It has been a little more than a year now that Lynn and I have accepted the call to serve here at Faith Community Church of God. We have been thrilled to make new friends and rekindle old relationships, but most of all we love the challenge of leading people into a closer relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
There is an old saying in ministry, that preachers are called, “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That means calling everyone to look with a critical eye at their walk with Jesus Christ and observe whether or not you are at a higher place and closer to Him today than you were 1 year, 5 years or 10 or more years ago. Because as disciples of Jesus Christ we are to grow in both the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our cue is to be taken precisely from Scripture, specifically Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus gives the Great Commission. When He says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations (people of different cultures and ethnicities), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
We are not supposed to wait for people to come to us, we are told that because Jesus has all power, we are to go make disciples, baptize them and teach them all things we have been commanded. It is not a request, it is a command!
We are not to clean people up before we bring them to church. We are not to have people drop their bad habits before they come to church. We are not supposed to get people to change their lifestyle before they come to church. We are not supposed to be hypocrites inviting another hypocrite to church. We are to look to the savior who paid our debt and imparted to us grace that we didn’t earn and the participation in a Kingdom we didn’t deserve.
If we cannot understand that, perhaps we need to look at the cross again. The church is not a place that we go, it is the people who have been redeemed. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, “but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Phil. 2:3)
We cannot do the work that only the Holy Spirit is qualified to do. The Holy Spirit will convict, convince and redeem the worst sinner and bring them to faith. We cannot do that. We can only obstruct the work of the Spirit if we try to convict people of their sin, because sinners know they are sinning, and that’s why we cannot convict people of their sin. We cannot convince people of the truth of the Gospel if we are constantly putting ourselves in the place of the Person that the Father has given authority to convince people that they need Christ, that Person of the Holy Spirit.
This is what Pastor Rick Thomas has written about the church. “We must constantly remind ourselves that the Church exists because people need to know that our sinfulness has eternally separated us from God; and that the only remedy for such spiritual estrangement is to turn from our life of sin and trust–from the heart–in what Jesus Christ alone has done on behalf of unworthy sinners like you and me.”
John Sanders of Landmark Missionary Baptist Church speaks to how we should reach out to others:
How We Talk
1. Be gracious. We are to guard what comes out of our mouths. Our wise walk should lead to wise words. “Let your speech [conversation] always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6). It is important that we communicate with words of grace when we speak with those who don’t know Christ. Unfortunately, many times, believers go off on people who are living in sin. Or, we begin ranting about a moral issue in our culture, forgetting that there may be someone listening who is caught in that particular sin. When we’re filled with anger and rage, people feel judgment and not hope.
We need to be more like Jesus. Even when He dealt with sin, He spoke words of grace as the story of the woman caught in adultery shows, not condemnation. Those who are involved in sexual sins or addictions, including homosexuality and pornography, need to know that the grace of God is sufficient, even for them. But they cannot, no, will not know if we beat them over the head with our self-righteousness.
2. Be appetizing or tasty. Our conversation needs to be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Salt enhances flavor and makes food appetizing. “Salty speech” in Paul’s day referred to witty and clever discussion. It was the opposite of being boring or monotone. When we talk about our faith, how can we not be interesting?
In other words, we must not take it upon ourselves to interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit by allowing our personal feelings about politics, ethnic status, sexual sins of any kind or the behaviors of a personal nature (smoking, drinking, drug use, homosexual behavior or any other sexual promiscuity) to become an obstacle to someone hearing the Gospel.
We need to take the advice of Thumper’s mom from the Disney movie, Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
If we are to grow, we need to look around each week and see more and more people who we haven’t seen before. We need to look around each week and see different people we haven’t seen before. We need to look around and be surprised at the people we see!
We can only accomplish this if we have the Mind of Christ and look at the world, our city and our family the way that Jesus does. We must always have in mind not what pleases us, but what pleases God.
If we have that in mind at all times, we will be gracious to those outside the church, loving to those inside the church and understanding to those who may disagree with us, regardless of the subject.
By doing this, we will show the love of God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.