Summary: A message of challenge to churches about sharing the good news. (Revival message)
Three Solid Pillars for a Strong Church
Introduction: In the Greek Islands, you can see the home of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. Near his house there is an olive tree, supposedly dating from his time. The trunk of this tree is very large but completely hollow; it is little more than thick bark. There are a few long, straggling branches, but sturdy wooden poles positioned every few feet support them. It has an occasional leaf here and there and might even produce a few olives each year. In the nearby fields, however, there are olive groves in many directions. These are strong, healthy, young trees with narrow trunks and a thick canopy of leaves, under which many olives can be found each year. The tree of Hippocrates can still be called an olive by nature, but it has long since ceased to fulfill the function of an olive tree.
Do you know any churches or Christians like the tree of Hippocrates? The form is there, but the function is not. They have stopped reproducing and are satisfied just being big, or having a noble history. (Illustration by Keith Copley) How shameful it is for any church or a Christian to be content with the status quo! We have been given good news to tell, but good news is only good if it is shared. Howard Hendricks said, “In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.”
I. THE SAVING WORK OF THE GOOD NEWS (v. 13) (*1 Cor. 15:3-4)
a. The good news includes: God’s purpose, man’s need, God’s provision in Christ and man’s response.
b. The message of Jesus Christ is primary to the work of the church. Everything else takes a back seat! Some say Jesus’ primary message was about social justice…if that were true, he would have formed a support group and not the church!
c. This does not preclude our responsibility to meet the needs of the whole person…
II. THE SHARING WORK OF THE BELIEVER (v. 14)
a. When Paul says, “how can they hear without a preacher” he is not referring to an office but a privilege placed upon the shoulder of every believer.
b. 1999 Barna Research: Only about 53% of those claiming to be born again feel a responsibility to share their faith. (Around 95% of Southern Baptists die without having told a soul about Jesus!)
c. A pastor that has a burden for souls is not the solution for an ailing church! Only when that burden is transferred to the body of believers will your church recover.
III. THE SENDING WORK OF THE LOCAL CHURCH (v. 15)
a. Your church ought to be a launching pad for the good news – people should say, “that’s the good news bunch!” when they think about your church…
b. If what you are doing as a church is not winning people to Christ, equipping them to share Him, and sending them back out into the world again, then why are you doing it?
c. “Christ met unbelievers where they were. He realized what many Christians today still don’t seem to understand. Cultivators have to get out in the field. According to one count, the gospels record 132 contacts that Jesus had with people. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues and 122 were out with the people in the mainstream of life.” J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.
Closing Illustration: What if we could see the results of our failing to fulfill the mission of the church? Would it make a difference in our actions? I want to share a reading with you that does just that… “I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step and it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry that I heard. Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simple agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come. Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.