Summary: How does the church escape the "Adding Members" model and revert to a biblical definition of evangelism? This message uses Jesus’ challenge that "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few" in incite compassionate outreach.
“You Reap What You Sojourn” by Matthew Everhard. Originally preached on Sunday Morning, July 4th, 2004 at Hudson Presbyterian Church. Words 2205
Their primary concern was membership. Specifically, that membership was on the rise. Well, either that or member PLEDGES-- those were equally important. To some, they were one and the same. Even though their motto was centered on the concept of “service” a better motto could be summed up in one word: “numbers.” And so they carefully devised plans to gain more people. They specifically targeted the young families. They had about 15 golf league options for the sporty types. They hosted all kinds of clubs in their building: rotary clubs, wine clubs, and book clubs, just to name a few. Practically any group could meet there, no matter what their stated purpose-- for a small fee.
And man could they cook! One of their biggest attractions was their Easter brunches! Everything from roasted leg of lamb, to roasted marshmallows for the kids! Some people resented having to work so hard on Resurrection Sunday, but if some new folks could get a chance to sample the goods, it was considered “well worth it.” If we can just get them in the door, (so they thought) they’ll practically line up to be new members!
The name of this church you ask? Who said I was talking about a church? Actually I’m describing a country club that I used to work for while I was in college. Don’t get me wrong. I’m only going to say this once: I have no problem with country clubs whatsoever. Hey, I’d like to join one but I stink at golf. But I do have a serious problem when churches all over America confuse Christian missions with what I call the “membership mentality.”
How do we break out of the Membership Mentality and revert back to a Biblical perspective on Christian Missions? I submit that we must first radically redefine what the “Members” model would call “the target demographic” We must begin looking on humanity the way Jesus did. The people Jesus wants are not “numbers,” they are not “possible pledges,” they are not “prospective members”—Jesus seeks the lost. They are not strong, independent, happy people doing just fine but they might be a bit happier if they found a great group of people like us Christians. No, in Jesus’ eyes unbelievers are more like wandering and aimless sheep. In fact, He calls them “harassed” because life kicks them around, abuses them, and treats them harshly. He calls them “helpless” because without God in their lives they truly are without help. In spiritual quicksand—and sinking fast. We have to break this mindset that we are trying to boost our stats, and start focusing on souls that need a Savior.
What’s more, Jesus says they are “without a shepherd.” They have no guidance, no leader, no spiritual shepherd to instruct them where to find the Living Water to drink from. No guide to lead them into the safe gate of eternal life. No protector to defend them from the wolves that seek their destruction.
But listen: Jesus is not content to leave the lost alone! His desire is to save us, to redeem us, to perform a heart surgery on us and remove our hearts of stone and replace them with tender hearts of soft flesh! When Jesus briefly paused his preaching, and healing ministry in Matthew 9 to look over the crowds, one emotion took over: v. 36 “He had compassion on them!” We serve a compassionate Savior! Compassion is the ability to see hurting people through the tender mercy of God.
When Jesus looked out on the crowds during that pause in ministry, He saw people, human souls, and He loved them--just as He does today. His heart stirred for those who had yet to encounter the love of the living God. And today His heart still beats for those who don’t know Him.
Jesus had compassion and compassion must be the first step towards action! Any Christian mission, whether it is a team trip, a camp, a program, a Bible study, friendship evangelism: whatever—if it does not spring forth from true heart-wrenching compassion, it is just a dry crusty shell, an empty program, void of all love!
Which leads me to an important question: Do you too have any compassion for the lost like our Savior does? Does the Holy Spirit ever give you a feeling of compassion for a stranger in the pit of your stomach? Is there any feeling of urgency to bring lost sheep to the Shepherd? Do you list people that you know personally in your prayers, pleading with God that He might draw them to Himself? Does your heart go out to entire people groups that have not been reached with the gospel? Do you ever think about countries and places where the people are “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”?