Throw Your Heart Over The Hedge
The greatness of the Bible can be seen on every page, but I believe that God’s genius is seen clearer in the last five verses of the Book of Matthew than anywhere else in the text. Long before Peter Drucker or Steven Covey ever talked about the importance of a clearly defined mission, Jesus announced His and commissioned His disciples to pursue it.
Look at the text that was read for us this morning from Matthew 28:16-20, better yet let’s just look at the verbs from this mission statement "Go .. . Make ... Baptize ... Teach." In these four words you will find our most compelling mission. These verses have so much tension, Jesus is leaving but He promises to be with them always. The disciples worship Him, but some doubt. None of them have ever travelled more than fifty or sixty miles from home, yet He commands them to go into the whole world recruiting disciples. When they left that mountain, there was no doubt about what He wanted them to do. He wanted them to Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach. And 2,000 years later that's what He wants from everyone who wears His name.
Unfortunately like all organizations, the church has experienced a fairly high degree of mission drift. We haven't forgotten the mission, but we haven’t stayed focused on it either. It's there, in the backs of our minds, more or less like background music. We hear it, but we don't often pay much attention to it. It’s like the music that is playing on the speakers when you arrive at the building. It’s in the background, you can hear it but you don’t really hear it. It flavors our faith, but it doesn't define it. Here's another way to put it: our hearts aren't into it.
Last summer, it was a slow day and I was reading an article about an equestrian who was competing in the London Olympics. She was asked, "Why do some horses leap over the hedges and hurdles while others stop and turn away?" She said, "That's easy. It's up to the rider. If you tear your heart out of your body and throw it over the hedge, the horse knows how desperate you are to catch up to it. So it leaps. Some horses turn away because their riders haven't thrown their hearts over the hedge."
This morning I want us to have one of those let's-be-really-honest sermons. I know it’s a bit uncomfortable, but that seems to be the focus of my sermons this year. So let me start with a little confession; I haven't thrown my heart over the hedge when it comes to evangelism.
My horse sometimes turns away from the hurdle. I often allow the pressure of the approaching Sunday or the business of church or the details of ministry to get in the way of perusing the mission with the focus God has called me to. It is sad but there are times when I act more like a chaplain in the military than a child of God pursuing the mission. What I mean is that chaplains take care of the spiritual needs of the soldiers. They don't go recruit other soldiers.
Lately I have been convicted by something I read by James Emery White. He said, The church doesn't exist to meet the needs of the already convinced, but to win the world. He is reminding us that we're not here for the sole purpose of taking care of each other. And while I believe that’s important; there are dozens of scriptures that call us to care for one another. Our primary mission still consists of these four words: Go ... Make ... Baptize .. . Teach.
Now that I've come clean and made my confession, I need you to permit me to get a little personal for you as well. In my opinion, we as a church haven't thrown our hearts over the hedge either. Now I don’t believe that makes me a bad preacher or you a bad church. There are lots of things we do well.
We fellowship very well. We like to spend time with one another we like to talk with one another, and listen and be involved in each others lives. Those of us that are taking advantage of our care groups are getting more and more invested in the lives of one another. We seem to like to be together and to talk to one another. We are a fellowshipping church but Jesus said "Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach."
We are teaching church. Just look at the fact that we have people like Bobby, Chuck, Sheila, Nick, and others devoting an enormous amount of energy preparing classes and teaching. We have an active ladies Bible study on Wednesdays and a active Men’s Bible study on Monday nights. These times of study are blessing countless lives. We're a teaching church. But Jesus said, "Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach."
We are a serving church. We have a group of folks who go and serve at the Hughen Center and give their time to work with the residents there, and this Summer we are taking a group to the Cherokee Children's Home to serve the children that live there. We also have been involved in Acts of Community for the past three years, where we have had the opportunity to reach out and touch hundreds of people in our community. We work in our community and use our gifts to cultivate a culture of service.. But Jesus said, "Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach."
I really believe that there are so many things that we do well. But our struggle is that we are not an evangelistic church. We have become a back-half church, focusing on the back-half of the mission. We've been making disciples out of the baptized by emphasizing worship, fellowship, service and teaching, but we haven't done a very good job at going and baptizing.
It's not a bad thing to emphasize worship, fellowship, service and teaching, I mean those things are commanded, modeled, and taught in other parts of scripture. But if we aren't careful, and I don’t know that we have been, we can get so busy doing other things that we forget the primary mission: to seek the lost.
Park Central has a long history that covers three different locations, and while that is awesome, We need to come back to this fundamental mission again and again. We need weekly reminders and to recommit ourselves to the mission of Jesus to Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach. It's time to throw our hearts over the hedge and go for it. And there are a few things we must understand.
First we must Recognize that being a Christian is not about being comfortable.
I’m not sure where that idea of comfortable Christianity came from. If you spend anytime in the scriptures at all, you know that comfort is not a Christian virtue. The first disciples, were told that if they were going to be a Child of God they were going to be embarrassed, abused, stoned, and killed for the name of Christ. The early Church faced the persecution of the Jews, the Pagans, and the Government. They were tortured, fed to the lions, excommunicated, and worse.
Here we are 2,000 years later and the church has had a bit of mission drift. The idea of church has become gathering in a comfortable building, sitting in padded pews, reading the comfortable parts of scripture, and being served. One of the struggles found in the life of faith, is that we have bought into the lie that the main goal of being a Christian is to seek and secure comfort. Everything we do is based on our level of comfort. We live and act in ways that make us comfortable. But the rub comes in the fact that sometimes the most comfortable thing to do is not to do anything at all.
For example, in every church I have ever worked with, there is a closet, or room, or back hallway that becomes the treasure room. For the last 100 years people have put treasures in that back room because they didn’t want to hurt someones feelings by throwing it away. Someone donated that back in the early 90’s and while it doesn’t serve a purpose anymore, it would be hurtful to get rid of it.
So if you are very brave, you can go into the treasure room and find all kinds of interesting and odd things. Mis-matched table cloths, half of a classroom book set from VBS, a broken vase, half a gallon of paint that doesn’t match anything in the building, an autographed picture of Moses. And these things accumulate, take up room, and while they were useful at one time now they serve no purpose.
The smart thing would be to go through those treasure rooms, get rid of the stuff that is broken, or doesn’t work, or is incomplete and use that space for something better. But that’s not what we do. We refuse to take the initiative, or to get involved and make things better. It is more comfortable for me to keep the door shut and talk about how someone else should clean that out, or better yet just pretend that the room doesn’t exist.
Now I need you to know that I’m not really talking about the treasure room, that is located in this building. That is simply a metaphor describing how we treat the mission. There are an awful lot of Christians who value their comfort and make excuses as to why they should continue to be comfortable. You know it would be uncomfortable, to tell someone about Jesus. It would be uncomfortable to tell the truth and say that if you do not have a relationship with God then you are lost. It would be uncomfortable to say that the way they are living their lives, separates them from God.
So we ignore the problem, we refuse to take the initiative and start a conversation about Christ. We think that other people will do a better job, so we stay comfortable and the world stays lost. The scary thing is that God is not going to judge us on our level of comfort, but on our level of commitment. Being a Christian isn't about being comfortable. It's about commitment to the mission: Go ... Make ... Baptize ... Teach.
Next we must Realize that everything we do must have an evangelistic goal.
Evangelism is not just a part of everything we do, it has to be the focal point, the driving force behind everything we do as a church and as a child of God. One of the coolest things about this church family is that we try to be intentional about taking this family into the community. We take gifts to the teachers and staff at Memorial, we provide food for our Policemen and Firefighters, we host Madness in May and the Summer Youth Series. Last year we had almost 1,000 kids cross our parking lot as we hosted a Trunk or Treat.
These are all wonderful things, and I feel so blessed to be among people who are not content to just sit in this building and go through the motions. But there are days that I wonder why are we doing these things. Are they just another time that we can get together? Are they one more activity that we can point to and say how faithful we are, or are we trying to get the message out there.
I fully understand that standing on a street corner and yelling at the sinners to repent will not endear folks to God. But if we refuse to get to know these people that we serve, then we are just wasting our time. Everything we do has to have an evangelistic goal. And that starts with touching the lives of the lost and broken in this community.
In the inner city ministry, they often say, people don’t care who you know, until they know that you care. In other words, they don’t care that we know God, until they know that we care about them.
Fish Fries and Chili Cook Offs must have an evangelistic goal. Sunday School and Care Groups must have an evangelistic Goal. Shopping for groceries and going out to eat with a group of friends must have an evangelistic goal. Everything we do as a church and everything we do as individuals must be aimed at the goal of Going ... Making ... Baptizing ... Teaching.
The reason we are given the opportunity to get invested in the lives of broken people is so that we can introduce them to the only one that can heal their hearts.
Finally we have to know that Evangelism requires YOU.
The early church understood what it was to be a sold-out, heart over the hedge, risk-taking church. That's what ours has to be too. Evangelism requires us to take the risk of giving more money, spending more time, developing more relationships, and dealing with more discomfort, and opening our hearts to more. It’s is the scariest thing that we will ever do on this earth, but it is worth every risk we take. Because if we will give ourselves wholly to this mission, God will bless our lives with His peace and the mission with His growth.
The worst thing I hear folks say is that they don't have the time. What they are really saying is that God’s mission is just not important enough. The harsh truth is that we find, or make, the time to do what we feel is important.
I heard a preacher say once that you can tell a person's priorities by looking at his checkbook. While there may be truth to that, I believe that a better indication of our priorities would be that little calendar you keep on your phone, or in your pocket. For so many of us it’s a lot easier to throw your money at a project instead of giving it your time.
The truth is that we must all make a decision. We don't have time to do everything, so we must choose those the things that have the greatest importance. I find comfort in the fact that the great heroes in the Bible were not those with the greatest resources or talents, but they were men and women who made themselves available to be used by God whenever He called.
Right now there is someone who does not know Jesus and is headed for a Christ-less eternity and we need to step out in faith, give our time and comfort to the mission because the mission is urgent.
Back in 2004 Trista and I were working with the Inner City Mobile Congregation. One of my jobs was to drive the bus to pick people up and drop them off. One Sunday after services, I left to go on my rounds and Trista stayed at the building with both of the boys. She turned around and Trafton was no where to be found. Now I want you to imagine the scene. Here we are in the worst section of town, a mom turns around and discovers that her three year old is nowhere to be found. She begins to call his name but he doesn’t answer her. She begins to get panicked, and her mind starts to play out a thousand different scenarios, and none of them are good.
Each breath is more panicked as she sweeps Rylan up and begins to make her way through the crowd of people calling for Trafton. By the time she get’s outside the building she is screaming at the top of her lungs and still no answer. She begins to walk around the building calling for him and each call brings no response. She is frazzled and other people notice and begin to help her look. Every second the situation becomes more and more dire.
You know the fear, you know the panic. I believe that is the how we are to feel about the lost of this world. In those moments we are ready to take any risk necessary to find what was lost. When we come to that moment, then and only then do we touch on the heart of God.
Questions For You To Consider
Read Matthew 28:16-20.
What is Jesus telling us in this text?
Describe what these different parts of the command are: Go, Make, Baptize, and Teach
This morning Jeremy said that we did a really good job with the back part of this command (emphasizing worship, fellowship, service and teaching) do you think he’s right?
Why do you think that many churches have declined over the last thirty years?
How can we get uncomfortable for Christ?
What are some things that you can do that will have a more evangelistic goal?
Do you know someone who is searching in all the wrong places for the meaning to life?
How can you help them find the real meaning to life? (We need to know what Christ has done for us, so that we can tell
Why don’t we feel the urgency in the call? How can we fix that?
What part do you play in His plan? (Be specific, come up with a plan)