Saturday, October 15, 2016

"The Most Important Thing You May Ever Do"

            What is the most important thing that you will ever do in life?  Think about it.  Is the most important thing success and accomplishment in the work that you do?  Is the most important thing making money?  Or, is it how well you love and take care of your family?  Is the most important thing excelling in a game or hobby?   Is the most important thing having time for leisure or travel?  What is the most important thing that you will ever do in life?[i]

             This week, I want to suggest that one of the most important things we can do in life is to invite another person to church and help them establish a meaningful spiritual life with Christ.  Think about it. 

Imagine that you knew someone who did not have a deep, spiritual life.  Perhaps this person was struggling with a job loss or an addictive behavior or a divorce or the death of a loved one and that individual would be really helped by the support of a church.  Or, perhaps that person was not struggling at all; instead, they were gliding through life, doing well.  Yet, even though things were going well, this individual lacked spiritual depth in the enjoyment of their life.  Think about how much this person could benefit by renewing the spiritual dimension of their life through a relationship with a community of faith. 

As Jesus’ disciples, we know how deeply and profoundly our lives can be transformed through our spiritual relationship with Christ.  Think about it.  When we encounter huge challenges in life or deep disappointments or tragic losses, we are sustained by our spiritual relationship with Christ.  Alternatively, when we experience important accomplishments or great joys, these satisfactions are enriched through our spirituality.  Our ability to flourish through good times and bad is enhanced and blessed through our relationship with Christ and our church.

If our Christian faith brings joy and flourishing to our lives, shouldn’t we be interested in sharing that faith with others?  Jesus seemed to think this was extremely important.  In fact, his last earthly instructions to the disciples were simply to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations… .” (Matthew 28:19a)  Inviting others to establish a deeper spiritual relationship with Christ is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian.  It is integral to discipleship.  Some call this process of invitation, evangelism.

Unfortunately, evangelism has acquired a reputation among many American Christians.  When many of us hear the word, “evangelism,” we get tense and nervous.  We think about being asked to go house-to-house, knocking on doors and essentially making “cold calls” in which we encourage complete strangers to attend our church.  Or, we think about handing out pamphlets to complete strangers, giving our “testimony” and asking strangers if they “know Jesus”.  Yuck!

For most of us, the very thought makes us very uncomfortable.  As a result, “evangelism” is just an awful concept and task, which we don’t want any part of.  Interestingly, this aggressive form of evangelism is not Biblical at all. 

Jesus calls upon us to share the good news, he calls us to share the good news by inviting others to simply “come and see.”  As a result, in my message this weekend, I am going to propose a biblical evangelism.  That is, the type of invitation which we see unfolding when Jesus calls together his twelve disciples.  My message is based upon the scripture, John 1: 40-51.

In this passage of scripture, a person named, Andrew, hears Jesus speaking and becomes convinced that Jesus is, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah.  So, Andrew tells his brother, Peter, who also becomes a disciple.  Continuing the story, we learn that Andrew and Peter’s neighbor, Philip, becomes a disciple.  Philip tells Nathanael, who is a friend, that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Messiah.  At first, Nathanael is skeptical.  He asks, “‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”  Rather than arguing with Nathanael, Philip simply invites him, saying, “‘Come and see.’”  Later, when Nathanael sees and talks with Jesus, he also becomes a disciple.

In the scriptures, evangelism does not involve going house-to-house or handing out pamphlets on a street corner.  For the most part, sharing the gospel in the scriptures does not involve talking with strangers at all.  No.  Instead, evangelism is simply inviting those persons whom we know already—family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues from work, and others—to simply “come and see.” 

In our social networks, each of us knows persons who do not have a church home, where they can feel welcomed, secure, and supported.  Some of these persons are struggling with life’s challenges and disappointments, while others are gliding through life.  It doesn’t matter.  Everyone can have a happier, more flourishing life through developing further the spiritual dimension of our lives.  Isn’t that what we want for our family, our friends, our neighbors, and everyone else who is important to us?

If you live in the Lincoln, Nebraska area, come, join us this Sunday, October 16th, at Christ United Methodist Church, as we explore what it means to be an invitational church.  Our church is located at 4530 A Street in Lincoln, and our traditional worship services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday mornings. 

                Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.

[i] I posted an earlier draft of this blog in 2014.