Paul W. Powell, in The Complete Disciple, described this condition: "Many churches today remind me of a laboring crew trying to gather in a harvest while they sit in the tool shed. They go to the tool shed every Sunday and they study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and then get up and go home. Then they come back that night, study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and go home again. They comeback Wednesday night, and again study bigger and better methods of agriculture, sharpen their hoes, grease their tractors, and get up and go home. They do this week in and week out, year in and year out, and nobody ever goes out into the fields to gather in the harvest."
Does this make sense? Can you imagine farmers who abandon farming to a fellowship of tractor enthusiasts? I can't but along those same lines; can you imagine Christians who never share their faith with unbelievers? Something is wrong with this picture!
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matt. 28: 18-20
To believe that God has sent his Son Jesus on this saving mission is critically decisive for an individual's eternal destiny. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" To reject divinely sent messengers and their message will mean, even for the sons of Israel, receiving the retributive justice and forfeiting kingdom blessings at the last judgment (Matt 22: 1-14; Luke 14: 17). Please consider the following scriptures:
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5: 24
"As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." Luke 17: 18
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts. 1: 8
"If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." John 14: 15-17
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matt. 24: 14
The pattern of mission set by Jesus' sending of his followers during his earthly ministry was repeated and extended during his post-resurrection appearances. At that time he clearly defined the mission for each generation until he returns. Their message's perspective and the scope of the audience, however, would now be different.
The risen Lord commissioned his followers to proclaim a salvation fully accomplished in his atoning death and victorious resurrection and freely offered to those who repent and receive it (Luke 24: 44-48). He sent them to "all the nations to the end of the earth" (Matt 28: 19; Luke 24: 47; Acts 1: 8; 22: 21; 26: 17). The manner of the mission must now be carried out with due regard to protection and provision (Luke 22: 35-38).
This commissioning is not limited to the 12 apostles. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as commissioning all disciples with the same mission. He prays in the high priestly prayer, "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (17: 18). In a post-resurrection appearance to the disciples he says, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (20: 21). In his further instructions he indicates that this comparative formula means a full authorization in mission. As they go about preaching the gospel of salvation, God the Holy Spirit empowers them (20: 22).
Jesus also sends the Holy Spirit on a mission. He will empower Christian believers for witness to the good news of salvation (Luke 24: 49; cf. vv. 46-48; Acts 1: 8). He will bring not only full knowledge of the saving truth in Jesus' teaching (John 14: 26; 15: 26; this is promised particularly to the twelve apostles, but he will bring to the unbelieving world convincing conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come (16: 7-11).
On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous.
Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated.
They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them.
About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them were very different from themselves. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.
At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast.
And do you know what? That is what they did. As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.
Is that what our churches have become, 'adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting'? Have we quit the life-saving effort despite our Lord's clear commands? Do we leave the 'body of believers' that we know so well in order to obey the commands of Jesus? Ministers and members alike need to take this to heartfelt prayer.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)