WWJHMD – Episode III – Do right!


The following is the transcript from the November 15, 2015 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.


This morning I thought I would start at a different point. That is why you may have noticed the way the marquee has the sermon title as “Episode III” instead of week 3 of the sermon series. It conveys the same message in a manner that causes people to stop and take notice and in the stopping, tasks them to think about what the words suggest and could mean.
So…we begin this morning not in our familiar Micah chapter 6 but rather over in Mark chapter 13.
We are asking ourselves “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?” and so I thought I would look at the New Testament for answers.

Today we will read Mark 13:1-10. You will notice the “Must” statement that is found in verse 10; “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

MARK 13:1-10

As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!" "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down." As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?" Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 

Is the main thing the main thing? That’s my question for you today. The late Stephen Covey once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Those words are certainly poignant, but it's not always so simple to identify “the main thing” -- or keep it the main thing. With so many aspects of life to balance it's no wonder that the main thing often gets lost amidst the lengthy to-do lists and the impromptu must-do's.

What is true for you is true for Jesus’ Church too. We can get engulfed in the wrong activity. Thankfully, Jesus helps us with this. He makes it clear what the main thing for his church is … the “Great Commission.”

The “Great Commission” is the final charge of Jesus to His church (his followers). It is found in each of the gospels and in the book of Acts. 

It is given in places like Matthew 28:18-20 which reads 
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."

The Great Commission is the Primary Task of Jesus’ Church. It is the compass that points us in the direction we should go. It also clarifies our Mission and provides the parameters by which we will be judged as successful. 

So I keep sensing the Father challenging me to ask “Is the main thing the main thing in our congregation?” So we will continue in our theme of beginning with the End in Mind.
I once read a golf instructional book by a successful instructor called “Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings from a Lifetime of Golf.” Penick’s book is about your golf game … but it’s about more too. For example, I found a lesson for the church in at least one point. Penick says that most people practice golf backwards. They go to the driving range and hit balls (because it’s fun and they go far) but they never practice their short game (because it’s slow and tedious) but games are won and lost on the putting green and the short game … not the tee box. Penick encourages amateur golfers like me to spend more time practicing putting and short game skills rather than going to the driving range so much. Green to tee – not tee to green. Here’s his point … and here’s the point we must keep in mind as a church … BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. If we BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND we will work with vision and focus and passion and anticipation. Otherwise our activity can deteriorate into simply burning energy and thinking we are doing good.

It seems to me that activities in the church, like activities in life, fall into one of four quadrants.
* Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
* Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
* Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
* Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Most churches spend most of their time in quadrants 1 and 3, while quadrant 2 is where quality happens. 

You see, doing things (even good things) is no substitute for doing the right things. Jesus was a master of not allowing other’s people’s agendas (even needs) to over-ride God’s call on his life and we, His body, will be well-served to follow suit. 

But, as I think about the call that the Father has placed upon His church (to make disciples) I can see why most churches do not take it more seriously. It is hard and risky work.

To take it seriously means: 
    • A congregation must make the Great Commission foundational,     measurable, intentional, and missional. It does not happen by accident or even default.
   • A congregation must confess that it has not been about its Father's business in a manner that glorifies the Father. There is so much distraction and competition.
   • A congregation must lay aside some treasured practices and call them unproductive. Again, they may be noble but they may not be fulfilling the great commission in a manner that touches a community and reveals God’s leading.
   • A congregation must deny itself and choose to live grace-filled, sacrificial lives. When I choose to become a follower of Jesus it is no longer about “me.”
   • A congregation must seek an action plan from God. On too many occasions our ways are not his ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. 

Again, I say, taking the great commission seriously is hard work; very hard work. 
   • It requires dysfunction, old habits, passivity, resentments, and sin to be abandoned. 
   • It requires the congregation o be prepared to say goodbye to some dear friends; because not everyone will buy into the vision or approve of the methods adopted. 
   • It requires those with strong grips on the levers of leadership to loosen the grip, invite and teach others, and then share leadership with them. 
   • It requires a congregation to give new people new responsibilities for new ministries and the authority to carry out those responsibilities in a way that fits their gift mix. 

Yes, there is a reason most congregations do not covenant with God to fulfill His vision in reaching the lost and then helping those new Christians become fruitful followers of Jesus; ... it is hard work.

But it is the work we were called to. 

But it is the work we are held accountable for. 

But it is the work God will bless. 

God's desperately wants His church to employ His creative passion to breathe new life into dead souls. 

God desperately wants His people to surrender their expectations and ask His Spirit for new wineskins and new wine. 

When we do this it gives “church” (followers gathering as the worshipping community) purpose and hope and joy and anticipation. It creates an environment where God can do the miraculous and His people can experience Him in a life changing way. 

Even the most seasoned sailors know that blue water sailing (ocean sailing) comes with a high risk. In a moment’s notice your craft can be overwhelmed by the sea. For that reason most coastal countries have specialized teams trained for ocean rescue. These Sea and Air teams (SAR teams) are adept at finding needles in a haystack, dropping down into harm’s way, and plucking victims from the grips of certain death. These SAR teams do this at their great personal risk. And they train accordingly. Their training is highly specialized and tailored to the environment. 

If you were to ask an SAR team to go into a coal mine that had collapsed and rescue miners – they would not be trained properly for it. If you asked them to scale snowcapped mountains and rescue an injured mountain climber they would not be trained for it. 

They have a very clear mission and know exactly what must be done.

Jesus tells us that we have a clear mission too. It is modeled after his. Jesus said,
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
 Jesus, like an SAR team, is adept at finding needles in a haystack, dropping down into harm’s way, and plucking victims from the grips of certain death. 

As His church follows Him, as we train to become disciples (disciplined ones), we too will “Rescue the Perishing.”

Jesus tells his followers … “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

IS THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING WITH OUR CONGREGATION?

There are many ways that we can participate in the Great Commission:
   • On a global scale we should pray for missions and support our missionary sending agencies. 
   • At a local level:
We should support our church’s ministries with our tithes and offerings. 
▪ We should discover our gifts and begin to personally allow God to use us to touch people’s lives.
▪ We should pray for our community’s needs and the Gospel’s answer. Maybe we should begin doing some prayer walks in the community asking God to show us the needs & how we can be part of the solution. 

I am praying for a “holy dissatisfaction” for the status quo. I am praying that we will choose to place everything we do on the table and ask God’s Spirit if these activities glorify Him and accomplish His will for His church. 

I am praying that we will covenant with God to follow as He leads; to work until He comes. 

I am asking you, His people, to pray and participate with me.