This message was given at Centerville UMC on Sunday, September 21, 2014.
Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)
This morning is the final Sunday in our “Contagious” worship series. Throughout this series, we’ve looked at the contagious nature of our Christian faith. We’ve explored our call to point others to Jesus, to invite others to “come and see”, and the call to be “salt and light” in our church, community, and world.
The passage of Scripture we heard from Matthew 28 gives us another example of what it looks like to be a contagious Christian. A contagious Christian accepts the challenge of Jesus to “go and make disciples.”
We often refer to this passage as the Great Commission. A commission is an instruction, a command, a duty. So, those of us who identify ourselves as followers of Christ have an instruction, a command, a duty from Jesus to “go and make disciples.” If you’re here this morning and you’re not a follower of Jesus, you’ll hear a little bit about what those of us who claim Jesus should look like in our daily lives.
This commission comes in some of Jesus’ last words. What do we know about last words? Last words generally carry a great deal of weight and are extremely important. Last words are usually the “here, let me sum this up for you…here’s what I want for you.”
Let’s take a look at three things Jesus does in this passage of Scripture known as the Great Commission.
- He assures us of His power. This should give us hope, confidence, and strength.
- He gives us a commission. He hands us a task.
- He promises us His presence. This should provide us with a sense of comfort. We are not alone. Jesus is always with us.
In other words, Jesus reminds us that He is God in the flesh, He is in control. He tells us what He wants us to do. And, He promises to be with us, always!
Part of the challenge of the Great Commission is to see beyond ourselves…to truly understand that it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about Jesus…it’s about developing a genuine care and concern for the least, the last, and the lost. Part of our call is to be so in tune with the heart of Jesus that we will be compelled to live out the Great Commission and go…go into our community and world to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
We will have to overcome a couple of things in order to capture this heart.
One is that we will have to overcome our misperceptions about reality. Some of our perceptions are really misperceptions. We come to church, the lights are on, our friends are here, we can find a place to park, and we know which door to come in, so things must be okay. However, reality would imply that fewer and fewer people in our community are interested in what our church – and any other church for that matter – has to offer. We have an amazing church with great people. But, fewer and fewer people outside our doors are aware of us. Fewer and fewer people know we’re here!
I know some of you think I’m making this stuff up. I wish that were the case. Just this week, Emily had an interaction with a young mother in our community. She grew up right here in Centerville. When Emily mentioned that we moved here because I had been appointed as the Pastor at Centerville United Methodist, she asked if it was the church next to the park. When Emily said “no”, the woman asked if it was the church on Mattie Harris. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We have obstacles to overcome. We also have a great commission and a great God. This is a great church with a tremendous amount of potential because we have a great mission field.
We also have to overcome the temptation to be maintenance Christians. Maintenance Christians are those who have been around for a while and have gotten comfortable…so comfortable that we have lost our evangelistic passion and fire and we have slipped into maintenance mode. We start to believe that the church exists for me – to meet my needs – to feed me – to care for me – we don’t want the pastor and leaders to challenge us to grow, give, and go – we want our pastor to make us comfortable – we like the things the way they are – we might want our church to grow, but we definitely don’t want it to change – we believe we’re just too old, too tired, and that we’ve already given our time – so, let someone else do it – isn’t that the pastors job anyway? Listen folks, Jesus never said, “Go tend to the religious folk.” Jesus irritated the religious folk. Most of you are fully aware that my top two spiritual gifts are irritation and aggravation! Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. “(Mark 2:17)
Yes, part of the role of the church is to care for those already here…to grow in our faith together…but as followers of the Way of Jesus, our call is the great commission…our duty is to “go and make disciples.”
Living out the great commission isn’t just about putting more people in the pews. That’s not our motivation…that may be a side effect. But, our motivation is faithfulness to Jesus. Our motivation is pointing others to Jesus because that’s what Jesus calls us to do. If we aren’t serious about going and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I would seriously have to question if we are serious about Jesus. If we truly believe the way of Jesus is the best way, shouldn’t we be compelled to share Jesus with the world around us?
In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we must take Jesus seriously. We have to put our faith into action, as we talked about at Wednesday Night Together in our study of James where we are challenged not only to listen to the word, but to be “doers” of the word. I’ve shared the demographics over and over that show there are more outside than inside the church this morning. Churchleaders.com featured an article that shows that only 20% of Americans will be in worship this weekend. The mission field around us is ripe for the harvest. In moving forward to “go and make disciples” we can take confidence knowing that Jesus in in control and that Jesus is with us.
I want us to consider three ways of living out the Great Commission.
- Love God – take steps to grow in our love for God through passionate worship and intentional faith development
- Love others – take steps to give our love to others through radical hospitality and extravagant generosity of our time/talents/treasures. Let us remember: our call is to love, not to judge. Our call is to love, not to condemn. If we are truly loving God and loving our neighbor, there is no room for all the ism’s and phobia’s in the church. No racism, sexism, homophobia, socio-economic discrimination – Rich Mullins, the talented Christian singer/songwriter from this area, wrote before his death that “Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken…This, I know, will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re wrong. They are not bad, they’re just wrong.” In his song, “Surely God is With Us”, Mullins sang, “Well, who’s that man who thinks He’s a prophet? Well, I wonder if He’s got something up His sleeve Where’s He from? Who is His daddy? There’s rumors He even thinks Himself a king Of a kingdom of paupers Simpletons and rogues The whores all seem to love Him And the drunks propose a toast And they say, “Surely God is with us. Well, surely God is with us.” They say, “Surely God is with us today!” Too often, we tend to exclude those who flocked to Jesus.
- Build Genuine Relationships- realize that people are people, not targets. Develop sincere and genuine friendships because you truly care about the person. We’re not trying to chalk up numbers, we’re attempting to offer people Jesus!
I’m fully convinced that if we’re taking steps to grow in our love for God, we’ll grow in our love for others. If we’re growing and giving our love to others, we will develop a contagious desire to share Jesus with others. Love God, Love Others, and Build Genuine Relationships. Our mission as United Methodist’s is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We have to take this mission, this command from Jesus seriously as we grow, give, and go…together…as we point others to Jesus…as we invite others to “come and see”…as we live as “salt and light” in our church, community, and world.
Too often, there are three fears that hold us back.
- Fear of Inadequacy- Who am I to tell others? What if they ask questions? (our greatest response is “I don’t know, but I’ll check”). What if the pastor really tanks? What if the choir just, well, isn’t quite right? What if?
- Fear of Rejection- What if they dismiss me? What if they reject me? What if they belittle me? What if they get angry or defensive?
- Fear of success- What if they actually come? If new people come, well, things might change. Of course, we have to ask, what if they change for the better?
We have some great opportunities to point others to Jesus, to be salt and light, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ:
- Invite people to:
- Trunk or Treat (more details coming soon)
- Hear Tom Heaton on November 9th
- Sign up to be a visible presence, to be salt and light in our community:
- Operation Serve (sign ups on preschool cubbies downstairs – from prayer to minor construction)
- Crossing Guards (pass out clipboard, no excuses for this not to fill out…20-30 minutes a week…lots of retired folks)
- Bulldog Buddies (CAE representative indicated desperate need for positive adult role models- 2 folders downstairs if you’re interested, call Amy at CAE- 30 minutes a week)
This is God’s church. This isn’t my church. This isn’t your church. This is God’s church. I believe God has laid out a big vision for this church (154 is the number laid heavy on my heart). Won’t even come close…won’t even sustain our current church…if we all aren’t on board. Listen, if you’re not on board, at least grant us your blessing. But, I’d pray you would pray about jumping on board.
Why do we need to jump on board? To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I’m not a good enough pastor or a good enough person to make it happen on my own. Here’s a reality check: neither are you! We need each other. We all need to fully embrace this commission of Jesus- to invite, welcome, receive and care for the least, the last, the lost, and the poor among us.
Love God – Love Others – Build Relationships – Go and Make – Be Salt & Light – Invite others to Come & See – Know that Jesus is Always with Us!!!