Beyond 52: Church Outside of Sunday Mornings – The Great Commission

Beyond 52: Church Outside of Sunday Mornings – The Great Commission

This is the last week of our series called “Beyond 52: Church Outside of Sunday Mornings.” There are 52 possible Sundays in a year that you and I could walk through the doors of a church. But the Bible’s vision of the Church is more than just a couple hours on Sunday mornings; it’s a way of life.

So in this series, we’ve talked about what church is. It’s not an event. It’s not a building. It’s not until believers gather together that it’s actually a church. And because we belong to Christ, we are all an important part of the body. Christ is the head, the church is the body. (Remember wanting Jesus without the church is like wanting a decapitated head…and that’s just weird.) Jesus and the church go together. We are designed to need the Head and each other as the church.

And since church affects every aspect of our lives, it affects our relationships starting with our relationship with Jesus, our relationships with each other as Christians, and especially the relationships we build with those outside the church.

The greatest ministry that every believer has is being a faithful witness and living out the Gospel through obedience in every aspect of our lives. So last week we talked about Practical Living – true Christian behavior. And this week, we’ll talk more about the faithful witness part.

Many times, in my short pastoral career, I have sat with someone who is about to go home to the Lord. In that short time, I’ve even sat with several of my own family members who were about to go home. And every time I do, no matter how many times I’ve been in that position, three things go through my mind.

What will it be like to meet Jesus fact to face?
I’m sure it will be glorious and beautiful, but what will I do, how will I feel, or even better how will I respond.

Will it be like the song by Mercy Me:
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still (so stunned by You I can’t move)
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall (knowing that I’m not worthy of being there before His majesty)
Will I sing hallelujah, Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

How am I’m living my life?
We will all one day stand before God and give an account for our lives. We don’t know when our time will be that we’ll be heading home. We don’t know when Jesus will return. Jesus may return in a few weeks or a few centuries. But what we do know, is that we will not be here forever. We can be certain of that. Which leads me to the third thing…

Who won’t be going?
Who won’t be up there meeting Jesus face to face? Did I do enough of my part to get them there?

We’ve been talking last couple of weeks about becoming like Christ, through our Christian behavior and relationships, and bringing glory to God by being connected as the body. Today, we’re going to focus on the impact you have on others, because there are three things you can affect that will last beyond your time on earth: who you become in Christ, the glory you bring to His name, and the impact you have on other people.

Because you last forever, everything you do to change yourself, grow, and become more like Jesus will go on forever too. Because God’s glory endures forever, everything we do to add to it, endures forever as well. Because the people around you are eternal, every time you touch someone’s life, that impact will go on and on and on.

Ever realize, how someone’s last words when they are dying or leaving us affect us. They are so important that we often hang onto them and recite them for years. I have a voicemail on my phone from my grandfather in his last days, and I treasure it. Do you know what Jesus’ last words to the disciples were?

Matthew 28:19-20
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

Sometimes we get hung up on the words ‘make disciples.’ Like how do I make someone accept Jesus and live by Him. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this again, you have a part and God has a part. Your part is to witness, teach, be an example, invite. And God’s part is to change their heart. You can’t force someone to accept Jesus, but you can present Him to them. Be obedient so others will see it, love each other so the world will know who sent you.

I NOTICE, AND YOU MATTER

In 2 Corinthians 5:10–11, Paul says, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.”

Fearful responsibility = does not mean a paralyzing type of fear; it means knowing our responsibility to the Lord, how perfect He is, and that and the fact that He will judge everyone’s actions should put a fire under our butts to get busy.

What we do with people doesn’t get us into heaven—only faith in Jesus Christ will do that – but what we do with people will go with us into heaven. Everyone who believes in Jesus and goes to heaven will be rewarded according to what we’ve done with other people.

And how are we supposed to impact other people? Paul says, “We are to work hard to persuade others.” He’s echoing Jesus’ last words to the disciples.

Matthew 28:19-20
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

Every person we lead to Jesus (again we lead them, not make them) will spend eternity with Him. Therefore, there’s really no better use of our time and our lives than to help others get to know Jesus. Just thinking about who won’t go ought to light a fire under you.

Now I wish I could give you one simple formula for persuading people that would actually work every time. However, if just telling people how, would actually convert everyone, the job would already be done. The problem is that different people are at different stages in their journey toward Jesus. Some are ready to hear the Good News right now. Some are directly opposed to it.

So I don’t have an exact formula for you to use. However, I do have a place where you can start with just about anyone with five easy-to-remember words. I shared this with you back in the Spring just after Easter, and I feel it is so valuable that I need to share it again at this time. And it’s simple. Just like Jesus’ command is simple enough to remember, “Love each other,” this is a simple way to do that. These five simple words are so powerful that they open doors with Christians who have drifted away, people who have never been Christians, and they even open doors with atheists. They are, “I notice, and you matter.”

You may not have the right answer for every question. You may not have a persuasive speech or a world-rocking testimony. But you can notice people and let them know they matter to you. Almost everyone responds to being considered. Your efforts may or may not lead to their eventual conversion, but at least it’s a place you can start with anyone.

Matthew 25:34-40
In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us an explanation of that judgement day we’re all going to face:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

On the day you meet Jesus, more than anything, you’ll care about where you stood with Him on earth. The next thing you’ll care about is how you touched the lives of others. The cool thing about it is the bar is not set that high for touching a life. It’s not too hard to make someone else feel like they matter. Jesus made it very clear, it’s not difficult at all to receive a reward on the Last Day.

In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

Did you get that? That counts. A cup of water counts. I love it. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Just get beyond yourself in any way, and I’ll take it.” You opened the door for the guy in the wheelchair? It counts. You smiled at that grumpy lady with the yippy dog next door? It counts. You complimented your wife? It counts. Even a little tiny compliment can have an eternal impact. (Nate and I were talking about this last week. How it affects us for the rest of our life and sticks in our brains. It’s a scientific fact.)

NEXT-LEVEL KINDNESS

But here’s my problem with this. Most of us are sadly self-focused. I kind of see it like there are different tiers or levels of selflessness. I’m not saying God sees it this way. I’m just sharing this idea to explain how I want to grow and where I want to go in this area of my life. I shared this back in the spring as well, but I think it gives us a great example of how to grow in this area.

Let’s call the starting level the Kindergarten of Kindness. The Kindergarten of Kindness is when you don’t shove other people out of the way to get to recess anymore or you no longer have to be the smartest or strongest person in the room. I feel like most of us have graduated from Kindergarten Kindness. But I know, some days we wonder.

I would guess a lot of us are actually stuck at the Elementary School level. That’s the kind of selflessness where you can let other people go before you. You can share with others. When people are with you, you make an effort to put them first. But like a grade-school kid, when they are out of sight, they are out of your mind. Maybe you’ve been stuck at that level for a while and are ready to go beyond that. That would take to the High School level (We don’t do middle school in this scenario.)

I think the High School level of selflessness is when people aren’t with you, yet you think about them, you pray for them, you consider how you can be a blessing to them. The College level of kindness is not only to think about other people often when they aren’t with you, but also to actually sacrifice your own well-being, your own comfort, your own stuff to help them. These are the people who turn their families into orphanages because they just can’t stand to see kids be alone. These are the people who move to a third world country to bring people into the kingdom. Of course, Jesus gave us the ultimate example as He sacrificed His life for us even while we were still enemies of God.

Again, I am not saying God sees selfishness in this tier sort of way, but it does give us an idea of how to examine our kindness and how to grow in it.

PRAYER METHOD

If reaching out to others begins with “I notice, and you matter,” then how does it go to the next step? How do we get beyond the Kindergarten of Kindness to the upper levels? Again, I don’t have the formula, but I do have a method. You should know, however, that if you actually do what I am about to tell you, your life will be different from this moment on. It’s super simple, but it’s going to change everything—and it’s going to radically change what happens on that day when you must give an account for how you touched others.

You might not be surprised to hear it’s found in a prayer. But it’s not a prayer that you will say once and move on. This actually has to become a new spiritual discipline for you and me. It has to become a regular part of your prayer life and a regular part of every day. Pray it every time you see someone in pain. Pray it every time God brings someone to mind. Pray it every time you notice someone and want to make sure they know they matter.

I promise you, if you will honestly pray this prayer every single day about someone, your life will change. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to graduate? Here it is: “Lord, what do they need?” And there’s a second part to it: “What should I do?” Let me show you how it can work.

Let’s say you have a friend who lost a loved one a month ago. What do you do? If you’re like me, you say, “I’m so sorry. Let me know if I can help in any way?” And what do they say? “Just pray for us.” So you promise that you will, then you forget, and not much actually happens except you feel a little awkward the next time you run into the friend because you know in your mind you didn’t actually pray for them like you said you would.

Now imagine after you find out about that person’s loss and before you say anything, you pray, “Lord, what do they need?” Then a thought comes to your mind. “They need to know they’re not alone.” Then you pray, “What should I do?” Not long after your prayer, you have an idea to take them to lunch. So when you call, you don’t give the usual, almost impossible-to-answer question of “How can I help?” Instead, you say, “Can I take you out to lunch?” And just like that, you’re up in the stratosphere of serving and passing Jesus’ love.

This prayer is so small, but it is so big at the same time. Think of how our lives, church, and community would change if we all would make this a regular discipline where every day we pray for someone else. What if this prayer was as much a part of your day every day as brushing your teeth or combing your hair? There’s no way we can do this for everyone. But we can easily do this for someone, anyone.

It works at so many levels. It can work for the mean person who is working at the government office while you are standing in line. You pray, “God, what do they need?” I think they might need a little compassion. “What should I do?” I could tell them that I notice and appreciate how hard they work. It counts.

This prayer can work instantly. You can see a homeless guy and right there pray, “God, what does he need?” Dignity comes to mind. “God, what do You want me to do?” I think God might want me to go over to him, look him in the eye, shake his hand, and ask him if I can pray for him. It counts.

This prayer can be repeated for weeks for big issues. You might pray every day, “God, my son is struggling. What does he need?” One day it comes to you: “He needs to know I’m there for him no matter what.” Then you can pray, “God, what do You want me to do?” And the idea might come: “Find a way to reach out toward him every day and keep praying.” It counts.

It can happen with that jerk at work or school whom nobody likes. Pray, “God, what does that jerk need?” If God says, “He needs a hug,” you can pray, “Well, God, please bring someone who will give him one.” Just kidding. Seriously, you pray, God, what do You want me to do? Invite him to Back to Church Sunday.

When a friend or family member comes to mind, or you see your co-worker pray, “God, what do they need?” They need to know Jesus. “What do you want me to do?” Invite them to Back to Church Sunday.

It’s an effective prayer. But I want to warn you that it’s also a dangerous prayer. James 4:17 says, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” The danger with praying this prayer is that as things come to mind, you need to follow through.

For example, what if it went like this:
“God, what does that couple You brought to my mind this morning need?”
“They need a car.”
“What do You want me to do?”
“Give them one.”

Wow! All of a sudden, we’re playing with the big boys of faith. That’s College-Level Kindness.

So look, would you consider joining me in this? Would you start by finding one person every day where your actions say, “I notice and you matter”? Then would you pray this prayer just once a day for just one person a day? Maybe even pray for the same person every day for a few weeks. God may not immediately answer every prayer. And I don’t think you’ll have to buy anyone a car. But I’m certain that sooner or later God will bring some ideas to mind.

And if you will do it, on that last day, you’ll be so glad you did.

The conversation on that day when you get home to Heaven is already loosely scripted. In Matthew 25:23, Jesus said it will go something like this: “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

I want to challenge you all: Let’s try it every day this next week and see if anything happens. If this could be a daily discipline, I believe every single one of us will have scores of stories to tell about how God used us, included us, scared us, and came through for us. I am honestly praying this is the beginning of everything changing about your life, my life, and about the church. Let’s watch this video about Back to Church Sunday to inspire us.

And who will you pray for? Who will you be a faithful witness to?
Do you remember the last part of Matthew 28:20? “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” You’re not doing this alone.

Let’s pray: Father, thank You for the kindness You have shown to us. Thank You for our salvation. I pray that You would help us notice others because they matter to You. Remind us to seek Your will and Your plans for them. Please show us how we can make a difference and touch one life every day. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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