Preaching Articles

We all know believers who work very hard to separate themselves from the world. They want to work in offices full of other believers, play on a Christian softball team, live in an apartment complex full of Christians and only spend time with their believer friends. When strung together these become an escape from the real world.  Christians with this mindset are often uncomfortable around the unchurched.  They have built a spiritual cocoon to keep the world from getting on them.

The same reality can be true of me as a pastor.  Because I lead a church and spend the overwhelming majority of my time with Christians, it is easy for me to become isolated from those who are far from God.

For us as pastors, it is not an issue of skill or knowledge.  It is an issue of heart and proximity.  If you don’t rub shoulders with nonbelievers it is easy to become complacent about reaching them for Christ.

The apostle Paul had a heart for those who were lost.  If you listen carefully, you can hear passion and urgency in his words in 2 Corinthians 5.

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.       

Outside the walls of your church, there is a spiritual harvest waiting to be reaped.  People are under stress, they are struggling financially, their relationships are strained, and for some of them, their lives are coming unraveled.

Here is the good news.  People are most open to Christ during times of transition and tension.  Times are ripe for a spiritual harvest.  This is a time for us to be courageous and bold and aggressive in sharing the Good News of Jesus.  The gospel shines most brightly against the backdrop of sin and brokenness.

Like Jesus, we must be broken for the broken.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.    Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

The word “harassed” literally means flayed, skinned, mangled, and battered.  And the word helpless literally means to be “thrown down”

The word compassion is also an interesting one.  It is the word “splachna” which means “from the gut or intestines”.  This word describes a visceral feeling.  It means to be moved deeply to the point of action.  

Even as a I write these words, I feel the conviction of the Spirit that my heart for the broken is not urgent or marked by visceral compassion.  It is very easy for me to get into the routine of leading a church and go weeks without ever having a meaningful spiritual conversation with someone who is far from God.

On June 2, 1994, Air Force Captain Scott O’ Grady was shot down over Bosnia.  The F-16 he was flying was cut in two by a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) shot from a truck driven by a Serbian soldier.  O’ Grady was able to eject.  He parachuted to the ground and hid immediately.  

For the first five hours of his ordeal, he lay face down in the grass, concealed in the underbrush with Serb patrols all around him.  The soldiers would randomly fire rounds into the brush, hoping that they might hit the downed pilot.  

For the next six days, O’ Grady lived off bugs and rainwater.  He ate ants and grass and collected dew and rain in a sponge in his survival kit.  He only moved at night, and he was in danger of hypothermia.

After almost a week, he took the chance that his radio signal would be heard by American forces.  The batteries in his portable transmitter were growing weak.  One of the pilots in his own squadron heard his broadcast and an amazing rescue unfolded.  Captain O’ Grady was rescued by a team of (4) Marines dispatched from the U.S.S. Kearsarge, an aircraft carrier in the area.  The cost of weapons and machinery used to bring him home totaled more than $6 billion.  In addition to the men who risked their lives to bring O’ Grady home, the arsenal of machinery included:

  • 40 aircraft and helicopters

  • Two Sea Stallion helicopters

  • Two Sea Harriers

  • F/A 18 fighter bombers (from USS Theodore Roosevelt)

  • F-16s (from Aviano Air Force Base)

  • F-15Es to fly cover and attack threatening ground forces

  • AWACs spy airplanes circling high overhead

  • Satellites being positioned to assist in the operation

Needless to say, they were serious about rescuing that one pilot.  And the military was willing to do whatever it took to bring him home.

You see, our search reveals our values.  We search for that which is valuable.  If we lose something and choose not to search for it, we essentially have admitted that we place little value on it.  The intensity and desperation of the search is in direct proportion to the value of that which is lost.

So, my question to you as a pastor is this… How much urgency and passion do you have for those who are far from God?  Let me encourage you to engage a conversation with an unbeliever this week.  Start building a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Christ. It might be a neighbor, a waitress, a parent at your kids school, or somebody that God just brings across your path this week.  Remember, our search reveals what we truly value.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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