talk about Jesus, and the words seem to stick at the back of my mouth, and I’ve felt like I don’t want to bother people. I get that. But the gospel tells us that God loved us so much he sent his one and only son, Christ Jesus the second member of the trinity, to the cross to save us. This humbles us when we are proud, because it tells us that we are so sinful that Christ had to die for us, but it lifts us up when we feel low because it tells us that God values us so much, that he would die for us. It also strengthens us, because if we know that we have the acceptance of the father, we can say, “So what if you mock, I am accepted by the sovereign God of all. What can you do to me? 'To live is Christ, to die is gain', if you mock me, sneer at me, so what? I have the Father saying 'well done my good and faithful servant' and that means much more than the disdain of anyone”. In the gospel, we have the best news in the world. Salvation has come in Christ. you are justified by faith in Christ Jesus, who died for your sins and rose again. But we don’t just have the best news, we also have an incredible source of strength that empowers us and sends us out to proclaim this amazing message.
Fourth, see the force of the gospel for creating a powerful community witness. The gospel is the thing that changes our community witness in a radical way. The gospel tells us that we are united by the blood of Christ, that rich and poor, Black, White, Asian, Latino, young and old, all are one in Christ. And what that means is that there is no one that can say, I am superior. It tells us that while in the world achievement is held up as the supreme good, our standing is not based on achievement, because you did nothing to be brought into community with Christ or each other.
The effect of these facts is that the gospel changes how we relate to one another. It gives us the ability to forgive and show radical kindness to others when they don’t “deserve it”, because we know that we have been forgiven by God, and shown radical kindness through Christ Jesus. Since he has done it for us, we can do the same to those in our church and the world. This is just a little taste of how the gospel changes how we do community. On and on the list goes. And if we allow the gospel to shape our community, and if the world will sees a community centered on the love of Christ, not on their likes and dislikes, or even their liking those like people who have been their friends for thirty years, but loving the outsider and the stranger, and yes, “those people” that we’ve all but zoned out of Medfield, it will be a powerful apologetic for the gospel, and make our church, a place where God is glorified.
No one wants a funeral. Least of all me. I don't think that we are. I think God is forcing our hand. The question is, what will we do? Will we allow the Gospel to shape us, and send us out on our Fathers business? Will we allow the gospel to be the center of our community, the thing that unites us as a community of love that is attractive to the world around? Will we allow the gospel to be the thing that drives us, the thing that shapes us, and fills us with love, and sends us out with boldness? Will we look to the cross, and not ourselves, and love the lost as Christ loved us? Will we cry out to God to act, and then obediently obey His commission? If we don’t, it’s game over. But I don't think that is what is going to happen. I’m with Dennis. I think these are the labor pains of rebirth. I think there are many, who want to see God do something awesome here once more, and I think he will. I believe that will see a rebirth that is more than any of us can ask or image.

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