The average church in America has gone to sleep when it comes to evangelism. We have become comfortable and complacent about those who are lost. We need to be roused from our stupor and take a fresh look around ourselves.
To help shock our congregation awake, I decided to swear in the pulpit this week. Admittedly, my choice of words was pretty mild. But I was willing to risk my reputation to get people’s attention. Here is my introduction to my sermon and a synopsis of my message that followed.
At the risk of offending you this morning, I want to begin my message with three facts.
Fact #1: Within a 10-mile radius of our church lives a population of 461,736 people. 38% of the population, or 175,460 people, have no faith involvement. On any given street or apartment building in Chicopee, Springfield, Westfield, South Hadley, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, or West Springfield, just over one out of every three people is going to hell without Jesus Christ.
Fact #2: Many of us here this morning, perhaps most of us here this morning, don’t give a damn about fact #1.
Fact #3: Many of us here this morning, perhaps most of us here this morning, are more bothered I said the word, “damn,” than you are that just over one out of every three people in our region is going to hell without Jesus Christ. We desperately need a new sense of priority and a new sense of urgency.
In John 4:31-38, Jesus gives the same message to his disciples. They believed four myths about ministry and evangelism. Jesus exposes the myths and corrects their thinking. I believe he would tell us the same thing today.
In verses 31-34, Jesus points out that we need a new sense of priority. We tend to believe the myth, “My needs are the most important.” We get absorbed with attendance, budgets, parking, staffing, and event planning. Jesus’ disciples had the same problem. They were more concerned with getting lunch than sharing the gospel with a Samaritan woman. They wanted Jesus to appreciate their efforts to provide his physical needs. Jesus wanted them, and us, to realize that ministry is more important than maintenance. His real food was to do God’s will.
When we evaluate a church service, we tend to ask questions like, “Did I like the music? Was the sermon interesting? Were the people friendly? Did I have fun?” Those are the wrong questions, however. We should be asking, “Did I worship? Were people equipped? Were lives changed? Was God honored?” We need a new sense of priority.
We also need a new sense of urgency. Jesus addresses three more myths in verses 35-38. (1) We believe that there’s plenty of time to share our faith later. Jesus said that the harvest is now (35a). Now is the time for evangelism. (2) We think that people aren’t interested in spiritual things. Jesus said that people are more ready than we think. The fields are white for harvest (35b). (3) We rely on the excuse that evangelism is not our gift and that someone else will do it. Jesus said we each have a role to play in evangelism (36-38).
Instead of being fishers of men, we have settled for being keepers of the aquarium. To help break that cycle, we distributed copies of the booklet “How can I share my faith without an argument?” to the congregation. We also challenged the folks to become a “Matthew” and throw a party for the sake of evangelism. This is part of our involvement in the My Hope for America campaign led by the Billy Graham organization.
Let me encouragement you to take Jesus’ words to heart, “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35b).
This is a synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 29, 2013. It is part of a series on “What makes a great church?” We are answering the question with the phrase, “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission makes a Great Church.” Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.