The challenge of the 21st century church is that the church moved from being a first century movement, to a powerful organization in the middle ages, to a consumer mindset in this present world. The church moved from being concerned with the lost to being concerned with the insiders of the church.
The New Testament Greek word for the church is "Ecclesia", meaning "an assembly of called-out ones". Ecclesia has two purposes with regards to Ministry. One is Inward Ministry and the other Outward Ministry. The Inward Ministry refers to the ministry that goes on within the church. The Outward Ministry refers to the ministry that reaching out – based on the Great Commission and the great love of God for mankind. My focus of sharing today is on the External Ministry of the Church.
The church is given the mandate called the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.
Matthew 28:18-20 "Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The church is given the mandate to propagate the Good News. We are familiar with the mandate but unfortunately the mandate has slowly lost it meaning among the 21st century Christian. We are living in our comfort zone that leads us to forget our ultimate purpose in this world. Time and time again, we are pounded with messages of the Great Commission. But what is our response?
Joseph Stowell identified the problem of the modern church well when he said, “We have become quite happy to call ourselves Christians with little or no thought of following”
The church knows the mandate but decides to stay in their comfort zone. Instead of being fishers of men, the 21st century church has become keepers of the aquarium.
I want to share 3 perspectives with all of us how we as a church can reflect back our calling in answering the great commission that Christ has given us.
1. Ecclesia - The Purpose of the Call: Evangelism
Evangelism is one of the elements that is embedded in the Great Commission. You don't evangelize to Christians, but to non-Christians. We are called to evangelism. In the book of Acts when the Holy Spirit came down in power in the Upper Room, the church went out to become witnesses.
Someone once said the church is meant to be the hospital for sinners and not museum for the saints.
We are a healing community; the church is a hospital for sinners, for the social outcast, for the brokenhearted. We are a community gathered that engages in a ministry of healing that reflects Jesus’ ministry. Hospital ultimate aim is to help the patient. As the church of Christ, our purpose is to bring the Good News, for people to come and experience the life of Christ.
One of my favorite shows in the late 1990’s was the medical drama “ER.” Each week the show usually began with a patient arriving at the hospital in an ambulance, and the doctors and nurses would rush them to a trauma room and with such passion and drama, they began working frantically to save yet another life.
The church is in the business of bringing the grace of God to the world filled with Sinners
Matthew 9:10-13: "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. ’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The “Church is a hospital for sinners”, for it is here that we encounter Jesus’ healing power, both for physical and spiritual healing.
2. Ecclesia - The Mission of the Call: Operation Save A Life
I recall two weeks ago Bro. Koay shared on his favorite show – Mission Impossible. In MI, every operation has a code name and it will self-destruct after few minutes.
The church is called to a mission and the code name for that operation is Operation Save a Life.
Luke 19:1-10: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore- fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
I want to emphasize on this, "for the son of man came to seek and save the lost".
We are drawn into this mission because God is on a search and rescue mission. Luke 19, Verse 10 says this: "For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."
There are so many of us who are busy with the world that we forget the mandate for Christ. We are called to the Great Commission to save and rescue the lost.
In the movie The Guardian, the coast guards respond whenever there's a distress call - rescue and help will be sent on their way no matter the sea condition.
In a search and rescue mission, we are not held up by risks but to press on because of lives.
If you watch the movie Titanic, there was a lady named Molly Brown. She was crying out to the crew to help and save those who are still in the water, but she was ignored. Perhaps the greatest tragedy surrounding the Titanic is that many of those people in the water didn’t have to die. Many of the lifeboats were only half full. Hundreds of people were in the cold water with life preservers. Most of them did not die from drowning; they froze to death.
God has given us the capacity to serve Him to the fullest and do our very best for His kingdom's sake.
We need to put our effort together to save a life.
In a search and rescue, you don't know who you save. I am reminded of the person who took me to church and led me to Christ. Couple of years ago, I managed to make contact with him. I thanked Uncle Khoo for all that he has done especially the path to Jesus.
Curtis Hudson says that most churches are like ailing lungs, with only few cells doing the breathing.
There is no retirement when serving God. The only retirement in our mission is when God calls us home. Till then, let us serve Him faithfully.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost and today that mandate is extended to us to bring His message of salvation to others.
3. Ecclesia - The Warfare of the Call: Know Our Enemy
In a Search & Rescue Mission, we ought to know that we are in a spiritual warfare. It is not easy.
Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
It is too bad that sometimes the church fail to realize who is the real enemy. We need to know who is our real enemy in our battle. And we, as followers of Christ, are called to fight a good fight! But our fight is not against human flesh and blood. It is against the powers and principalities and rulers of the air.
In operation Desert Storm, the Americans went in to rescue Kuwait from Iraq. The highest casualties came from friendly fire. It is sad to hear that sometimes - "The church is the only army that shoots it’s own wounded."
The church in the 21st century failed to realize the real enemy. We need to know who we are fighting against; we need to know friends from foes.
Psalms 133 says, “How good and pleasant it is, when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore”.
Unity is an important nature of a church. A God led church is always a united church. Unity is an important nature of the church.
The tragedy of disputes in the church is that it destroys the unity of the church and what Christ represents. We need to know our real enemy and who we are fighting against.
The church is given the mandate which is the Great Commission, and that mandate translates to first our purpose, for evangelism. In fulfilling the mandate, we need to know the battle that we are facing.
My challenge to you this morning is “Are we geared up for the Great Commission?”
I would like to end with what Bro. Koay shared two weeks ago: The church has one mission; to bring a person who doesn't know Christ to know Him. And the church's mission is to complete that mission.
Monday, July 16, 2012
To the world, the act of "turning the other cheek" seems to be an act of weakness. But in Christ, to turn the other cheek is neither humiliating nor retaliation. It is a response of strength that says, “I will not seek revenge because I am stronger than that”. It also says, I will not respond in shame because I have dignity in Christ. My dignity is not found in if I can hit back and hurt my oppressor. My dignity is found in Christ and I will respond in just the way He would respond. Our dignity comes because we are made in the image of God.
Our significance comes because we are called by Jesus to be world changers. Our power and strength comes because we are filled with the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to receive the insults of others and respond with as Christ responded to those who hurled insults at Him. Turning the other cheek is not impossible, but it is difficult. But when we do respond with the gentle dignity of Jesus, then we bring glory to Him.