As we talk about heaven, we too quickly move to the idea it is for us. While this is somewhat true, it’s not the big idea.
Jesus was raised as the first eternal human – never to die again. He is the sovereign all-powerful king and ruler of life now, and life-eternal. Jesus is the king of “heaven”. It’s his kingdom, his empire.
You can’t be forgiven and saved from judgement and then expect to do your own thing – your dreams – in heaven. You get saved into Jesus’ kingdom. Not into self-rule.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 2:13-14)
We all find evangelism hard. Admitting that is the first step to dealing with it. But what’s the second step? What gets in the way of people taking the next step with their acquaintances, friends and family?
Our Mission Pastor, Sam Hilton recently gave an excellent talk from Acts 17 that highlighted 3 big reasons. I’d recommend you listen to it. If you’re training an MTSer, it would be a great resource to listen and review together.
- We don’t understand the non-Christian world-view enough
- We don’t get distressed about people’s idolatry enough
- We get caught in the same idolatry, and don’t long for God’s glory enough
Have a listen here.
Once during my apprenticeship, I was responsible for the Sunday meeting (setup, order or service, etc). I’d make sure people knew they were “on”, I made sure people knew what they had to do. It was a little ants nest of activity.
One week I was on holidays. Everything was already prepped, I just wasn’t there. When I got back to work, the first thing I did was call one of the guys who was “on” to make sure everything went ok.
“Yeah, everything was fine… In fact, it was the most relaxed and quick setup ever.”
So, things went better when I wasn’t there…
After chatting this through with a few people, I realised that I had a tendency to lead through anxiety. I can (without meaning to) create a feeling of pressure and urgency when none really exists.
Sure, sometimes there is a pressure situation, sometimes the sense of anxiety is appropriate. But, don’t let that be your operational standard.
One of the american uni students I got to meet told me about how different it was over here in Australia. They couldn’t believe the number of non-Christians.
So I asked, “Aren’t there many non-Christians back home where you live?”
She answered — I kid you not — “Well, I only know of two in the town I’m from.” (Apparently it was a small American town, so it only had about 300,000 people in it.)
This girl had met more non-Christians in one day in Australia, than she had met in her ENTIRE LIFE. Now, I’m going to go out on a sceptical limb and say that not all of those “Christians” she met were actually Christian. In fact, she said herself that being in Australia had helped her see that many of her friends back home probably weren’t Christians – they just went to church.
Apart from being amazed, I couldn’t help thinking what happens in that town when the pastor preaches on “Evangelism”…
Bob and Terry get phone calls, letters, bibles, prayers, etc… from 299,998 people!?!
Aren’t the two greatest commandments opposed to each other?
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matt 22:37-38
So… who are you meant to love? God or others?”
These “two” commands are really one command. Notice how Jesus says, “The second is like it”. Have you ever thought about what he says there? How exactly is the second greatest command like the first?
I reckon (haha) that these commands are dependant on each other.
If you want to love God, then you’ll love his humans. How do you love humans? You love them… like God loves us.
1John 3 says that doesn’t it… “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”.
So what does it look like to “love God”? It looks like loving other people; being self-sacrificing.
What does it look like to love other people? It looks like helping them to love God with all their heart, soul, mind.
Some people you know on only one level; the local barista, a taxi driver, the policeman pulling you over for speeding. Its a pretty simple relationship, because you’re the driver and he’s the cop.
But what if the cop who pulls you over is a guy from your soccer team? Or your barista is a member of your church? Or your taxi driver is the husband of the couple you’re doing marriage counselling with?
In those situations, you have to be clear about what “relationship hat” you’re wearing… you’re not wearing the soccer team mate relationship hat, you’re wearing the driver/officer hat.
You can really stuff up a relationship when you try to wear two hats at the same time; “So officer, remember how we won the final together!?” doesn’t work.
I think this is really helpful in church staff teams, where we’re all close and good friends in Christ. Sometimes we need to say things to each other on the basis that we’re “Christian brothers” only. Other times we need to say it on the basis that we’re “employees” only.
This also plays out in share houses. Flat mates need to get used to saying things like, “Hey, I need to have a conversation with you, not as a friend, but as a flat mate.”
…and then the preacher says, “lets pray”.
I think this point of the sermon (nay – the church meeting) is the pinnacle. This is the moment when you’re asking people to turn what they’ve heard into gospel centred action…
The action of prayer.
This is the moment of instant application. Your flock can respond to their God’s words right there and then.
Surely the first application of any Bible talk is praying, right? So do you preach with the closing prayer in mind? Are you spending that 20, 30, 40 minutes building up to that moment, when people can depend on Jesus and speak to the Father and say…
What do you want them to say to God at the end of your sermon?
Got it? Good. Now write your talk with that in mind.