Bringer and Includers
Teacher Rex Roland at Enka Middle School in North Carolina was recently in the news because he wrote ‘20% off for being a loser' on a sixth grade student's assignments. When the girl's mother complained, he said he was "just joking.” Some parents say it was the teacher's way of goofing around and relating to the kids by using their language.The girl's mother, Patty Clement, says it's no laughing matter. "This is telling her 'You're a loser. You're not going to go anywhere,'" she said. One can only imagine the impact this could have on a child at a time when they are most vulnerable moving into puberty and all the awkwardness that goes with it. When is a time in your life when you have felt the pain of exclusion. All of us have experienced that at one point or another in our lives.
But we have also experienced moments when people have picked us up, encouraged us or challenged us to do something more than we thought we were capable. James Dobson taught in the public school system from 1960-1963. At the final year, he had to say goodbye to 25 to 30 teary-eyed kids. One young lady whom he said goodbye to in 1963 called him in 1975. Julie had grown up. James remembered her as a 7th grader with a crisis of confidence in herself. Her Latin heritage embarrassed her and she was overweight. She had only one friend who had moved away the following year. She and Dr. Dobson talked on the phone about the good ole days. “Where do you go to church?” she asked. He told her, and she asked if she could visit. The next week she came. In the coming months, she became a vibrant Christian. A few months after her initial visit, Dobson asked her, “Julie, I want to ask you a question. Will you tell me why you went to so much trouble to obtain my unlisted number and call me last fall…?” “Because when I was a 7th grade student in junior high school, you were the only person in my life who acted like you respected and believed in me…and I wanted to know your God.” James Dobson was a bringer and an includer. His life showed his faith and as a result he was able to bring Julie to Jesus.
In our Scripture today, John the Baptist was with two people who he was bringing and including in the mission of God when he saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” To be a bringer and an includer means you bring them to Jesus. We have no power to do anything to save someone but we can point them to somebody who can.
Every follower of Jesus is a missionary. The word is from the Latin which means to send. Jesus looks at us and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” You are called to be a missionary. Missionaries always keep their focus on the bigger picture of God’s saving purpose in this world. It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, whether it be in a shipyard, a school or an office, every missionary understands that they are here to connect other people to God’s saving purpose and His transforming purpose in Jesus Christ. Now when John’s two disciples heard this, they began to follow Jesus who invited them to come and stay with him.
There are all kinds of ways to be a missionary, some good and some bad. Mike Slaughter tells the story of rushing through the airport to catch his connecting flight. He ran into the bathroom and went into a stall. And when he began to pull on the toilet paper and a Gospel tract fell out onto the floor. He picked it up and began to read these words: “Sister Charity was told that she would reign and rule with Satan in Hell but would never be tormented.” Yet the picture showed her burning in these flames as she cries out: “Holy Father, I’m burning in hell. How can this be when I served you so well?” So then he pulled a little bit more toilet paper and another tract fsll out. He pulls some more and another tract falls out. Apparently, a hopefully well-meaning, demented Christian figured out how to turn a toilet paper dispenser into a Gospel tract dispenser. They must have unrolled the toilet paper and calculated just about how much each person would use. And then Mike says, “A true missionary understands that God is not about burning up people in Hell but burning hell out of people so we can be free to live as God intended us to be.”
Missionaries are everyday ordinary people, not religious professionals. When God came to earth in Jesus, he was not a religious professional. He wasn’t a priest. In fact, he wasn’t eligible to be a priest. Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah and to be a priest you had to be born of the tribe of Levi. Jesus wasn’t educated. He worked with his hands and probably was a day laborer. And what we find throughout Jesus’ ministry is that he was in conflict with the religious professionals of his day, the Pharisees and the Sadduccess. because he was deemed as being not religious enough. Who were the Pharisees and the Sadduccess? They were the people running around stuffing tracts into toilet paper telling people how wrong they were in the lives they were leading. The Pharisees believed that if you followed the letter of the law, then you be saved.
Jesus came into our world while religious professionals expect you to come into their world. Jesus lived his life in crisis. In fact, everywhere he went, he created a crisis because he was about building the kingdom of God which often opposes the values of this world and even the values and practices of the established church and their religious professionals. Thus, Jesus understood what rejection was.
Missionaries are relational. Jesus was an everyday person and he understands that this movement of God is not about rules and religious regulations. It’s about relationships. Jesus developed relationships with people so he would lead them to a relationship with God. Jesus didn’t hand people a Gospel pamphlet. He came as an ordinary, every day person who invites us into His life. Jesus truly cared about people. Verse 38 says, “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" Instead of handing people a Gospel tract or telling them they’re a sinner and going to Hell. He asks them honest and open ended questions, inviting them into a conversation. Notice he doesn’t give them simple answers Gospel pamplets. There are no simple answers. Jesus didn’t tell people he had all the answers but instead asked questions like: “What do you want? What are you looking for?” He doesn’t offer simplistic answers. There is nothing simple about the Gospel. Jesus dies for our sins. I’m still trying to comprehend a will and a love that was willing to do that. Christians want simple answers. There’s no simple answers.
So Jesus asks questions like: Do you really want to get well? Do you really want to experience the transforming power of God in your life? If all you want to do is be inspired, you’re not going to experience anything. But if you’re truly willing to let go and let God then that is the question Jesus is asking. Missionaries are everyday ordinary people, not religious professionals, who are willing to invite people into their life and build a relationship. For Jesus, it was all about relationships.
Missionaries show others Jesus in them. By inviting people into your life, you have an opportunity to show Jesus in your life. H. B. London, Jr., and Stan Toler tell the story about “Ron who had long hair when it stood for ‘rebel,’ listened to heavy-metal music, drank alcohol, and experimented with drugs. He had also tried church but had been ‘turned off’ by the zeal of a few and the judgmental eyes of others. “One summer he was hired to work in a lumber yard in California. He was partnered with a skinny, fair-skinned Christian teenager name Joe, who immediately thought Ron was ‘cool.’ “Over the weeks, Ron and Joe laughed, ate, and talked for eight hours a day. Ron drilled Joe about God and the Gospel, but Joe never pretended to know all the answers. One day, Joe asked Ron if he’d like to come over to his house—a beautiful home—for dinner t. “A couple of weeks later, Ron got brave enough to ask Joe over to his small house in a poor neighborhood, where he introduced Joe to some of his favorite music. “As the summer drew to a close and Joe prepared to return to college, they both knew that their days together at the lumber yard were numbered. On Ron’s last day, they walked out to the car and Ron looked up at Joe and tearfully said, ‘A lot of people have tried to tell me about Jesus, but Joe, you were the first person who has shown Him to me”
Jesus didn’t hide who he was but showed people who he was in God. And he showed his humanity, in other words, he became vulnerable. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. When he came to Jerusalem and saw the splendor and and grandeur of the Temple in contrast with the sin-stained lives of the people of Israel. he wept. When he went into the Temple and saw people making the worship of God a chance to make money, he got angry and turned over all the tables of the money changers. He showed his human side and became vulnerable.
Missionaries are Jesus dependent. It wasn’t long after arriving at this church that I discovered unbeknownst to the leadership that the church had been running a $12,000 a month deficit the two years after Katrina which was supplemented by donations received from across the country which were not dedicated to relief. Then we discovered the new financial manager of the preschool started embezzling funds just weeks after entering the position. In addition, the leadership and membership of the church expressed that they had a deep desire to become a multiethnic church. That was something I knew nothing about nor had ever experienced. I was in way over my head. One morning as I drove into work, I was passing the SuperDome and broke down in tears and cried out to God that I can’t do this alone. I need you in this. It’s too big, too much and too challenging for me to be able to handle all of this. And that’s exactly where God wants us!
The problem with most Christians is that they don’t know how much they need God. One of the most important steps in addiction recovery is the point where they have to say, God I can’t do it alone. I need you. They make Jesus their life. Desperate people are driven to God. Psalm 42 puts it this way, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you.” Non-desperate just add Jesus to their life to get some inspiration or principles they can apply to their life. Desperate people turn to Jesus to save them. There’s a different between someone who wants to add a little Jesus to their life and the person who wants Jesus to be their life. To be a follower of Jesus, he must control my life, not inspire my life, he has to control my life. If Jesus does not control my life, then I will eventually go my own way.
Missionaries build people up. They aren’t condemning. Missionaries look at people like Simon who wasn’t really going to amount to anything and say, You will Peter, the rock upon which I will build my church and my kingdom. That’s what missionaries do, they build people up rather than tear them down so they can be all that God intended them to be.
Missionaries are willing to be inconvenienced to bring other people along. Now the first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him about Jesus. John wants us to know that this became the first priority in Andrew’s life because he says it’s the first thing he did.
Tyler Perry writes of was walking to his car when a woman who appeared to be homeless started walking towards me. I'm ashamed to say this but I thought, "I don't feel like being hustled today." Then I got quickly convicted. I felt guilty so I started digging in my pocket for some money. As she got closer I noticed that she had the kindest eyes that I had ever seen. As I was reaching into my pocket she started to speak. I thought, "Here goes the sales pitch". She said "Excuse me sir, I need some shoes. Can you help me?" My eyes filled with water because I remember being out on the streets and having only one pair of run over shoes. I was taken aback for a second.
He took her inside the studio and had his wardrobe people find shoes in her size. As she put the shoes on she started crying, praising God and thanking Jesus, and saying, "My feet are off the ground! My feet are off the ground!" Several of the wardrobe people started crying. I was crying. But I never forgot those words. "My feet are off the ground!" I thought, "Wow! All she wanted was some shoes." She quickly disappeared and never asked me for a dime. I realized that I still had the money in my hand so I went out looking for her. She was gone just that quick so I looked all around the neighborhood for her. I found her standing on a corner looking down at her shoes, still crying. I was so touched. I asked her how she had gotten homeless. She told me that she had AIDS and that she was waiting to get into a shelter. She said that her family had turned their back on her and that she had no place to go, but she knew that God would make a way for her. I said to myself, "He just did." Her faith and her praise moved him so much that he took her to a nearby hotel and put her up until she was able to get on her feet. He checked on her from time to time just to make sure that she had food and clothes. After about a month or so we lost touch, but I never forgot her.
And then he writes, This past summer I was shooting "Daddy's Little Girls" and this woman walks up to me smiling. I didn't recognize her face, but her eyes were familiar. She had on a really nice dress and her hair was done. It was her! She told me that the little help that I had given her had changed her life. She was in a house now and doing very well. Missionaries build people up and help them so they can be all that God intended them to be.