Summary: God wants your life to make a lasting difference in the people around you.
Ministry that Makes a Difference
Intro: Bill Wilson pastors an inner city church in New York City. His mission field is a very violent place. He himself has been stabbed twice as he ministered to the people of the community surrounding the church. Once a Puerto Rican woman became involved in the church and was led to Christ. After her conversion she came to Pastor Wilson and said, "I want to do something to help with the church’s ministry." He asked her what her talents were and she could think of nothing---she couldn’t even speak English---but she did love children. So he put her on one of the church’s buses that went into neighbor-hoods and transported kids to church. Every week she performed her duties. She would find the worst-looking kid on the bus, put him on her lap and whisper over and over the only words she had learned in English: "I love you. Jesus loves you."
-After several months, she became attached to one little boy in particular. The boy didn’t speak. He came to Sunday School every week with his sister and sat on the woman’s lap, but he never made a sound. Each week she would tell him all the way to Sunday School and all the way home, "I love you and Jesus loves you."
-One day, to her amazement, the little boy turned around and stammered, "I---I---I love you too!" Then he put his arms around her and gave her a big hug. That was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. At 6:30 that night he was found dead. His own mother had beaten him to death and thrown his body in the trash.......
-"I love you and Jesus loves you." ....Those were some of the last words this little boy heard in his short life---from the lips of a Puerto Rican woman who could barely speak English. This woman gave her one talent to God and because of that a little boy who never heard the word "love" in his own home, experienced and responded to the love of Christ.....
-As we are in the process of discovering and using our God-given gifts, let me encourage you that you can make a difference - if you will just use what God has given you. We may wish we had a different gift or could do things the way somebody else does them. However, ministry that makes a difference begins when we surrender ourselves to God and ask Him to use us the way He wants to. That’s our main theme:
Prop: God wants your life to make a lasting difference in the people around you.
Interrogative: How can we live so that our lives will have a lasting impact on those around us?
TS: Let’s look at a few thoughts from the Bible that show us how we can make a difference.
I. Life-Changing Ministry Leaves the Door Open (13:42)
42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath.
-It really says something here that Paul and Barnabas were invited back. It shows us that as hard as some of Paul’s writings are, he still ministered with a sensitivity to people that left a door of ministry open into their lives. Paul & Barnabas spoke the truth in love, but they did not burn their bridges. The only ultimatums they gave were those that God gave. They did not add to God’s word or take away from it. Instead, they let the power and truth of God’s word have its effect. Paul said that he became all things to all men so that by all means he might win some of them to the Lord.
-Whatever we do here at CLC, we want to always endeavor to leave doors of ministry open into people’s lives. See, people are in process. You may be concerned about someone else’s life and their standing with God, but don’t forget that God was working in them long before you came along. I am not discouraging you from ministering to them, but I am discouraging you from pushing too hard & fast and trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit. If we try to force someone to receive God’s love and forgiveness, we are probably closing the door on future opportunities to share the love of Jesus with them.
-So, how should we approach the ministry of evangelism? How do we share our faith with others who need to know Jesus and experience His forgiveness? The first thing we should do is probably obvious, but don’t overlook its importance: 1) Pray for them. We are in a spiritual battle, and we can only win to the extent that we pray. No prayer = no lasting success. 2) Build a genuine friendship with those God brings into your life. Find something in common with them and spend time hanging out together. Laugh together, work together, experience life together. The way you live your life around them will say far more than your words will say. 3) Let it happen naturally. What I mean here is that when the opportunity to talk about what Jesus has done for you, just be real about it. Don’t dress it up in church language. Just be yourself and tell them how your life is different since Jesus forgave you and changed your heart. 4) Always be sensitive. Be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is telling you as He uses you to bring someone closer to receiving God’s free gift of forgiveness. Be sensitive to the perceptions and needs of the other person. Guard your friendship and keep it intact. Don’t argue over different beliefs. Share about your own experience with God, but don’t try to force anything. Let it flow. Leave the door open for future ministry.