Our Real MissionThey become big and then begin to rest on their laurels.
They reach a certain point, and then, they settle down and stop trying.
Someone has said that most institutions and movements will eventually go through three stages.
They began as risktakers, then they grow to be caretakers, and eventually end up as undertakers.
Churches also go through these stages.
Many churches are in the undertaker's stage of existence.
They are dead, and don't know it -- or won't face it.
Someone has said, "To be in their services is like attending the annual board meeting
of a perpetual care cemetery."
It's like the church at Sardis.
They're living on their past reputations.
Sardis had a glorious past, but a poor present performance. (Revelation 3:1)
Some years ago a best selling novel began, "The courthouse clock struck twelve,
and the church on the corner was giving up its dead."
That characterizes many churches today.
Long before churches become undertakers, they are caretakers.
Their attitude is: "We're big enough. We have built enough, and we have borrowed enough."
Like the church at Laodicea (see Revelation 3: 16) they are "lukewarm" and "at ease in Zion."
Such churches are often referred to as "sleeping giants" with the emphasis on sleeping.
Some churches climb to the top, and then, settle down so hard they flatten out.
Christians, watch out for the comfortable rut!
Comfort comes like a guest, lingers to become a host, and stays to enslave us.
Every Christian should be a risktaker.
We should be like Paul and Barnabas.
They were the first missionaries of the church in Antioch.
They were described as "Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Acts 15: 26)
The word, hazarded, is a gambling term that means "to wager,"
"to take a risk," "to lay something on the line."
These early disciples were so convinced of the lostness of men and women, and the truthfulness
of the gospel, and the necessity of missions and evangelism that they risked both life and limb
to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who were without Jesus.
There was nothing complacent about them.
They were possessed and obsessed by the command of Jesus to take the gospel
to everyone -- even to the ends of the earth.
They were consumed and committed to the mission that Jesus had given them.
Christians today must be risktakers in that same sense.
The greatest achievements in the history of the church of missions have been the outcome
of leaders who were in touch with God.
General George Patton, one of America's great generals, gave this unforgettable message
to his troops: "There's one thing I want you to remember.
I don't want to receive any message saying we are holding our position.
We are advancing constantly.
We're not interested in holding anything except the enemy."
Patton's motto was: "Always take the offensive. Never dig in."
Jesus expects His church to assume that kind of aggressive offensive.
Jesus said to His disciples, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)
In ancient times the gates of cities were for defensive purposes.
Cities were built with huge walls around them and gates that could be closed at night
and in times of war.
In order to conquer the city, an invading army would have to storm the walls and knock
down the gates.
Jesus pictures His church as on the offensive, and storming the very gates of hell.
Jesus declared that hell cannot withstand the onslaught of His militant Church.
Too many churches have developed a maintenance mentality.
They have dug in, and are content to hold on to what they have, rather than launching out.
Most of their programs and plans are made for the convenience of their members,
and not for the advancement of God's kingdom.
Too many churches are so organized that they are muscle-bound, and so prosperous
that they are fat and out of breath.
Many of our churches contrive all kinds of catchy phrases for their mission statement.
Jesus stated our mission statement.
He commissioned us to, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:19-20)
That is our mission statement.
Our mission is the Great Commission.
Our goal is not necessarily to build big churches.
That goal in itself would be self-seeking and unworthy of the gospel.
Our goal should be to reap the maximum yield from our field.
It is to do the best we can with what we have, where we are, for Jesus' sake.
We must be busy witnessing, baptizing, and teaching people God's word.
We must continually do those things until Jesus comes again or calls us to come home.
We fulfill our mission by doing three things.
We must bring people in.
We must build them up.
We must send them out.
We Must Bring Them In!
An article from the weekly mail-out of one of our largest churches in America
stated that a remarkable happening occurred in their staff planning retreat last year.
The article said: "For the first time in anyone's memory there was complete,
100 percent unity concerning where the priorities should be placed in every area
of our church life -- Evangelism!"
The remarkable thing about that statement is not that their staff agreed that evangelism
was their first priority.
The remarkable thing about that statement is that anyone would have ever suggested anything else.
For a church to decide to give priority to evangelism is like a hospital giving priority
to healthcare, or an airline giving priority to air travel, or AT&T giving priority to communications.
What else could our priority be?
Our first responsibility is to introduce the lost to Jesus Christ.
I love the old hymn:
"Hark! 'Tis the Shepherd's voice I hear,
Out in the desert dark and drear,
Calling the sheep who've gone astray
Far from the Shepherd's fold away.
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wandering ones to Jesus."
How long has it been since you have heard that hymn.
Maybe we stopped singing it because we quit doing it.
In 1848, John Geddie, a Canadian Presbyterian missionary, went to the New Hebrides Islands
in the South Pacific to work for Jesus.
His life was in constant danger, but he gained the confidence of the dangerous cannibals.
He developed an alphabet, and translated the New Testament into their dialect
and also translated many hymns of the church.
He taught them about Jesus, and one by one they gave up their heathen gods and superstitions.
Several churches were also built.
By 1854 more than one-half of the 4000 people on that island had become Christians.
The natives then began to go to other Islands with the gospel.
When John Geddie died, a marble slabs bearing this inscription was placed on his grave:
"When he came here,
There were no Christians.
When he went away,
There were no heathen."
Our first priority is to win the lost -- to bring them in.
We Are To Build Them Up!
After we have brought them in, we must build them up.
We must teach them to obey all things that Jesus has commanded.
Conversion is a germinal, not a terminal, experience.
New life in Christ is like a tender plant.
It must be cultivated and cared for to grow to its full potential.
Many pastors have witnessed the conversion of new converts, and have wondered if those
new converts will grow and thrive.
That same question could be asked concerning newborn infants in a maternity ward.
No, they will not thrive unless they are cared for, and unless they are nurtured,
and helped to grow.
When a baby is born, we don't put the baby in a refrigerator.
That's a good place for a gallon of milk or a head of lettuce, but it's a terrible place for a baby.
In the same manner, we cannot put new converts, "babies in Christ," into refrigerator, churches either.
They must be in an incubator church in order to grow and thrive spiritually.
We must help them to grow to full maturity in Christ.
How do new Christians grow?
How are they built up?
Peter answered those questions in 1 Peter 2:2.
They should desire the "pure milk" of God's Word in order to grow.
Jesus taught that mankind does not live by bread alone, "but by every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4: 4)
There is a spiritual part of us that cannot be nourished or satisfied with meat and potatoes.
That spiritual part of us requires feeding upon the Word of God.
It is a part of the mission of the church to provide warm and loving fellowship where the
Word of God is taught, and where opportunities for service are provided, so that new Christians
can grow to maturity in the Lord Jesus.
In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus might be "strengthened with
might by His Spirit in the inner man."
Satan will try to crush our faith through temptations and trials.
He will exert tremendous pressure on us to turn away from Jesus.
After we have brought people in, we must build them up so they will have inner braces for the
outer pressures of life.
We Must Send Them Out!
After we have brought them in, and have built them up, we must send them back out
into the world to witness and to work for Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to invite them through our publicity.
We must meet them where they live.
We must see the church as a base of evangelism, and not just as a place of evangelism.
Our churches should be launching pads from which witnessing Christians go out
and to tell the world about Jesus.
In the parable of the great supper, the master who represents Jesus sent his servants out
three different times to invite people to the supper.
The third time he told his servants to go and "compel" people to come.
The word, compel, literally means, "to necessitate."
Those servants would be going to people who ordinarily would feel unworthy, unwanted,
That is also our mission.
Those servants went out again and again, and so must we.
As they went everywhere, so we must go everywhere.
We must go to crowded cities, to affluent suburbs, and down quiet country roads.
They went with a sense of urgency, and so must we.
To fulfill our mission for the Lord Jesus we cannot be playing at the task, nor can we be casual
about a mission so urgent.
We must become militant and take the offensive at bringing people in, building them up,
and send them out.
And we must do it at all costs.
We must do it regardless of the risks because their eternal souls depend upon us.
Christian, what are you doing?
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White