Summary: God went to any means necessary to show us His love, now He has called us to go to use any means necessary to show that love to our community.
New Year’s Revolution (By Any Means Necessary, part 2)
(This sermon is my own adaptation of John Wesley’s "Almost Christian" sermon)
I have often wondered why Christianity has ceased to be popular. Why are all of our denominations in decline? Why is it that 95% of all churches in America are plateaued or declining and of the 5% that are growing, only 1% are growing by conversion? How did this happen when just 40-50 years ago every person in America was in church? Even today some people misguidedly hold to the notion that America is a "Christian" nation. Not hardly when less than 20% of the population is in church on a given Sunday. A relationship with God is so important and so awesome that is baffles me that we’re failing to reach the new generations. America is almost identical to the culture the first Christians encountered in Acts. They’ll worship a doorknob if given half a chance. Leonard Sweet has made the comment that the older generations are the most churched in history, but the youngest generations are the most spiritual generation in history. They just aren’t looking for to fulfill that spiritual need in the church. Why not?
In our Scripture Paul notes in verse 3 that King Agrippa is familiar with the Jewish customs and prophets. This describes our culture still, at least in the South. I was reading a commentary in this past Monday’s Birmingham News where the writer was lamenting the fact that the South is still largely a Biblically literate culture, unlike the more "sophisticated" regions of our country. Even those who don’t go to church are largely familiar with many Bible stories and teachings. So, it’s not that people don’t know. They just don’t care. Why?
I’ve often said that the reason there aren’t more Christians is because of Christians. I read in seminary that someone (I think it was Niche, but I’m not sure) wrote "The problem with Christianity is that no one has tried it yet." John Wesley calls it the problem of the "almost Christian." They are all getting at the point that everyone talks about Christianity, but very few actually live it out. I want to explore this issue of the "almost Christian" and call us to start 2001 with a revolution, to stand up and say "we’re going to live out the Great Commission and take this world for Christ, by any means necessary." As we talked about last week, God came to earth because he decided he wanted to show us His love, by any means necessary, even becoming human. We’re now called by the Great Commission and the Great Commandment to do the same for our world. Paul deals with this issue in Acts 26 (quickview) .
1.) The "almost Christian"
People of Jewish heritage who have become Christians call themselves "fulfilled Jews." They have found the true Messiah, and you won’t find a more passionate Christian than a fulfilled Jew. Paul speaks of this when he talks with King Agrippa. I totally identify with Paul’s story. He lived out his life being a good guy, doing what he though was right, but he was totally missing the truth until Jesus, literally, knocked him on his butt. Once Paul found the truth and became a fulfilled Jew he was unstoppable in his passion for, and devotion to, Christ. John Wesley spoke of the same thing in his testimony. He described how he was the perfect example of a Christian when he was at Oxford. He did all of the right things and was seen as very devoted, and yet he said himself that he was only almost a Christian. In the KJV King Agrippa responds to Paul in verse 26 by saying , "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." He’s a "almost Christian." What is an almost Christian? Well, I’ll tell you based on what Wesley said, so blame him if you don’t like it.