Summary: What is our vision for the coming year? Is our church an under-taker, care-taker or risk-taker?
THE RISK TAKING CHURCH
When he was 88, the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes found himself on a train. The conductor called for tickets, but Justice Holmes couldn’t find his ticket and seemed terribly upset. He searched his pockets and fumbled through his wallet without success. The conductor was sympathetic. “Don’t worry, Mr. Holmes,” he said. “The Pennsylvania Railroad will be happy to trust you. When you reach your destination you’ll probably find the tickets and you can mail it to us.” The conductor’s kindness did not put Holmes at ease. He said, “My dear man, my problem is not ‘Where is my ticket?’ but rather ‘Where am I going?’
Unfortunately we are too often just like that. We move forward through life unsure of how to respond to the changing situations in world around us. The problem often is that we have no clear direction or picture of where we are going. We lack a defined destination. We lack vision.
Heb 11:6 …without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Sherlock Holmes and Watson were camping one night. In the middle of the night Sherlock Holmes awoke and looked up at the stars. He asked, "Watson, what do you see". Woken from his sleep Watson looked up and said "stars". Yes, but what do these stars tell you. Watson said "Cosmologically they tell me that we are part of a large universe – that we are one of billions and billions of planets. Theologically they tell me that we have a great God who made all of it. Meteorologically they tell me that the sky is clear and we will have good weather tomorrow. Temporally they tell me that it is the middle of the night and we should be sleeping! Sherlock, what do they tell you." "Well," he replied, "they tell me that someone has stolen our tent".
Let me ask you this morning "what do you see?" As you think back over the past year and look at your own life and the direction of this church what do you see? Where are we as a church going? In terms of vision there are 3 different types of churches (and people):
1. The Under-taking Church – looking back
The undertaking church is one that is always looking backwards. All that people ever talk about are the “good old days”. They miss what is happening today because they are always looking back to yesterday. Decisions in this kind of church are based on what has worked in the past – if it was good enough for them it is good enough for us.
Psalm 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?
The children of Israel missed what God was doing. God was doing a new thing but they did not understand it. They saw the captivity as an end and not a beginning. They did not see that through the captivity God was setting the stage for Jesus. The Babylonians would be defeated by the Persians who would allow the Jews to spread all across the Mediterranean. They would be defeated by the Greeks who would unify all the peoples through it’s language and customs. They would be defeated by the Romans who would build road and make transportation possible to every remote corner of the then known world. When Jesus was born the stage was set as the message spread like wild fire and in one generation reach everywhere.
Years ago when Mao Zedong was the leader of China there was great persecution of the Christians. Mao wanted to eliminate Christianity. First he arrested the Christians and then spread them all over the country thinking that then they could not meet together so the church would die. Second he wanted to punish them so he gave them the worst jobs possible – garbage collectors and grave diggers. On the surface you would have thought this would work. However, in spreading out the Christians he planted Christianity through the entire nation. In making Christians garbage collectors he gave them access to every home in the country and in making them grave diggers he placed them in situations where they could share their hope with people who were grieving.