Summary: This is week four of a sermon series based on a book by Robert Schanse. It focuses on chapter 4, risk taking mission and evangelism. Without risk... there is no reward.
And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." 23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
“Risk Taking Mission and Evangelism”
What is risk?
• Hitting on a hard 16 in blackjack… that’s risky!
• Playing the stock market… especially now… that’s risky!
• Staying a few extra hours at work without calling your wife… that’s downright insane risky!
But Christianity? Where’s the risk? Blessed assurance… Jesus is mine. Just as I am… without one plea. On Christ the solid rock I stand. Why… our faith in Christ alone should mean that we have no more worries… no more risk.
Besides… risk… is NOT a word that gets used in churches. Safe… we like safe. Dependable… that’s another good one. Reliable… no one can argue with reliable. Tried… tested… and true… those are terms that we trust! But risk? Risk gets pastors praying… makes churchgoers churn… and treasurers trepidatious. There is no room for risk in the church. And yet… before I even say it… you’ve beaten me to the punch…”Pastor Homan,” you say, “that is a touch naïve… a bit Pollyanish to say, ‘Well, we’ve got Jesus… there is no more risk.’”
To which I would reply, “Ok… prove me wrong.” “Happy to,” you’d say. You would turn me to 100 years ago when our church was one of the very first buildings in all of Fairbury to get wired for electricity. Unreliable… they told you. Not as good as the gas torches… they told you. You’ll burn the church down… they told you. And this church was wired for electricity anyway. “That… Pastor Homan,” you’d say… “was risky!”
“But building projects are too easy,” I’d say… “every building project is risky and it always turns out alright in the end.”
“Ok then…” you’d say, “let’s go back 500 years… when leaders like Calvin and Luther broke away from the Catholic church… the ONLY church… so that people may actually hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. THAT… was risky!”
While that would indeed be a good argument, I would quickly turn the topic to the bible. “Well Luther may indeed be a good argument… and shame on you for bringing Calvin into the argument… you know how I’m a sucker for Calvinist theology, but you haven’t said one word about the bible… good old scripture… show me risk in the bible.”
And that would be it wouldn’t it. You’d point me to Matthew, Mark, and Luke… point me to the calling of the disciples… “Drop your nets… leave your families… leave everything you know… leave everything you have… come… follow me.” Aren’t we all called to be disciples? You’d say. Aren’t we all supposed to follow Christ like this? And I’d be stunned into silence.
Fine then, what about Paul in his letter to the Philippians 3:7-8
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
“Come on Pastor Homan… risk is what Christianity is based on… sacrificing everything that we might gain Christ.” And I’d have to say… “You’re right!”
“God places congregations in a world troubled by many challenges. A majority of the people with whom we share the world live with incredible uncertainty because of finances, hunger, illness, or war. As followers of Christ, we cannot live as if these things have nothing to do with us. We need to hear the distinct call of God in the human need of our neighbors and our community. If we can find a way to figure out some kind of response to offer ourselves faithfully, even if it means some cost to ourselves… then God will use us to transform the world.” (75-76)
“The life of service flows naturally and inescapably from the teachings of Jesus Christ, and no congregation or disciple can avoid the direct gift and demand of God’s call to love and serve others. Risk-Taking Mission and Service is one of the fundamental activities of church life that is so critical that failure to practice it in some form results in a deterioration of the church’s vitality and ability to make disciples of Jesus Christ. When churches turn inward, using all resources for their own survival and caring only for their own people, then spiritual vitality wanes. When churches turn outward, they come alive with a sense of purpose and transform the lives of their members and the community they serve.” (66)