Launching Out With God
Grace Community Church
June 24, 2018
Launching Into the Harvest Around Us
Luke 10:1-12 (pray)
I saw a sketch this week that depicted a golfer on the putting green hoping to putt his ball in the hole, and, as golfers often do, he is carefully squatting down with his putter in hand, examining the incline of the green and the distance and angle of the ball from the hole as he assesses how hard and in what direction he should hit the ball to compensate for the grade of the putting green. But the ball is teetering on the very edge of the hole! The caption read, Engineers tend to overcomplicate things.
When it comes to evangelism and the Great Commission the church can tend to overcomplicate things. When I pastored a church on LI, I scheduled an evangelist to come in and teach us how to do evangelism. This guy’s approach to evangelism was basically high powered sales for Jesus. He taught us how to verbally jiu jitsu people until they cried Jesus. He had all these gimmicks and techniques and clever phrases that he taught us to memorize. Then he armed us with invitations and sent us out two by two to knock on doors. I went with my partner and at the first house decided to use the only line I remembered from his presentation. So when the woman of the house opened the door, I said, “we’d like to talk with you about God, ma’am, but (and here was the line) but don’t worry, we’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses.” I thought that line would put her at ease, maybe even get a laugh, but she just said, “well, I am.” It went downhill from there.
Jesus has called us to be his witnesses, and his last command to the church was the Great Commission. To make disciples of every nation. Discipleship starts with non-believers being discipled into the Christian faith. Sadly statistics show that the church today isn’t doing a very good job of it. Overall church attendance is declining, young people in particular are dropping out of church in high numbers, and the churches that are growing are mostly growing from transfer growth – Christians moving from one church to another – rather than new salvations. But we don’t need statistics to know this; most of us feel this lack in our own lives and would have to say we’re not actively discipling non-believers towards the faith.
I really believe the Lord wants us to prayerfully wrestle and seek His face about how we as a church can do our part to fulfill the Great Commission. We don’t want to overcomplicate it, we want to keep it simple. I want to share four points from Luke 10 that can help us become disciplers of the unchurched around us and to help us remember them, each point is a word that begins with the letter P:
Plentiful - There is a plentiful harvest
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (vs. 2)
If you think that the people around you aren’t spiritually interested or hungry, Jesus says, look again! The problem isn’t a lack of harvest; the problem is a lack of workers. There are people all around us who are hungry for something – they may not know what they’re hungering for, but there is a gnawing sense that there must be something more. We know what that something more is - God created them to have a relationship with Him and nothing but God can fill that hunger.
It’s easy for us to think no one is interested in spiritual things. Maybe we try to have a conversation with people about God and we hit a brick wall. When people ask me what the spiritual climate of this area is, my answer has been that there is a “polite disinterestedness” in spiritual things. There might be truth in that, but I can use it as an excuse for not continuing to reach out. The reason we’re not seeing people come to faith in Christ is because the harvest is small. The problem is with the harvest, not with us.
Jesus says the problem isn’t with the harvest, it’s with the laborers. We need to look up and see the fields are ripe unto harvest. Seeing the harvest means seeing that people desperately need a Savior whether they know it or not. It’s seeing that person you’re talking with – at work, in your neighborhood, at the store, wherever - is an eternal soul who is precious in the sight of God. It means looking beyond how things are going in their natural life – maybe they’ve the perfect marriage, a good job, a beautiful home, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence – but there is a spiritual need that is too deep for any of those things to meet. One day they will stand before God and their eternal destinies will lie before them and at that point it will be too late for them to choose to trust Christ for their salvation. The time for choosing is now.
If you walked by a home and saw that the top floor was on fire, and looked and saw people on the first floor eating and laughing and watching TV, would you just walk by? Would you knock on the door and if no one answered right away, figure they weren’t interested? No, you would do pretty much whatever you had to to rescue them. The challenge is that we don’t see the eternal peril that every person is in apart from Christ.
The Lord given us the one name under heaven by which man can be saved. We have been given a rescue mission. But we need to see it and we need to roll up our sleeves and work (that’s what Jesus means when he says “the laborers are few”).
I have been asking God to give me eyes to see the harvest, and I hope you do too. What does that mean? It means having eyes to see when there’s a spiritual hunger and receptivity to the gospel. The harvest is plentiful.
Pray – we need to pray as we go
Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (vs 2-3)
I love the way Jesus tells the disciples to pray and then tells them to go. Pray and then be the answer to your prayers.
We need to pray because God is Lord of the harvest.
Only God can save a soul. Spurgeon said, To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: Man can do the one--God alone can do the other. We can witness to people about Jesus, we can share the awesome good news about Jesus, but we could never in a million years move a soul from death to life. Only God can do that!
God is sovereign over the harvest. That doesn’t mean we don’t work – Jesus tells us to pray for workers – but it means we don’t work alone. We need God if the harvest is going to be brought in, and that means we need to pray!
We need to pray on the go. Jesus said pray and go! Prayer is not a substitute for action and action is not a substitute for prayer. We need to be praying as we’re going and we need to be going as we’re praying.
We should pray for the people in our lives that don’t know the Lord, that He will draw them to Himself. Pray for opportunities to share our faith and for the boldness to be his witness. We should pray that the Lord gives us His heart of love for the lost. Bottom line: Prayer is essential if we are to be laborers of the eternal harvest because God is the Lord of the Harvest.
Person of Peace – look for a person of peace in our lives
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Vv. 5-8
I want to credit Alex Absalom’s book, The Viral Gospel, for introducing this concept of a person of peace to me. As Jesus sends his disciples out, he instructs them to find a household led by a person of peace. What he calls a “son of peace”. This house would be the pivot point for all their ministry in that town. Jesus says don’t go from house to house, stay there as long as you’re in that town. That person, presumably not a Christian since they were going town to town to bring Christ to those who had never heard of Christ, was someone whose heart was moved by God to open their home and lives to be a support for the Christian’s ministry.
A person of peace is someone who isn’t a Christian but whose heart is inclined to welcome the Christian and help them. Often he or she will not only receive the believer, but they will connect the believer with others in their relational network. They gladly become a relational gateway for other ministry. We see this quite frequently in the NT:
Matthew the tax collector – a dinner at his house exposed many of his sinner friends to Jesus.
The demoniac in Gerasenes (Mark 5). When the villagers saw that he was delivered from a legion of demons they were afraid and begged Jesus to leave. But Jesus the delivered man there to testify to his friends all that God had done for him and in the next chapter (Mark 6) when Jesus returns, the villagers recognize him and flock to him.
The Samaritan woman at the well – after she became convinced Jesus was the Messiah, she brought her entire town out to hear him.
Lydia (Acts 16) – she was Paul’s first convert in Europe and her household became the anchor for ministry in Philippi.
The Philippian Jailor (Acts 16) – after God breaks open the prison, the jailor comes to Christ and becomes a gateway for the gospel as his entire household is baptized.
Cornelius (Acts 10) -God gives Peter a vision to go to the house of a Gentile, where Cornelius has gathered his family and friends and the gospel breaks out powerfully and the mission of the church to the Gentiles begins.
Talking about the early church’s approach to evangelism, Alex Absalom writes, Instead of going after the meanest, toughest and hardest to reach, they simply impacted those whom they found it easiest to naturally befriend.1 These people, through their relational network, would then be a gateway through whom other people could be reached.
We should look for the Person of Peace that God has put in our lives. Not complicated: it’s someone who isn’t a Christian, but they like you and you like them. There is a natural relational connection, a friendship. It’s not hard work, it’s easy. They don’t believe, but they welcome you and maybe even support your work. Sure, sometimes the Lord will lead us to reach out to a really hard person, an antagonistic person, but more often it will be those who are right there ready to be harvested. A son of peace. Low hanging fruit in the spiritual harvest of souls.
I think at some point we all have a Person of Peace in our lives, but we may not recognize the opportunity there. We may not invest in them to help them come to faith in Christ. We need our eyes to be open to see the Person of Peace and invest in them through prayer and discipleship that is not pushy or weird or superficial, but is friendship based and natural. Jesus said if they receive you, eat whatever they put before you. Jesus isn’t concerned about them being picky eaters, he’s concerned about them being hung up on religious protocols: is the food clean or unclean? Devoted to idols or not?
In other words, while we should be very careful not to sin against the Lord or compromise biblical standards, we shouldn’t be uptight religious stuffed shirts. Meet them where they are (unless it means entering into sin). Jesus met Matthew at his home and there were all kinds of sinners there. It offended the Pharisees, but Jesus loved it! The prostitute bent down to wash Jesus’ feet with perfume and her hair. The religious stuffed shirt was affronted, but Jesus was touched. Jesus wasn’t spiritually uptight and neither should we be.
Years ago the girlfriend of a friend of mine invited me to a surprise 30th birthday party for my friend. They were in a band and the party was going to be at a bar where they were playing. So I went there and had a great time, during a break they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday to Chucky. He knew I was a Christian and a pastor and I think it meant a lot to him that I came out to celebrate. The next morning was a Sunday and I asked the church to forgive me if I seemed a little groogy, I had been out at a bar until 2am the night before. There are some Christians that are just way too uptight about non-biblical issues. Eat what they put before you. Prioritize people over petty religious sensitivities.
Presence – bring the presence of Jesus into daily life
Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (vs 9)
How do we disciple the Person of Peace? Not by cramming Jesus down their throat and not by never mentioning Jesus. Bring the presence of Jesus into your relationship as naturally as you do with other Christians.
Be their friend, and be yourself. If a Christian friend lost a job or was sick, you’d offer to pray for them. Don’t be different with a Person of Peace. If they’re going through a hard time or have a need, offer to pray for them. Maybe even ask if you can pray with them.
When I worked at Saturn there was another salesman named Dave and I found out he was going through a messy divorce. We really hadn’t talked to each other at all, but one day I just felt led to go over and tell him I would be praying for him. I was a little nervous about how he would receive it, but he seemed to appreciate it. Didn’t say much, but appreciated it. But after that, he began to come over to my desk to talk to me about what was going on in his life and we developed a nice friendship. He knew I was a Christian and, while he wasn’t, he received me as a Christian.
When you pray for a need, and God answers it dramatically (as He sometimes does), they see God work and it amazes them. When you pray for a need and there isn’t a dramatic answer, they still feel the care and see you bring God into everyday life. Look for natural opportunities to bring God’s word into the conversation. Share a testimony of how God is working in your life. Be their friend, and be open about your faith in Jesus. If there’s a practical need you can help with, serve them in the name of Jesus.
The message of the gospel is that in Jesus the kingdom of God has come near to us. The 72 were sent ahead of Jesus “to every town and place where he was about to go”. We are preparing people for Jesus to come near. People may feel far from God, our message is, “no, God has drawn near to you. Jesus is near you.” Bring the presence of Jesus into their daily life and into your friendship.
The Lord has given us a Great Commission and none of us, if we are Christians, can say that’s for other Christians, not for me. We may be afraid, we may not know how to go about it, but let’s pray and ask the Lord to embolden and enable us to do our part in discipling, not just Christians into deeper maturity, but non-Christians into a saving faith.
1 Alex Absalom, The Viral Gospel, pg 213 Kindle Edition