Walk Across The Room: Pastor Tom Jones
Last week, before everything happened with Pastor Chip’s mom, Chip and I were going over the summer calendar, and sometime at the end of June or beginning of July he was going to be gone for a weekend. And he smiled real big, and he said, “Hey Tom, I got a great idea. Since all the people in the church have been requesting that you speak more why don’t you fill in for me that weekend while I’m gone.”
And I said, “No, pastor-sneaky-pants, that’s not what happened. You told everybody to request me to preach more. And I really don’t want to.” But then I told him, “Actually, you know what, book me for the summer. I’ll go ahead and jump in for you, because I really feel like God was starting to stir in my heart a message. And usually he doesn’t stir it four months in advance, but, you know, I’m a little slow. So, I thought maybe He was giving me some extra time.”
But then, everything happened over the last week and a half, and it kind of made sense. You know, one of the things that I told Chip is that I was feeling led to talk about the mission statement. To unpack a little bit more that we exist to reach unchurched people by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And I think we do we do a really good job of that on a corporate level, but I thought we needed to get a little bit more specific and talk about all of our individual lives. And all of our individual mission fields. Because the truth is your life, and where you live it, is the mission field God has placed you in.
And then when everything happened over the last week or two, and I knew I had to get in the box and preach while Chip was gone this weekend, I started to realize, it’s funny, even in the middle of bad stuff it’s funny how God can put things together that He was stirring not for June or July, but this message needed really to happen now. And the reason it does is because Easter is like tomorrow. I don’t know if you guys know that or not, but turn to your neighbor and say Easter’s tomorrow. Because I know it feels like it’s two weeks away, but it’s here.
And for those of you who are maybe new to the Christian faith, or you’re checking the Christian faith out to see if it’s for you or not, just to let you in on something, for Christians Easter is like our Super Bowl. This is our moment. For some reason people will say yes to an Easter church invite. I mean, it could be an Easter church service, or dinner on the grounds, or a softball game, or a concert, or a movie like “The Case For Christ.” I mean, it doesn’t really matter. For some reason people say yes during this season now more than anything. And this is a time we need for people to go be inviters and ask people, because we’ve got a lot going on during the Easter season.
Those of you who come from a traditional church, I think we called it a holy week, which is Easter weekend and the week leading up to Easter weekend. And we’ve got a lot going on during holy week. So, let’s review.
April seventh is first Friday. Again, if you know people, especially if they have kids, I would say easily at least half the church is here because of seeing us at a first Friday musical and main event. It’s really a big deal, and during Easter we pull out all the stops. So, those of you who know of people with kids, families, that type of thing, invite them to the first Friday event. It’s a great first step.
Also, on Friday night April seventh, as well as Saturday night April eighth, we’ve cornered the market. We’ve bought every prime time ticket. If you’re going to see this movie you have to come through Grace for the first weekend. Just to let everybody know for their schedules I don’t think we did a good job of explaining this before. So, this is our bad. This is on us. But the movie for both Friday and Saturday night the movie times are seven, seven fifteen, seven thirty, and seven forty-five. And what we would like to ask everybody to do is please get out of your comfort zone. Buy tickets for your family, but buy an extra couple of tickets. Walk by faith and invite some people. We’re really trying to set the table that this is a great first step to then inviting them to come to the Easter service the next weekend.
And then, speaking of Easter services, April 14 through 16 you see that we have 264 Easter services planned for Easter weekend. Like, you can come any time. Like three in the morning. Just show up. Something will be going on here.
No. As you know, we’ve got a lot of Easter services planned, and the reason we did that is we were trying to give you guys multiple times. Now, we know that the CEOs are going to be here. We’ll be loaded with CEO. Y’all know what CEO is? Those are “Christmas and Easter Only” attenders. That’s what a CEO is. And so, we’ll have a lot of those people, but we also want to have some people, unchurched people, unchurched friends and family of all of us, to invite. Because this is a great time to share the Gospel.
So, here’s the good news. The good news, as I talked to everybody who fill in all the volunteer spots, like Jennifer and Annette who do children’s and ushers and greeters, they told me as of Thursday all the volunteer spots for Easter weekend have been filled. Can somebody say praise God to that?
Some of you are like, “Woo. I got out of that one. That was awesome.”
But you didn’t. You didn’t get out of that one, because we all still need everyone to do one more thing. And that is invite, invite, invite. Invite to the movie. Invite to first Friday. Please, before you leave today, buy those tickets for “Case for Christ.” If you don’t know how to go on the website and buy them talk to anyone 30 and under. They’ll help you lock in those tickets. But need everybody to jump in and get involved.
And look, I know it’s scary. It is. To get outside of our comfort zone, and invite people to church. But sometimes, guys, we need to pause from our regularly scheduled programming. We need to pause from our regular ordinary lives, and get outside of ourselves, and be a little bold. We need to be reminded that unchurched people matter to God. Therefore, unchurched people need to matter to us. And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
Well, with that said, that’s as far as I got in my sermon prep. So, you guys have a great day.
What I’d like to do for the rest of our time is actually read through a Bible passage, unpack it a little bit, share a few stories, and the point really is that we can ask God to help us all become a little bit more of the salt of the World, and the light of the World during this Easter season.
And let’s start with reading God’s Word, shall we? Colossians four, Paul, once again the Apostle Paul is in prison writing to the Colossian church. And he’s talking specifically about sharing your faith. So, let’s jump in. Verse two.
He says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful and pray for us too that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray also that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.”
Now, looking at verse three, I love how Paul asks the church people not to pray that he gets out of jail, but that the Gospel message gets out of jail. That really shows his heart.
In verse four when he says, “Hey guys, if y’all do me a favor and pray that I proclaim it clearly,” I just say wow to that. We’re talking about the Apostle Paul. The guy who wrote most of the New Testament. The guy who, by now, has shared his faith a thousand times, and yet, look, he’s still going, “Hey guys, if y’all have a minute and you don’t mind, please pray that when I do get the chance to share the Gospel that I do it right. That I do it clearly. That I do it in a way that people understand.”
See, he still sees that it matters. He knows it’s a valuable moment, and he wants to make sure he’s hearing from God and doing it the right way.
And as we go ahead and turn the corner headed towards verse five we’re going to see Paul turn the conversation. He’s been talking about the Gospel getting outside the four walls of jail and of church and everywhere else. And he’s talking about, “Oh, by the way, when I have a chance to share the Gospel, pray for me to do it clearly.” And then he takes it as a teaching moment. He goes, “You know what, while we’re talking about sharing your faith, let me teach you and instruct you so you can share your faith more effectively.” And that’s where we pick up verse five.
“Be wise in the way you act towards unbelievers, making the most of every opportunity. And let your conversation be always (check this out) full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
I love this. Be wise. Be careful. Be thoughtful of how you live your life. Of how you act in front of unbelievers. What you say, whatever you do, be effective and make the most of the moment. See, Paul knows those moments don’t happen all the time. That when those times and those windows open we have to not only take advantage of it, but we need to make the most of the opportunity.
And I love the imagery here. He says in verse six, because this is perfect. If you want to know the best advice in the world, because a lot of times people go, “I don’t know how to share my faith.” This is the easiest thing to do right here. Let’s take it from Paul.
He says, “Let your conversation…” — When you’re talking to unchurched people… — “… let it be full of grace.” Tons of grace. Overflowing with grace. Second-helpings of grace. Piles of God’s unconditional love and unmerited favor. Talk about what God’s done in your life. Tell them about the grace of God over and over.
And oh, by the way, sprinkle in just a little bit of salt. Now, to the ancient reader, salt would have been a metaphor for wisdom and truth and something that adds value and preserves life. And how many times have we seen, especially in the American church, we pound people over and over and over with truth, and then just sprinkle a little grace. And we wonder why nobody wants to come to church and be a part.
Paul’s giving us the best way to share our faith here when he says, “Pound them with the loving grace of God, and then sprinkle just a little bit of truth.”
Because what we know about salt is a little bit goes a long way. More grace sprinkled with truth.
Alright, you guys got that. Now, standard marketing research teaches us that it usually takes, and they’re guessing, seven to ten to twelve prompting or hits before someone tries a new product, or tries to go to a new store, or goes to a new restaurant. Now, sometimes we don’t think we got hit seven or eight times. We just might know that our neighbor recommended us going to that restaurant, but psychologist get paid millions for this. Often what really happened, and we might not even remember, is there might have been a commercial or a flyer or a sign or a Facebook post. They say usually people get hit multiple times, and each time they get hit it takes them closer and closer and closer to where they finally pull the trigger. They go to the store, or they try out the restaurant. They buy the product.
And along those same lines of going through a process church growth experts suggest that when people are looking to cross the line of faith that the process is pretty much the same way. That most people have what they would say somewhere between seven to seventeen prompting or hits, or what we would like to call significant events that happen in people’s lives to make them take one step closer.
You know, again, the numbers are just made up, but let’s say somebody’s a minus ten. That means they’re ten steps away from the line of faith. And we’ll call those people far away from God. Some people who are a minus five are halfway there. Or a minus one, they’re one step away. And the thing that I’ve learned a long time ago is that we never know where people are, because sometimes when people are fighting and kicking and scratching the most, and I think they’re not only a minus ten, they’re like a minus eighty because of the way they’re acting, the truth is they’re really a minus one and they’re just kind of doing the last hoorah before they cross the line of faith. Does that make sense?
So, sometimes we don’t know. We have no idea how to rate where people are on the process. We just know that significant events make people move forward.
Now, those events could be anything. They could be God moments where people really see God acting in the world. It could be a positive experience like having a baby or getting married or maybe a new job. It could be a negative experience, or a sad experience, like a relationship break-up or a death in the family. As you know, significant events can be trauma.
My cousin, Dale, when she was probably about 25 years old she was driving real fast in her car, and she didn’t have her seatbelt and her sunroof was open, and she was on the highway. She went off the road and she hit a jump, and half of her bounced out of the car where half of her body was out of the car, and then the car started to roll. Now, miraculously she came out of that thing alive, but when people ask her when she became a Christian she tells them I think it was between the second and third roll that I became a Christian. So, hey, trauma does that, right? You know, trauma does that.
Sermons. Songs. Miracles. All sorts of things can make us take a step forward.
It’s interesting to note that most of the people who are interviewed for these surveys would say that when they look back at some of the most impactful events that made them take a step forward it usually had to do with talking with Christians, or watching Christians live their lives. Isn’t that interesting? Those were usually the things that really they remembered caused them to take a step.
And unfortunately, it’s also important to note that, these significant events can make somebody take a step towards God, or they can make them take a step away from God as well.
I have a friend who’s a little bit older than me, but he tells me the story about when he was a teenager that he started getting spiritually interested. And so, his family didn’t go to church, and he didn’t come from a spiritual background, but God started to move in his heart. So, he went to the closest church from their house to the youth group, because he wanted to learn more about God. And while he was there the youth pastor made a pass at him, made a romantic advance towards him, and he ran out the door. He was angry at God, and he was angry at church, and he didn’t darken the door of a church for another thirty years.
Now, he eventually came to know the Lord, but you look at a story like that and you go there’s probably people who’ve had experiences with Christians, or with bad events, and it made them take a step away from the faith as well. And that’s why, exactly why, Paul reminds us in verse five, “Be wise.” Be smart about how you act towards unbelievers, making the most of every opportunity.
And here’s our one and only point for the day.
God wants us to be intentional (Everybody say the word “intentional.”) regarding how we live our life (He wants us to be intentional) so unchurched people can move forward in the process.
See guys, it matters. It matters how we live. It matters what we say. It matters how we act. It matters when the waitress brings us the wrong order for the third time. It matters how we treat her. It matters at work when the boss is acting like a jerk. It matters when people are looking at us and they know we’re Christians. It matters how you drive. I know that hurts some people. I didn’t put the Grace bumper sticker on my car, because then I’d have to act like a Christian, you know? So, what I did is I put the local church down the street, their bumper sticker on, and I can act any way I want.
But seriously, guys, it does. They’re watching us. And again, to understand maybe look back in your own life. Conversations with Christians, or watching how Christians live their life, are some of the most impactful reasons why people take steps forward or even backwards.
So, not only does it matter how we live I also think it matters how we feel about unchurched people, because, you know, if we don’t really get Gods heart on this it’s hard just to do duty if we really don’t see it or feel it and really understand the whole point of it. I mean, if we’re going to really help unchurched people take the next step we’ve got to understand the “why”, and we’ve got to feel it.
We have a Discovery class that we do here where I get to teach people, figure out who they are in Christ, and where they fit in the Body of Christ, and we go over spiritual gifts and personality style and passion. And it’s really cool. And after the class I setup one on one interviews with everybody who went through the class just to review their results, and figure out where they are on their journey, and talk about Gods passion. And I always love this part, because I get to hear the passion God’s put in every church persons heart. I always like to define passion as a piece of Gods heart, and we all have a different piece of Gods heart. And I love to talk and find out what part of Gods heart that God gave all the people.
And it’s always just so cool. Some really great spiritual stuff. And one of the people who just went through the class, her name’s Lisa Perkins, and she’s shy so she begrudgingly gave me permission to say her name and share this story, because I told her she wouldn’t go to Heaven if she didn’t let me do it. But Lisa was so cool. We sat down. We’re talking about her passion and the part of Gods heart that God gave her. I said, “Lisa, share with me some of the things that reflect your passion.”
She goes, “Well, one of the things that I have,” and she was kind of was very shy when she said it. She goes, “One of my passions is God gave me a real heart for missing children.” She goes, “You know those flyers that everybody gets in the mail where there’s pictures of missing children on the bottom. And everybody probably just throws it away.”
I said, “Yeah.”
And she goes, “Well, I can’t go by one without praying for them, and then sometimes I take them and I’ll carry them with me. And I’ll put them on my Bible. I’ll put them in my purse.”
And when she said that the purse was in the chair right next to her, and her purse was literally spilling over with all these flyers of pictures of missing children. I just was blown away. I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is such an incredible piece of Gods heart that God gave Lisa.”
And when she left, the first thing is I think felt a little guilty and mad and like, “God, why is everybody in this church more spiritual than me.” I mean, that’s the first thing I’m really struggling with. It’s just amazing some of the things that people are passionate about.
But the second thing, I was kind of feeling a little guilty going, “Man, is it wrong?” Because I don’t feel that. I don’t feel what Lisa felt. Of course I felt sorry for those kids like all of us do, but I was trying to answer the question “why.” Why don’t I feel the deep emotion and deep passion that Lisa feels? And whether this answer is spiritual or not I just think at least it’s true. And it was because they’re not my kids. That’s why I don’t feel that deep emotion like she does. Those kids are not my kids. But if they were my kids…
My children names are Thomas, Madison, and Wesley, and I can’t say their names in public out loud without feeling emotion. And I wonder what if it was my kids on one of those flyers? What if it was the pictures of my kids? Would I feel emotion and a passion? Of course I would feel deep emotion and passion. And just like you I would do everything to try to find. I would quit my job. I would sell everything I have. I would comb the four corners of the earth just like you would, because all of us would feel deep passion and emotion if those lost kids were ours.
And I thought about our talk today, and I realized, just like every parent in here would have emotion if their child was lost, God has emotion for every one of His children that are lost. God has emotion for His kids that don’t know Him or that are far from His family.
And we see that over and over in Scripture. Like in Luke 19 where Jesus is weeping over Jerusalem. He’s literally looking out at the lost children. He knows the decisions that the Jews are going to make and reject Him for this season, and He breaks down and He weeps and He weeps for the decision they’re going to make.
We see it in Luke 14 where Jesus gives us the parable of the Great Feast. And the parable of the Great Feast is that a master invites a bunch of people, the whole town, to come to a feast. And the whole story is a metaphor for God inviting the whole world to know Him and to be in a relationship with Him. And He sends His servants out to tell everybody, “Hey, the feast is ready. Come on.” And everybody gives excuses as to why they can’t show up. But the funny part about that is if you read that story, after the servants keep coming back and forth going, “Sorry, Master, but this guy can’t do it, and that guy, and this person just got married, and this person just bought some land,” all of a sudden it shows that the Master gets upset. Like, He really gets upset, because He’s created this invitation for everyone and yet nobody’s showing up.
So, yes, God does have emotion for everyone of His kids who are lost. And it begs the question for us today, “Do we?” You know? Do we? Because I know I struggle with that sometimes, and I don’t know a lot but I’ll tell you this. I learned a long time ago that the two biggest tells, or the two biggest signs that shows you’re a growing, maturing Christ follower is one: You become more of a giver and less of a taker in every area of your life. And number two: You start to have emotion and passion of Gods lost children.
Spiritual maturity is becoming like Jesus, and Jesus wept over the lost children of the world. And if we’re going to really be growing believers we need to grab Gods heart on this, because God is emotional about His lost kids.
Let me ask it this way. If you were to go home, and I encourage you to do this because I did it this week, and I made a list of all the unchurched friends and family and neighbors and co-workers that I could recall that God’s placed in my mission field, my sphere of influenced. And as I reviewed their names and I called their names out loud I asked myself this question: What did I feel? What did I really feel when I said their names aloud?
And again, it’s a good example for all of us. Write those names down. Say them outlaid and ask yourself what do you feel? Because I did that this week, and I got to be honest with you, I’m not real proud of all the results. And I really don’t want to share this with you, to be honest, but I felt like God wanted me to. As I reviewed some of those name, yes, probably even most of those names, I did feel Gods heart. I did feel passion. I do so want to see them cross the line of faith. I can’t imagine them living. Their such cool people, some of them, and I can’t imagine them living the rest of their lives away a relationship with God.
Needless to say, I don’t even want to think about eternity. Yes. Some of the people on that list I do have Gods heart.
But some of the names, guys, if I could just be painfully honest, I felt different things. Things that I probably shouldn’t have felt. Some of those names, as I said their names out loud, I felt frustrated, and I felt annoyed, and I felt angry. Some of those names, you know, the things they do, the choices they make, who they are, the beds they sleep in, the motley crew they hangout with, the drugs or alcohol that they’re addicted to. I mean some of those names, honestly, they bothered me. And forgive me for just being raw and honest with you here today, but some of those names, as I read them, I found myself just being really tired of dealing with them. Tired of trying to help them. Honestly, I’m frustrated because their bad choices, and their drama keep constantly keep spilling over into my lane. And when I saw some of those names the word that came to my mind was “inconvenience.” Some of those people are an inconvenience.
And maybe, probably, you’re not as bad as me, but as I did this little exercise I had to take a step back and call a timeout on myself, and go, “Lord, have mercy. Tom, do you hear what you’re saying? Do you really see what your heart is reflecting right now? Because your heart couldn’t be any further away from Gods heart for these people. Your heart is a mile away, because God looks at these same people with love, and hope, and encouragement.”
And in the midst of my frustration He’s still cheering them on, hoping that they will one day cross the line of faith. God loves them so much He died for them. As a matter of fact, He loves them so much instead of putting their pictures in the middle of milk cartons or in the middle of flyers, He placed these people right in the middle of our lives, and He wants us to have His heart and help them find their way home.
But we’re going to have to get over ourselves, and we’re going to have to get over some… Lisa can speak for me… some of my selfishness. We’re going to have to get the heard of God in this matter so we can help these people in our circle of influence take a step closer towards home.
Bill Hybels is one my evangelism heroes, because this is a guy who’s a senior pastor of a huge megachurch and still to this day he intentionally orders his life where he can befriend unchurched people outside the four walls of church and share Christ with them. The guy’s just an evangelistic monster, and I’m just so enamored with him.
And he recently wrote a book called “Just Walk Across the Room,” and in this book he tells a story about a Muslim African-American man who came up and shared with Bill how he eventually came to faith. And Bill tells the story. He says it like this. This Muslim guy came up to Bill and said, “I grew up in church. My family, my mom, my dad, all the kids, we went to church,” and he goes, “And it was a great church. It was a diverse church.” And he said, “And then the church got new leadership,” and he said to Bill, “And when the church got new leadership it decided that if it was really going to grow that there were certain people in the church or certain color that needed to get out of the church so they could cater to different people.” And he told Bill, “I assume you know what I’m talking about.”
Bill said, “Yeah.”
He said, “So they pushed all the people of color out.” And he said, “My dad and my mom left the church. My dad was so angry. They never darkened the doors of a church again.” And he goes, “And I grew up unchurched.” He said, “So, I went to college, and the only people that reached out and were kind to me were the Muslim group.” He said, “So, I eventually became a Muslim.” And he said, “After a few years I met a Muslim lady, and we got married. Then we had kids, and we’ve raised our kids and our whole family in the Muslim tradition.”
Just timeout for a second. This is kind of funny, but you’ve got to get the picture. He says, “I’m a black Muslim with a Muslim name living in a southern city, and my job requires me to go to all these high-fancy socials and cocktails parties and business events where nobody in the room looks like me. I’m usually the only one of my kind there. And I’m supposed to be there to get to know all these people and pass out business cards in order to drum up business.”
And he goes, “And it’s usually very awkward for me, but I just go and do it. And one night I was at one of these particular socials, and I’m all by myself standing over by the bar. And everybody else is in their little groups and huddles all around the room.” But he goes, “This one guy kept popping his head up and looking at me.” He said, “He talked to his group, and he’d pop his head up and look at me and smile. And then he’d talk to his group. And he finally politely excused himself from the group, and he made the walk across the room.”
So this white Christian guy meets the Muslim guy, and they start talking. And the Christian guy asks him about his name. And there’s where he told him he was a Muslim, and the Christian guy told him he was a Christian. And the Muslim guy, when telling the story, he said, “It didn’t cause a bump in the road. We kept talking, and he seemed to be a really cool guy. We talked about all sorts of stuff, and at the end of our conversation the Christian guy asked. He said, ‘Hey, you know what, I’d really love to go and buy you breakfast sometime and find out more about your faith. I’m a person of faith. You’re a person of faith. I’d like to learn more about what you believe.’”
And the Muslim guy kind of stood back, and said, “Now look, dude. If you’re kind of taking me on as a project, or something like that, I’m really not in.”
And the Christian said, “No. No.” He goes, “I’m just going to be honest with you, and this is a probably little sad,” he goes, “I’ve never met a Muslim person in my life. I don’t even know what you guys believe. So, I really would like to know about your faith.”
So, for the next four breakfasts this Christian, they would have small talk, and talk about family and life and stuff. And then the Christian would get his pencil and pad, and he would start asking leading questions. And to hear the Muslim guy tell the story, he said, “Every couple of minutes he would look up and go, ‘Fascinating. Tell me more,’ and, ‘Interesting,’ and the guy was really interested.”
He was genuinely interested in this guys life. And the Muslim guy said, “After four breakfasts I told him everything I knew about the Muslim faith. I was out of information.” He said, “And during that time God started to stir my heart a little. Plus, I felt like I owed this guy, because he really didn’t change the rules on me.”
And at the end of the fourth breakfast the Muslim guy told the Christian guy, he goes, “How about next breakfast you share with me everything I’ve forgotten about Christianity? Because it’s been so long.”
And the Christian guy goes, “You know, you don’t have to. That wasn’t our deal.”
And the Muslim guy said, “No. I’m curious. I would like to know.”
So, for the next two breakfasts they get together, and the Christian reminds the Muslim guy about the story of God, and about the Good News, and about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and all that good stuff. And after the second breakfast, the Muslim guy, instead of going to work that day, gets in his car and he drives home. He goes into his bedroom and he shuts his door. And he gets on his knees right by the bed, and he asked Jesus Christ into his life.
And then, he talks to his wife for the next couple of weeks, and then she asks Jesus into her life. And then they talk to the kids, and they do the same thing. And then they find a really cool diverse church in the city that really does love everybody coming in, and they were just growing believers ever since then.
The formerly Muslim guy tells Bill, he goes, “The only reason I know you,” he goes, “is we got in a really cool small group that discipled us, and helped us as early new believers learn about the basics of the faith. And you wrote the stuff. And I saw your picture on the back of the book. And when we got to the social event I saw you across the room, and I wanted to let you know, thank you. Thank you for letting me tell you this story.”
And Bill said, “No. You’ve given me the better gift, because the imagery of that story is incredible.”
You think of all the different socials that this guy went to, standing by himself. And all the Christians that were there over and over. And all of those socials. And yet one Christian has his radar on. One Christian gets out of the comfortability of his little safe circle, and he makes the walk across the room.
And he says, “You know what, I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but I’m going to give it a chance. I’m going to go over there and love that guy. Speak life to that guy. Just extend grace to that guy.”
So, he did. He took a deep breath. He knew it could go either way, but he did take the walk. And not only does the Muslim guy gets saved, when you think about the rest of the story, but his family becomes Christians. And you start thinking about the impact, the trajectory. That literally could have changed that family’s trajectory for generations and generations to come. All because a guy was willing to take a walk across the room.
You know, guys, I listen to that story and I think to myself, “I want to be that guy. I do. I want to be that guy for everybody on my list. Not just the selected few, or the ones that aren’t an inconvenience to my life. I want to be the guy that’s willing to excuse himself from the comfortability of his safe Christian circle and make the walk across the room.”
You see, guys, and this is true, one of the greatest tragedies in modern Christianity today is that the longer Christians follow God, usually, the more insulated they become from a lost and dying world. And I don’t know all the “whys” to that process. Maybe it’s because we’re so glad we’re out of the mess. We just don’t want to get back in the mess. But for some reason hanging out with unchurched people becomes just awkward and messy to us. So, we back away.
And that part we can’t around. Listen guys, if you really are going to walk across the room, and make friends with unchurched people, it’s going to get messy. It can get real, and it’s going to get real real quick. I mean, it’s going to get dirty, and it’s going to get grey, and sometimes you’re going to have more questions than answers, and you’re not going to know exactly what to do. But that shouldn’t mean to divorce ourselves from the process.
Some of you heard me tell the story about Daycia. I planted a church years ago in Atlanta, Daycia was the first person that we got to help lead to the Lord. And she was the poster child of who we were trying to reach out to in that community. Young and cool, and just a mess herself, but she was a seeker. And she came and listened for a few weeks, and then she called us and said, “Hey, I would like to talk more about becoming a Christian.”
So, my wife and I created a perfect moment. We invited her over to the house for coffee. We got in a little circle, and Daycia asked all her questions. And then she finally said, “Hey, Tom, I’d like to become a Christian.” We all held hands, and we helped Daycia cross the line of faith. And everybody was crying happy tears. You know, there was little doves flying around in a circle right by us. It was a hallmark moment, right? It was perfect. There was nothing wrong with this moment.
We got to give her a new Bible, and she cried about that. And we put in it how much we loved her, and all this stuff. And right in the middle of this perfect hallmark moment Daycia said, “You know what, Pastor Tom. I knew this was going to be a fantastic day.”
I said, “Really, Daycia. How is that?”
She said, “Because my horoscope told me so.”
And I went, “Oh no.”
And it was so funny, because I leaned to start going, “Well, no. Wait. Daycia. Wait. We don’t… That’s not.” You know? And what’s so funny is as I leaned to start talking I felt God go, “Shh. Just. Shh. Stop. Shh. Shh. Don’t. Shh.”
And I really wanted to correct her, right? And God just kept telling me, “Look, one of my children just found their way home. That’s another hill to climb for another day. Let’s celebrate the moment.”
And that’s hard for us. It’s hard for us. I mean, you think that’s bad. I remember a professor in seminary reading to us stories about how messy the early church was. You got to remember there weren’t any standards, or rules, or Bibles around. And I mean, all these different types of people were getting saved, but hadn’t cleaned up their lives yet. But yet they’re running around town telling everybody about the love of Jesus. And it was a mess.
I remember him reading specifically a story to us that there was revival spreading around the concubines of Rome. Now, these were women who were full time sex servants for their wealthy masters, and there was revival going on within the concubines. And at night when the masters would fall asleep in their beds, after they fell asleep, the concubines would quietly start to whisper Scriptures like the 23rd Psalm in to their ears. And they would pray that God would stir the hearts of their masters towards Christ.
And guys, I hear that story, and I remember what I felt when the prof. said that story, and I just have a hard time fitting that into my nice clean Christian paradigm. That’s a mess. I mean, talk about a hot mess. I don’t know what to do with that theologically, like at all. But you know what, guys, the older I get the more I realize often times in the middle of all that that is exactly where God is. That’s exactly where the presence and power of God is. Right in the middle of that mess.
The early church certainly has everything together, but to be fair, do we? And yet they certainly had Gods heart for lost people. It’s the reason why Christianity spread like wildfire. But they were fired up to share Gods love to anybody who would listen. And I think Christianity 2017 in America, I think all of us, if I could be so bold, could use a little bit of that fire.
Here’s our point for the day: God wants us to be intentional regarding how we live our lives so unchurched people can move forward in the process.
But, and here’s the big kicker, guys, we have to take chances. We have to be part of the process. And the only way we can pull that off is for us to create in our heart for Gods heart. So we can feel passion for Gods lost and missing children, and so we can help them find their way home.
As we close, speaking of being part of the process, let’s review, because this is important, guys. We’ve got a week to ten days coming up that for some reason people say yes more than ever. And I’m just going to be honest, I’m calling in some chips here. For first Friday, that’s a great opportunity. Some of you, you can invite some people, and they’ll go to that. For the movie, I need everybody to buy tickets. Not only for you, but for your friends. We’ve cornered the market, because we want this to be a moment that people can learn about Jesus in a very cool way.
I might have shared this earlier, but this is a cool movie. Some Christian movies… Eh, not so good. This one’s legit. This is the real deal story of Lee Strobel, and it’s going to be a great movie. And it’s going to help people take steps forward, but we got to get them there. And we need your help in that.
And then, all the different Easter services that we have. Again, I just want to encourage you. This is a season that we all need to get outside of our comfort zones, and we need to invite people and we need to encourage people so we can see some people take some steps forward. And, Lord willing, we can even see some people take steps across the line of faith.
You know, I talked to Chip on Thursday, and it’s a very tough week for him. And I said, “You know, dude, everybody loves you. And at least 100 people have asked me what they can do for you. You know, meals and babysitting your children, or whatever.”
And he goes, “No.” He said, “Tell them thanks for all that.” He goes, “We’re going out of town for the funeral anyway. When we get back we want to get our lives as orderly as possible back to normal.” He said, “But honestly, if you’ll just tell the people this weekend we’ve really killed ourselves as a church to set the table for holy week for giving a lot of opportunities, but those opportunities aren’t going to happen by us putting commercials on the radio, or whatever. It’s going to happen if all of us get involved in the game. That we take a step. That we get outside of ourselves. That we get Gods heart. That we’re willing just to have a little bit of rejection if somebody says no, and be bigger than that.”
Because, guys, this is the highest stakes game in town, and nothing matters more in our lives than this. This is an opportunity that God is calling all of us to be the Grace Community Church that He intended for us to be. And for the last couple of years our pastor has talked to us about being intentional neighbors. Let us as a thank you to him, and in the spirit in remembering his awesome mom who loved to share her faith with anybody who would listen. She was such a fireball for Jesus. Let’s all be inspired by her legacy. Let’s all do something that our pastor’s encouraged us to do for a few years.
I want you to prayerfully look at your mission field, and I’m doing the same thing. I promise we’re all doing it. And let’s get bold, and let’s do something great for God Easter 2017.
Father, we thank You for the opportunity to be a part of the process. When I look at it I think You would’ve been a lot smarter to leave us out of the equation, but that’s not how You set it up. You want us to live our lives in such a way that people go, “I don’t know what you got going on in your life, but whatever you have I want it.”
God, we have to be wise and make the most out of every opportunity. We’ve got to be smart how we live our lives outside of these four walls. But, Lord, first and foremost we’ve got to get Your heart.
This message is not for all of us to walk out and just have a case of the utilities. If that’s what happens then it’s just an epic fail. What this message is, because You convicted me about this this week as I put this together, is we first and foremost need to get the heart of our Father whose heart breaks for His missing children.
And God, You’ve put all these people in our wheelhouse, in our mission field. All these people an arms length away from us so we could be a part of the process. And I pray, Lord, in the strong name of Jesus, that all of us would get bold for these next few weeks. That all of us let the Spirit of God fill us to the full, and be zealous. To go outside these four walls. Not only live life right, but be inviters. Talk to people. Invite them to all these different things. And we pray for the Easter weekend, Lord. We pray for holy week. That You’re going to do something great in hundreds and hundreds of peoples lives. That You are going to do an amazing thing, and that lost people are going to find their way home because we all got outside of our comfort zone and did what You called us to do.
And Lord, if we’ll do that we’ll be able to look back at Easter 2017 and say it was one of the most epic God-moving moments of this church’s history. Let it be so in Jesus’ name. And all Gods people said, “Amen.”
God bless you guys. Have a great week.