As usual on Monday, my blog is the teaching notes from this past weekend at GCC. I started a new series entitled, “On Mission.” Part 1 is “The Cause.” The teaching notes are below.
(c) 2011, Terry Broadwater. Use by permission only except for personal use. Contact Terry@gccnetwork.
The Big Idea: Jesus has given us a mission in the world- to be his witnesses- and our mission, is his cause!
John 17:18, “In the same way that you gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” Msg. John 20:21, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Acts 20:24, Paul says, “the most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work the Lord Jesus gave me to tell people the good news about God’s grace.” Jesus clarifies it even further when he says in Acts 1:8, “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
No doubt about it! We don’t need to wonder about what Jesus wants us to do- He has given us a mission in the world, to be his witnesses! We can tend to think that our mission, church or otherwise, is many different other things. We struggle with, “Why am I are?” “What is the meaning or purpose of my life?” Once we understand we were made for relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then we can better appreciate his mission for our lives- to be his witnesses! “Witness” actually means “martyr”– being deprived of life for one’s beliefs! Jesus is basically saying, “My Cause in the world is your Cause and it will compel you to lose your life for it- spiritually and even physically!” We lose our life IN Him, to him, but we could potentially lose our life FOR Him! Again, John 17:18, “In the same way that you gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.”
It’s not about a fancy vision or mission statement, but a CAUSE. Anybody can have a vision statement, but only great endeavors are considered a cause- freedom, defeating poverty and homelessness, caring for the orphaned around the world, or trying to end world hunger. These are bigger than life itself and they outlast any one person. But the greatest cause of all is eternity. That was Jesus’ mission and now it’s our mission! And Jesus puts it into perspective for us when he says, “And you will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!” It starts first at home- in our “Jerusalem.” But we also have an obligation to our “Judea and Samaria”- our region, nation and those different than us. Then we have responsibility to “the ends of the earth”- those around the world that we can reach with the Good News.
BE MY WITNESSES IN YOUR CITY
“Be my witnesses in Jerusalem…” God doesn’t want us to be His defense attorneys or salesmen. We “witness”- lose our life in Christ, by simply seizing the opportunities we already have daily in our lives to share Christ with others. Yes, through HOW we live, but also in simply SHARING our story! We just tell others around us what’s happened in our life. After Jesus healed a man of a very messed up life, the man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus said, “No go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you. So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him!” Lu. 8:39 Think about that! It all starts with simply telling others immediately around you what Jesus has done for you- the opportunities are always there! In our own family, to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and whoever we come across on a regular basis- that’s your Jerusalem.
Why don’t we do this? We don’t want to get labeled fanatical or flaky. When rescuers is pulling someone out of a wreckage, do they really care what those watching are thinking? We believe people aren’t interested in spiritual issues. Every single poll and survey says Americans are more interested in spiritual things now than they have ever been, sadly they’re just not very interested in “Churchianity!” However, 82% of the unchurched said they would likely attend church if someone invited them- 82%!! Yet, only 2% of church-goers invite an unchurched person to attend- that means 98% of church goers NEVER extend an invitation in a given year!! Being a “witness” can be as simple as inviting someone who doesn’t know Christ, nor has a church family or Life Group to connect to, to church! 8 out of 10 would come and may very well come to faith in Christ! What’s the potential for GCC if, instead of 2% of us inviting others, 98% of us invited those around us everyday to a weekend gathering?? We are talking about how convenient it is in our own back yard to reach people for Christ!!
But here’s the problem. Jesus put it into perspective when he said, “There are many people to harvest but only a few workers to help harvest them,” Matthew 9:37-38, NCV. In the very near future, we are going to make this even easier to invite people by hosting Friend Days. A simple, “Here’s an invite” and when they attend they’ll have very opportunity to connect to Christ, to a Life Group, to a purpose for life! Sometimes it’s as simple as a personal invitation!
2 Peter 3:9, “God doesn’t want anyone to be lost, but He wants all people to change their hearts and lives.” NCV The question is never about “how big we can grow GCC” but simply about being on mission and fulfilling the cause of Christ right here in our own city and neighborhoods. The question is how many people in the Denver area need Jesus? And until every one of them become Jesus-followers our mission isn’t complete! Ask yourself, “should anybody be left out?” No! When we don’t share our faith with our world, what we are saying is, “You can go to hell!” God wants us to be about the great rescue mission of sharing Jesus with those immediately around us!
BE MY WITNESSES IN YOUR REGION/NATION
“Be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria…” Jerusalem was in Judea, so it’s like Centennial is in Arapahoe County or Highlands Ranch is in Douglas County, etc. “Samaria” was like the next city or town or county or state over, and many times people are just different there. Back in Maryland, it was West Virginia, and Marylanders treated West Virginians badly many times. “Do you know what the state flower of WV is? A satellite dish!” “Do you know what a screen saver is in WV? Duct tape!” Stuff like that… Yet, Jesus said that love reaches beyond what is comfortable to those who are different- backgrounds, education, language, socio-economic lifestyle.
If you had the cure for cancer or AIDS, what would you do with it? Hide it in the closet in case you came down with the disease? It would be criminal to keep it a secret. And our CAUSE is worth so much more and can save so many more lives. Care enough to tell others- especially those outside your comfort zone! Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “Whatever each person is like, I try to find common ground with him so that he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him.”
Here’s the fact- We don’t get to isolate ourselves at church or with our friends, but are called to build bridges, not walls. We are called to “reach out” or “evangelize” in all the places that may not be comfortable for us! And many times it’s the people in the ditches, the down-and-outers, those in need, those who need the message of Jesus revealed to them through acts of service. Those not somewhere halfway around the world, but right here in our county, region, state, nation! Galatians 6:2, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.” Msg. And what’s His law? Love God, love each other, and love your world enough to tell them about me!
“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight…” James 1:27, Msg. Jesus always rooted for the underdog, the powerless, the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the aged, the social outcasts and misfits, the sick, the labeled. How can GCC reach out beyond our comfort zone? I’ll detail this more in Part 3, but we can continue to serve areas in Denver and other places where there’s opportunity, etc. One day we’ll stand before God, He’s going to audit our lives, and judge if we really loved or if it was just all talk. Did we ever really do anything that showed love or did we just say we loved? Matthew 25 tells of what Jesus will say on that day, “I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home. I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick and you cared for Me. I was in prison and you visited Me,” “When did we do that for you, Lord?” And He says, “When you have done it to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you’ve done it to Me,” Matthew 25:35-38, NLT.
Reaching out or what we call outreach or missional service, will always cost you. Being “on mission,” sold out to the Cause will cost you time, energy, effort, money, and even your privacy. Jesus replied, “Let me assure you that no one has ever given up anything… for love of Me and to tell others the Good News, who won’t be given back a hundred times over…” Mark 10:29, LB. That’s 10,000% interest on your investment, and no stock is going to beat that!
BE MY WITNESSES TO THE WORLD
“Be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Mark 16:15, Jesus said to His followers, “Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.” Jesus was talking to every follower, not just pastors or missionaries. He is calling all of us to be his witnesses, to sell out to his cause, to the ends of the earth. Ps. 67:2 says, “May your ways been know throughout the earth, your saving power among people everywhere.”
Sometimes we think, “How can I make a difference?” Or we overlook the possibilities altogether! Truth is, one person can change the world! One Life Group can change the world! One church can change the world! How? By simply doing what we can do. By saying, “Here I am Lord, use me!” Personally, I’m really nobody, and yet I’m everybody. I grew up in a very small rural town where the attitude was don’t every dream because this is all there is. Yet, when I said, “Jesus, I want to be your witness, I want my life to be on mission for you, I want to live for your cause,” God has taken my one ordinary life and used it in ways I could have never imagined! I’ve pastored and planted 5 churches regionally on the East Coast. I serve on national leadership teams for XA and CMN. I’ve preached to 35,000 people in India and planted 40 churches! I’ve traveled and trained leaders, planted churches, and constructed buildings throughout South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and across the nation…
I’m not bragging. I give God all the glory. I’m simply telling you that if you decide to become a “witness” for Jesus Christ, don’t be surprised when his mission, his cause begins to be fulfilled through your life in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!!
That’s the most dangerous prayer, “God use me.” I dare you to pray that right now, “God, use my life!” Watch what happens when you are willing to be his witness in your city, your region, your world! Watch what happens with GCC!
And pray this prayer with me from Rom. 12:1-2, So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
NUMBERS, NAMES, NOTORIETY
The prayer, “God, use me” , is an interesting one, and is an expression of willingness to give up our own pursuits and passions; or have our own pursuits and passions BECOME similar to God’s.
Jesus prayed to be spared the agony and pain of being punished for our (my) sin, yet said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours (his Father’s) will be done.
Okay, this is the extreme, but perhaps the only, truly unselfish act ever accomplished.
So what does it mean for us, the low, the unworthy, and the “scum-of-the-earth” (1 Cor 4:13) to be doing God’s will? We confuse numbers, names, and notoriety, with being used.
We might be tempted to drop names of famous people with whom we have shared a stage or microphone, to prove we have been used greatly by God. We might brag about tens of thousands of people who have heard a message we gave, to demonstrate we have been used mightily by God. We might number our talents or trophies to illustrate we have been used mightily by God.
But the better way to be used by God is quiet, humble, unmentioned, and powerful: Like the woman who gave the mite as an offering, an act of obedience. Like the Roman Centurion who expressed greater faith in Christ than all of Israel (Matthew 8:6), like Mother Theresa caring for the (almost all Hindu) sick and poor in Calcutta, and like any earthly father who sacrifices, finding just enough patience, energy, and dedication to those under his care for one more day.
God, use me.