Summary: A vision sermon calling our church to engage in evangelism, discipleship, and worship
Who Will Go For Us?
September 14/15, 2002
I concluded last week’s sermon with Jesus’ words from Matthew 9:37-38. “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” I want to pick up from that verse and explore those ideas a little further today – what does it mean to go out into the harvest fields, what is there to do, and why would we do it?
And I want to put that in the context of our church vision statement. Over the next little while, I am going to concentrate my preaching on the different areas of our vision, hopefully bringing clarity to the word-pictures, and exploring those images and how God is leading us as a congregation in seeking to be fruitful for His Kingdom. Today I want to set the stage for that focus for this fall by taking a look at where we believe God is calling us to put our efforts as a congregation as we seek to serve and follow God.
Let me also say this at the beginning: I firmly believe that as I talk about each of these areas, as we look into the harvest fields and see what needs to be done, that the Holy Spirit is going to speak to you, and call you to serve God in one of these areas. Something in this sermon is going to grab you by the power of the Holy Spirit, if you will be open to Him, either affirming where you are serving or calling you to change and to be a part of something significant that God is doing to build His Kingdom. These things make a difference for eternity, and God has chosen to work through us as His people.
Becoming a Hospital, Greenhouse, and a Festival:
I know that the words are familiar, and that many of you know the three word-pictures that describe our vision as a church. I hope to bring clarity and focus to each of these this morning, as well as ask you to consider where God might be calling you to serve Him. It is easy for things to get mis-translated and mis-understood: for example;
• When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as here in the USA--with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is inside since most people can not read.
• When Coca-Cola first shipped to China, they named the product something that when pronounced sounded like "Coca-Cola." The only problem was that the characters used meant "Bite The Wax Tadpole." They later changed to a set of characters that mean "Happiness In The Mouth."
• When Pepsi started marketing its products in China a few years back, they translated their slogan, "Pepsi Brings You Back to Life" pretty literally. The slogan in Chinese really meant, "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave."
• Coors put its slogan, "Turn It Loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer From Diarrhea."
• The Chevy Nova never sold well in Spanish speaking countries. "No Va" means "It Does Not Go" in Spanish.
1. Becoming a Hospital:
The first word picture is perhaps the most easily mis-understood. The church as a hospital is a vision of evangelism, not a vision of caring for hurting Christians. Of course we need to care for one another, but that is included in the vision of the church as a greenhouse, not church as a hospital.
Think of it this way – in the eternal perspective, the pain and hurt we experience as Christians is non-fatal. Even in the very worst-case scenario, if we die, we are raised to new life, eternal life, with God in heaven. I reserve the vision of the church as a hospital for the cases of life-and-death, as a focus on those who do not know Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour and thus are risking death for eternity. This is critical care, this is truly life and death.
The reason I feel it is important to clarify this is because we as the church far too easily become focused on our needs rather than the needs of the world around us. That is understandable, it is natural, and I believe it is sinful. It neglects our very reason for existence as Christians – that of being witnesses to others of how God has reached out to us in our helplessness and brought us new life.
The vision of the church as a hospital is a vision of evangelism. It comes from Jesus’ life – spent among needy people who didn’t know the touch of God. Jesus was accused of hanging around with low-lifes, of being a drunkard, or having the “wrong” friends. The accusation was true – Jesus did spend His life with those people, the “sinners.” And He did it to mediate to them the healing touch of God. It also comes from Jesus’ words: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”