On Sunday as we began a new year in a new catechism, we affirmed together a concept that is central to our understanding of our purpose in life. The chief aim of all we do as men and women should be to bring glory to God.
As I mentioned during the service, my prayer for our church over the next 10 years is that God would continue to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3) and that we would as a church live out the words of Jesus from John 15:8: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
One way for us to bear fruit as Jesus’ disciples is to become the messengers that Paul describes in Romans 10 – people with beautiful feet who bring the good news of God’s grace and love to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives.
I think we all need to admit that we could use some help with this spiritual discipline. In studying Romans 10, I was struck by an observation that pastor Sinclair Ferguson. One of the greatest deficiencies in the contemporary church, he said, is our lack of concern about the state of lost people. “It has become a rare thing,” he remarked, “to witness tears and prayers for the lost. Indeed, even tears and prayers for the lost we know. Never mind the lost we do not know.”
A few weeks ago, I challenged you to make a short list of people – three to five people you know – for whom you could start praying daily in 2018. I believe that if we would be faithful to pray for people to come to faith, we would see God bring people from spiritual death to spiritual life.
And this past Sunday, I shared a second challenge. I read excerpts from a message on the subject of evangelism that was preached by Pastor Bob Russell last month. Here is a bit more of what Pastor Russell said in his message:
Studies show the vast majority of people come to Christ primarily because someone invited them to visit a church service. In spite of all the current discussion about “missional” churches verses “attractional” churches, the bottom line is that most people come to know the Lord because a friend invited them to church. They came, they heard the gospel preached, they liked the experience enough to return, and they eventually gave their life to Christ and were baptized.
Studies also show that the longer we are a Christian, the less evangelistic we are. One survey revealed that less than 2% of invitations to attend church are extended by people who have been Christians for six years or more. I see little evidence that we’re doing much better at inviting non-believers to participate in home groups. We stay in our comfort zone and bend over backward not to offend anyone by bringing up anything “religious.” That’s pathetic! That’s cowardice! That’s an indication that we don’t really believe Jesus’ promise, ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
So I’d like to challenge you on the eve of 2018 to make a simple but significant New Year’s resolution. It’s a resolution that could make an eternal difference in the lives of scores of people who are now without God and without hope in the world. Resolve that once a month you will invite at least one person to attend church with you. I’m tempted to say once a week, but I’m making this as easy as possible, the absolute minimum effort for 2018 ought to be that we invite at least one person a month to go to church with us.
To be honest, most people we invite will not respond affirmatively. The best salesmen expect many more rejections than orders. But they make a living off the affirmatives. In the parable of the banquet feast, the first invitations were flippantly dismissed with shallow excuses. But the Lord commanded the servants, “Go out into the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house may be full” (Luke 14:23).
If just one out of ten people you invite agrees to visit a worship service with you, then that’s cause for celebration. The Apostle Paul was the world’s greatest evangelist, and yet the book of Acts reports that some scoffed at him, others said, “We want to think about it,” but “a few believed.” A few believed! That’s our goal.
If you become serious about issuing invitations, then I’d recommend you take the next step and go out of your way to make friends with people you invite by serving them. People will be much more likely to be responsive to your invitation if you show a genuine interest in them and help them along the way.
A month ago I attended my grandson’s football game in Florida. I couldn’t get over how much my son Rusty was involved in the local high school football program. Four of the football coaches have recently started attending the church where he preaches. A number of the players call him by name. He was asked to be a volunteer weight-lifting coach for the Junior Varsity players.
I asked, “Rusty, How did you get so involved in this program? You never played a game of football in your life!” He said, “It was pretty easy, Dad. I just went to the coach and asked what I could do to help him. I discovered he was personally laundering all the football uniforms every Saturday. We said, “We’ll do that for you.”
“So now, after every game, I go in the locker room, pick up about forty uniforms throw them into sacks, lug them to the car, take them home and pile them in the entryway of our house. We have to fumigate the house! A couple of other families from church come and take a share. We each launder the uniforms, and then I take them back to school on Monday.”
After the game, Rusty said, “Dad, come into the locker room with me and give me a hand.” In two minutes, I’m picking up sweaty, rank football jersey’s and lugging them to the car. When we went back for the second load, the head coach walked by the door and yelled, “Thanks a lot, Pastor Rusty…see you in church Sunday!”
It’s amazing how much influence you can have if, like Jesus, you humble yourself and wash feet or…. or wash jerseys. Then when you invite people to come to the Lord’s house with you, they’re more likely to join you.
Resolved: (1) “Once a month I will invite at least one person who doesn’t currently attend church anywhere to visit a church service with me.”
Resolved (2) “I will seek an opportunity to befriend that person by finding ways to serve them.”
Have a happy…and evangelistic New Year!
Can you think of friends or co-workers you could invite to church?
A few years back, Melanie Sombke invited a co-worker named Dennis Christ to visit Redeemer. It wasn’t long before Dennis made a profession of faith in Christ and was baptized.
Amber Meyer also invited a co-worker named Brandon Eley to visit Redeemer when both of them were stationed at the Air Force base in Jacksonville. Brandon came to church and eventually came to faith in Christ.
Imagine if that was happening every month at Redeemer.
Imagine God using you in the process of seeing someone come to faith.
And imagine Redeemer being a church where people finding new life in Christ is something that happens regularly.
Let’s together ask God to make that a reality in our midst.
I just got back from our first small group meeting of the new year. It was great to get together again with friends, to catch up on life, to reflect on what the Bible teaches and to pray for one another.
If you’re not part of a small group right now, this is the prefect time for you to visit a group and think about plugging in. Here’s the info about what groups are meeting when and where.