Summary: total commitment to follow the Lord is echoed in the words of Isaiah, "Send Me."
TCF Sermon Text
April 6, 2008
Isaiah 6:8 (NIV) 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Here’s the prophet Isaiah, fresh from an encounter with the living God, demonstrating a willingness to commit himself to service. His willingness came from a grateful heart – he had not only just encountered the living God, but he had found forgiveness. So, he was willing to commit himself to hardship, whatever may come. This is a tremendous example of total commitment.
A missionary society wrote to pioneer African missionary David Livingstone and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you." Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all." Good News Broadcaster, April, 1985, p. 12.
I wonder how many of us have a “send me” heart – a send me attitude? And I’m not talking simply about a call to missions. We may have made choices to follow Jesus and serve Him at some point, but is this our daily heart attitude? Is our commitment continuing? Are we willing to say every day, Lord, send me.
C.T. Studd, the famous English cricket player, and a member of the English cricket team, gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary more than a century ago. His slogan was, "If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”
There was a time in the life of this fellowship that being in any kind of leadership, whether it was house church pastor, elder, or many other roles in the church, required a commitment that, by today’s standards, seems almost unbelievable.
I cannot remember the last time, for example, we had a required meeting for the house church pastors. But in the 1970s and early 1980s, the house church pastors were expected to be at two meetings each week, in addition to their house church meeting, and sometimes more. Do the math. That’s at least three nights a week, apart from the Sunday night service, which you were expected to attend, as well. That makes four nights.
By the time I became a house church pastor, the course that was a prerequisite to serving in that role, called the MCS, had been trimmed down tremendously. It was once a week for about six months when Tom Buck, Hal Reed, some others and I did the MCS under the direction of Dave Troutman, but before that, it was significantly more demanding in terms of meetings, in terms of scripture memorization, and in terms of the volume of reading you had to do.
Today, our elders’ meetings go a few hours each week, seldom much more than that. There was a day that elders’ meetings often went on for five or six hours at least once each week. And it was likely that, as an elder, you had other meetings you had to attend each week, too.
The expectations went beyond just the leaders and those who served in various capacities. We as a church had a lot more meetings in those days. You were part of a house church, which meant one night a week. There was a Sunday night service, year-round, not just our Sunday night seminar 8 weeks in the fall and 8 weeks in the winter, concurrent with Bible Bowl. There was a Sunday school class before the Sunday morning service. There were numerous bible studies, and prayer meetings. There were more special events.
There was an expectation that if you were a faithful part of TCF, you were at all these things. A similar thing existed in most churches, not just TCF. When you became a member of a church, there were expectations. There were high demands. Frankly, at least at TCF, these things may have been too much, especially for leaders. They were high demands for a different era, and some people experienced some burnout because of the expectations.
Today, the pendulum has swung, and I for one, am glad we’re not still in those days of the 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, I was asked to take the leadership training course back in 1981, a little over a year after I began attending TCF. When I began to hear stories about the kinds of demands placed on leaders in this church, I politely declined.
Though I would never want to return to those days, I sometimes wonder if perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other direction. There was a time that maybe as much as 75% of the church was involved in a house church. Today, I’d guess we’re at 50%, perhaps less. Our monthly corporate prayer meetings are seldom attended by more than 20 or 25 people, often less. Our rare weeknight meetings, apart from house churches, are seldom attended by more than about 50 people.