AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/22/2000
#6 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
TEXTS: Matt. 9:37-38; 28:19-20
INTRO: Christ died for ALL sinners, so no Christian can be satisfied to be saved while others are not! The joy of our own salvation is to be followed by the marching orders Jesus left His disciples, the call to evangelize!
The preaching of the good news is NOT the prerogative of a clergy class, it is the call of ALL Christians! In fact, the truth is that the Pastoral gifts are essentially to equip the saints for the work of ministry, the emphasis being on the "saints" doing the work of ministry. (Eph 4:11b-12a "…pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, …")
As Christians the concern of the lost has got to be a passion, not a passing concern. Too often Christians are so concerned about their own soul and own life that they fail to understand the absolute passion & priority of evangelism.
ILLUS:"The question is, How do we win the world to Christ ... with a minimum of fuss and bother?" -- Cartoonist Doug Hall in Leadership, Vol. 14, no. 2.
The approach of too many Churches and Christians with evangelism is to minimize it, or relegate it to a small group of gifted people. Nothing could be further from the truth however!
Evangelism is so important that every Church, every Christian, should be passionate about the lost and reach them … if we can be so passionate about other "lost" things less valuable, surely the most important thing in life should demand our attention … the eternal soul of the lost!
ILLUS:In 1990 newspapers reported that city workers in Newport Beach, California, were sifting through two and one-half tons of trash, looking for $42,500 mistakenly discarded at the Great American Bank and hauled away by garbage trucks. That's a significant loss of money, but it is only money. The loss of human lives and souls is infinitely more significant. Evangelism deserves our very best efforts. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
If people will wade through garbage to find $42,500 dollars that is lost, how much more should we be willing to do to recover the lost souls of men and women?
PROP. SENT: The Scriptures teach us that all Christians are called to evangelize, it also teaches us that evangelism WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!
I. PLANNING FOR A HARVEST 9:37-38
A. Guaranteed! 9:37
1. Jesus never asked His disciples to pray for a harvest!!
a. In fact, Jesus said the harvest IS plentiful already!
b. There is no lack of harvest, only harvesters!
c. Many Christians are afraid to witness because they are afraid of failure, yet Jesus taught just the opposite.
d. When the early Church was scattered because of persecution they went everywhere preaching the Gospel and seeing souls won to the kingdom of God.
2. In every generation there is a great harvest just waiting for those to come along to bring it in!
a. This is why Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers!
b. There is no concern for a lack of harvest, only a lack of workers.
3. Isn't it ironic that the Church too often neglects evangelism when God has promised that ripe fields already exist and that such efforts will be succesful?
a. All we have to do is reach out.
b. It is not a requirement to be an expert witness, just a witness!
ILLUS:When as a young man Robert Morrison had first sailed to China, he was asked, "Do you really expect to make an impression on the idolatry of the great Chinese empire?" In reply, Morrison spoke more prophetically than he knew: "No, sir, but I expect God will." -- "Hudson Taylor and Missions to China," Christian History, no. 52.
4. It is not a matter of great skills, it is a matter of great faith & obedience!
a. Every Christian is capable of evangelism … Jesus would not have asked ALL His disciples to simply pray for "workers" if there were more qualifications than this.
b. There should be no reluctance on our part to participate in evangelism especially knowing that the harvest is plentiful and just waiting for workers to come along and harvest it!
ILLUS:The world has more winnable people than ever before ... but it is possible to come out of a ripe field empty-handed. -- Donal McGavran. Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 4.
5. The only way a harvest will fail to come in is if we neglect to go get it -- God has promised it is there, but we must go get it!
B. Gatherers! 9:38
1. The key to the Church being successful in evangelism has more to do with whether we try than how good we are at it!
a. There are no qualifications given for the kind of workers, only "workers!"
b. We are to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers, not to give us a harvest!
c. Too often we spend our time in prayer asking for the Lord to send us to the "right people" --- everyone is the "RIGHT PERSON" … instead we should be praying that the Lord will SEND US -- period!
2. It would be amazing to see what would happen in a Church where even a handful of people decided to take seriously the call to evangelize … especially since Jesus has already guaranteed the harvest!
a. What would happen if a handful of people really starting working to bring in a harvest?
b. This is how Churches really grow!
c. Even one person who becomes passionate about reaching the loss can make a "world of difference!"
ILLUS:During his ministry John Wesley rode over 250,000 miles on horseback, a distance equal to ten circuits of the globe along the equator. He preached over 40,000 sermons! -- "John Wesley--Revival and Revolution," Christian History, no. 2.
3. It wasn't the educational degrees, the financial prowess, the political power of the early Church that "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6 KJV) for Christ … it was that every one of them became an evangelist!
a. We rely too much on programs, professionals, and publicity to build the Church, what really builds it is PEOPLE!
b. We are the gatherers Jesus was speaking about!
4. ANY Church can grow … if the people of that Church become the workers in the harvest field.
a. How many times a day do you pass ripe wheat?
b. Have you ever reached out to harvest that ripe wheat?
c. What might happen if you try?
d. Didn't Jesus guarantee the harvest already? Didn't He just say to simply pray for workers? Are you one?
II. PROTECTING THE HARVEST Matt. 28:19-20
A. "Go!" 28:19b
1. Jesus' final words to His disciples before leaving Earth to return to His heavenly father are what we know as the "GREAT COMMISSION"
a. Jesus told them to "GO!" -- in the original Greek this is a participle, literally translated, "AS YOU ARE GOING"
b. Jesus EXPECTED His disciples to "GO" into the world, it wasn't so much a command to start as much as it was an acknowledgment that they ARE doing this.
2. It was assumed by early Christians that they all evangelize … it was the natural outflow of the early Church … no wonder it filled the Roman empire so fast with the Christian faith that within less than 300 years the entire Roman Empire embraced Christianity as the state religion!
a. No amount of feeding Christians to lions stopped their evangelizing.
b. No amount of persecution slowed down the Church.
c. Can we say the same today? -- and we have it easy!
3. During America's early years our land was filled with evangelism … no wonder there is a Methodist and Congregational Church in nearly every town in New England today …
ILLUS:Circuit riders were so relentless in their ministry that on stormy days there was a proverbial saying: "There is nothing out today but crows and Methodist preachers." -- "Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders-Untamed Faith on America's Early Frontier," Christian History, no. 45.
4. If it worked before, why not again today?
5. The only question of success is really, "are we going?"
B. "Ground" 28:19b
1. Jesus taught the disciples that after "going" and getting the harvest that it must be secured, or grounded!
a. Hence, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
b. This public response would help secure the new believer's decision, it would demonstrate to the world that they had made a decision for Christ that changed their lives.
c. Baptism was important because of the "securing" of the decision that had been made privately and now became public by baptism.
d. It was not that being baptized had some special power in the ceremony itself, the power was in the public confession through baptism!
2. The early Church was quick to baptize new converts, to secure the decision made … perhaps we could learn a few things today from them!
3. Early Christians emphasized:
a. "delivered" ("Go - make disciples…" salvation - justification)
b. "dunked" ("Baptize them…." baptism)
c. "discipled" ("Teaching them…" discipleship - sanctification)
4. It took the efforts of the entire Church to win the lost.
a. It was not a matter of specialized talents … or well processed programs, it was the work of the Spirit through ordinary men and women who were passionate about their faith and reaching the lost!
ILLUS:If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents. -- D.L. Moody, Christian History, no. 25.
5. Baptism in the early Church wasn't important because it "saved" anyone, but because it "secured" the harvest! Only the response of faith in Christ saves anyone.
C. "Grow" 28:20
1. The last thing Jesus said was: "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
a. This is the job of discipleship!
b. Once the harvest is brought in, once it is secured, it must be processed!
2. It is NOT enough to simply get people saved! … we must disciple one another.
3. Jesus understood that there was a full circle to the process, that once someone is saved and then baptized that they would need to grow in their faith, and this growth would then be used to reach other lost souls so that this circle would continue until He comes again.
a. Every farmer knows that it is NOT enough to simply grow one crop in their lifetime, that they must plant over and over again in order to survive a long time.
b. Every Christian is meant to "multiply" themself.
c. Just as God made us with the capabilities to reproduce physically, so we are made to reproduce spiritually.
4. We dare not end our involvement with new born Christians, but must seek to help them develop their walk with God.
a. This is where Sunday School, Home fellowship groups, small group ministries, and even personal relationships come in … they are all agencies of discipleship.
b. We must concern ourselves with new born Christians so they develop -- no one brings a baby into the world and then says, "good luck, hope you make it by yourself!" (in the natural world if you do this, you go to jail for child abuse!)
c. We must be prepared to guide and impact each with godly instructions.
ILLUS:If you walk out into one of the parking lots this morning and someone says to you, "How do I get to Chicago?"
You say, "Well, get in your car." Well, that's good advice. That's the start of it. But you also need to say, "Start your car and head south and a little bit east ..." and give more detailed directions to see them through to the destination they have named.
The beginning of evangelism is the information about Jesus Christ, how to get into him and to him; but there is much more. Evangelism is persuading a person to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. -- Leith Anderson, "Making More Disciples," Preaching Today, Tape No. 165.
5. We have not fully responded to Jesus' great commission if we have failed to mature new Christians, it is not enough to just count how many get saved, we need to also disciple those who get saved.
6. Evangelism is tough work! … and necessary!
a. No Christian is truly a healthy Christian that fails to reach out to win others.
b. No Church is truly a healthy Church that fails to reach out to win others.
7. how healthy are you? How healthy are we?
CONCLUSION: Jesus promised that His Church would grow -- not even the gates of Hell would stop this! Jesus never said pray for a harvest -- it would be plentiful! -- He said to pray for adequate laborers! No Church is healthy if it doesn't grow, evangelism WILL happen in a healthy Church. The Church is called to "GO," to "GROUND," and to "GROW." Are we being obedient to the call of God?