Summary: We as a church exist for the sole purpose of Praiseing God and welcoming the lost.
We Exist For Him and Them
I think that we need to talk about some stuff tonight that we really can’t comfortably talk about on Sunday mornings. It’s family business stuff, and when you have guests over to your house, you don’t talk about family issues. You try to keep things comfortable. And maybe you’ve been out with people or over to their house when a family issue came up. It made you really ready for the evening to end. It isn’t polite to talk about family issues when you have company. And since we have a bigger opportunity for company on Sunday mornings, I didn’t want to address these issues then. We may still have some guests tonight, so if you would do me the honor of being patient with us, I would appreciate it. Even though it’s some family business, I think you’ll see where it’s headed and you’ll be blessed by it.
Now after that introduction the first thing I need to say is, "Relax!" We’re not going to deal with anything really scary. I want to talk about how we respond to outsiders, specifically, outsiders who honor us by visiting with us. I want to invite you to think about why we are here, and as always, I want us to be guided by the Word.
Last Sunday Roger Ezekiel was installed by this church as a Deacon and we talked over lunch about his vision for what he is going to do. He wants to be the Deacon over visitation, and evangelism, and on one hand that is very exciting on the other it is a little scary. I know Roger, and once he starts this work we will be blessed with searchers, and before that really starts we need to talk about it.
The church is often conceived of by its members as a place of rest and peace and help in times of trouble. That is not an unscriptural way of thinking about the church.
Jesus said in Matthew 11, "Come unto me and you shall find rest unto your souls." The church can be that place of rest.
We noticed today that Paul writes in Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Without doubt Paul was remembering the very statement of Jesus by using the word "burden."
It is not wrong for us to imagine the church as a place where we may go and a people with whom we may be when we need to have our faith strengthened, our beliefs affirmed, and our ways of understanding reality echoed. It is good to be with people who think like, talk like, and live like we do. In those senses it is appropriate to imagine the church as a place of rest and support. But there are other scriptures which offer other ways of imagining the church.
Look in Matthew 16:17-18 where Jesus commended Peter for his confession that He was the son of God. He said, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."
I have often seen in that statement the picture of a huge fortress into which we all may retreat for safety. But that isn’t what the text says. Jesus pictured the church here, not as a fortress withstanding the attacks of hell, but as a battering ram in the hands of God crashing the very gates of hell to free those imprisoned by the power of Satan! In Jesus metaphor we are not in the fortress, but on the battle field, in the fray, getting splinters in our hands and dirt on our uniforms. Hardly the picture of safety and rest we have often imagined.
In Mark 9:35 Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
The church is not a place where we get to be the hosts and hostesses. It is not the parlor in the Master’s house. The church is the servant’s quarters. According to this metaphor of Jesus, Christians aren’t issued silk gowns or formal tuxedoes upon their baptism. We are given towels. Not to dry off on, but to take up, drape over their arms, and begin lives of being last, of being servants to the world.
Then in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
Here, we are seen as a missionary society sent out into all the world. Now we know something about missionaries. We know they don’t live easy lives. We know they don’t enjoy the comfort of familiar surroundings. We know they must learn to speak the language of the land in which they serve. They must learn the customs of the natives. They must live among the people they hope to reach with the good news of Jesus.