Summary: We have a tendancy to lead people to Christ then forget to do the rest.
“And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”
We tend to view the call to the mission field as something all too mystical. Maybe that’s why so few are being sent out from the African-American Christian community. We see the mission field as too great a challenge for the average person…or too great a commitment!
Many of us call ourselves “missionary congregations”, and when someone points out that we do not support a foreign mission effort, we are quick to hide behind the home-mission concept…. but what do we do for HOME MISSIONS?
To be mission-minded is a great commitment…because it’s not about winning souls for Christ…. it’s about training disciples for Christ. The great failure in many outreach ministries is that we share the gospel of Jesus Christ and then leave the new believer to flounder in his new faith. In other words, we “touch and go”. We fail to adequately embrace the new believer and ensure his spiritual growth by surrounding him with a network of on-going training. We give birth to the “babe in Christ” but we don’t feed him!
Now many will defend their record by reminding me that we have Sunday School and Bible Study whose purpose it is to train disciples. But show me a baby who goes to the refrigerator to get his own bottle! It takes more than putting classes and programs in place to grow disciples. It requires those who are strong to fellowship with the weak. We have to “abide” in the life of the new believer.
The Apostle Paul is credited with developing the church’s missionary strategy. He went to cities that were known as communication, transportation, and market centers. He went first to the Jewish synagogue, where he reached not only his own people but also the Gentiles who were attracted to, and indeed even envious of Jewish faith and morality.
Paul’s missionary team instructed the first converts as thoroughly as time permitted before he went on to the next city. He took the time to establish congregations that served as the core for evangelizing the surrounding area. Paul knew that the success of his mission efforts hinged, not only on his making provision for proper training, but on abiding long enough in the life of the new converts to allow their faith to gain a foothold.
Paul didn’t stop there. Often he would return to give further instruction and to confirm the local church’s choice of elders. In other words, he stayed in touch! He didn’t have a Sunday-go-to-meeting’ relationship with his new converts. He was willing to pour out of himself all that Christ had poured into him. Even when he left on another missionary journey, He sent letters and representatives, like Timothy and Titus, to answer questions and help the congregation deal with any problems that developed.
It’s true that Paul’s itinerant or traveling strategy placed great responsibility on each local church that he established. But the new congregants were not solely responsible for their own spiritual training. Paul did not “touch and go”. Though he had the utmost confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide and sustain God’s people, he knew that new converts were subject to a myriad of temptations and misinterpretations because they were babes in Christ.
Our modern evangelism efforts have much to learn from Christianity’s first and greatest missionary, the Apostle Paul. He had a strategy he used to select key cities, and to minister when he reached them. Paul went about the mission ministry in a practical way while remaining sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and ready to change plans or direction at the Spirit’s call.
The church needs a strategy if it is to take it’s neighborhoods for Christ, and it can’t be a hot-or-miss, touch and go strategy. There’s nothing mystical about becoming a missionary for Christ. But we do need to follow the Holy Spirit’s urging to “abide” in the life of the new believer. When Paul converted Lydia, the woman in our text, she constrained or forced him to abide in her house, that she might learn more about her new faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord is looking for sheep who are willing to abide with the flock, way past Sunday, into Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.