Last week I shared with you a quote from theologian, professor, preacher, and author Lovett Weems of Wesley Theological Seminary and the Lewis Leadership Center who said, “We (the mainline Protestant Church) have an approach to the Gospel that really matters. We have an approach to the Gospel that would reach 21st century people. We have a great approach to the Gospel that will make a difference—if we could only remember it.”
I hope these words have rattled around in your head and heart this past week because there is a deep truth to his statement, and it is an imperative that we, the mainline Protestant Church, understand this truth. It’s an imperative because if we don’t then we can’t fulfill our mission which is to share and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. And we do that by emulating what Jesus himself did.
Yes, again, Jesus hung out in the synagogues with the religious leaders and teachers from time to time—but even when he did he challenged their approach to faith in God.
Most of the time Jesus went searching and seeking the lost—the sinners, the outcasts, the broken, the infirmed, those who had been pushed to the margin—and he said to them, “Good news…you have been found. You are loved. You are a holy and beloved child of God.”
And it’s this approach to the Gospel that we need to remember and then share with the lost who are searching and seeking.
The prophet Ezekiel who we heard from last week, and now Jesus this week, refer to the lost as sheep in need of a shepherd—and that when sheep are without a shepherd they become harassed, helpless, scattered, lost; they become food for the wild animals, which last week we talked about as being the endless searching and seeking for that which will give life what is missing: meaning, purpose, passion, hope, peace, joy, and love.
So with this in mind, we turn to our text for today where we encounter the Son of God reiterating what we heard God say through Ezekiel last week—that there are many who are seeking and searching and who are lost, like sheep without a shepherd, along with reiterating that there is work to do be done.
And it’s that work we continue to chat about today, here, now, and after worship downstairs in Fellowship Hall, like we did last week.
Last week we had the first of two “church chats” after second service. We had a good number of folks stick around for the chat—which took place down in the Fellowship Hall, where refreshments were served, and went just until noon.
We discussed what was threatening the church today and what was threatening the faith today, and we talked about what we as the Church and as a church can do about it.
And we recognized that we are doing a lot.
Like I mentioned last week, we have all the pieces, we have the personnel, we have all the tools, and we are doing a lot of the work already.
But there remains the need to remember our approach to the mission of spreading and sharing the Good News of Jesus. And that approach is to model Jesus who went searching for, and seeking, the lost—the sinners, the outcasts, the broken, the infirmed, those who had been pushed to the margin—where he said to them, “Good news…you have been found. You are loved. You are a holy and beloved child of God.”
Now this may not sound totally earth shattering, and some might scoff and say, “Ain’t that what we are doing?”
And the short answer is yes.
The problem is that too many of us have a view of the faith, and have a view of our mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, that worked in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but today is not speaking to 21st Century people.
The picture of the Gospel that has been portrayed over the last 50-60 years is no longer connecting with the generations that have come after.
The picture of the Church that has been portrayed for the last 50-60 years is no longer connecting with the generations that have come after.
Add to that, the model of the Church that has been in place for the last 50-60 years…younger generations stepping into new roles as the older generation’s ages and steps out, is no longer happening because of my previous two points.
But this is nothing new. Jesus himself was well aware of such when he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
He was citing the fact that there are many people who have not yet heard the Good News, who have not yet come to experience the fullness of drawing closer to the divine—and that is the imperative he wants us to address.
Now we see it and hear it every day… I talk about it from this spot often… Every day we see and hear and experience things that make us shake our heads and ask, “What is wrong with people?” “What is wrong with this world?”
I could rehash that same, tired old liturgy, but I won’t because I know you know what I’m talking about. But what we as people of faith need to do when we hear and see and experience these moments of disbelief, sadness, shock, anger, and the like, is we need to remind ourselves… “The harvest is plentiful.” “The harvest is plentiful.”
We need to remind ourselves that among the reasons there is so much of what there is so much of—pain, sorrow, suffering, evil, searching, seeking—is because those who are harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd…those who are scattered and have become food for the wild animals have not yet come to know and experience the Good News of Jesus Christ. Or, they see a distorted, twisted, perverted, and unfaithful perspective of such which is labeled “good news”, but is anything but.
So what are we to do? We do as Jesus showed us. We remember our approach to the Gospel. We remember “The harvest is plentiful.” We remember the laborers are few. And we remember to ask the God of the harvest to send us out, as laborers, into the harvest.
And that’s what we are talking about at our Church Chats. How can we make a difference…How can we move the needle a little more toward the Kingdom of God?
Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Kanas City—a sizeable United Methodist church—tells a story of a challenge he made to his congregation.
He asked them to make a pledge to do 100 intentional acts of kindness a year—that’s just once every three days. Do something that would be an act of blessings, kindness, compassion, and love.
Now he wasn’t talking about opening the door for someone, but rather acts that could reveal and share witness to their faith in Jesus in subtle but tangible ways.
He went on to explain there were over 11,000 people in worship that Sunday, times 100, equaled out to more than one million acts of Christ centered kindness, compassion, and love.
Now that’s a big number. But Kanas City is a big place.
We here at First Christian Church see between 100-120 people in worship.
If we each committed to doing—over the next year— 100 acts of Christ centered kindness, compassion and love, that would be (in the ball park of) 12,000 acts of Christ centered kindness, compassion, and love that our community of Stow and Summit County would receive.
Do you think 12,000 intentional acts of Christ centered kindness, compassion, and love might move the needle a little bit?
Do you think we might have an impact?
Do you think we might reveal to someone who is harassed and helpless—like a sheep without a shepherd—a glimpse of what they are looking for?
Do you think someone who is seeking, searching, and lost—someone who has been thrown to the wild animals—might be found?
This is how the Church will be relevant again.
This is how the Church will reach 21st Century people who no longer connect with the way the Church has been.
This is how the Good News of Jesus Christ gets shared today.
Today, right after second service, in Fellowship Hall, with refreshments being served, we are going to have, just until noon, another “Church Chat.”
I hope you will take the time, if you haven’t already, to attend this chat, so that we as a church can further move the needle toward the Kingdom of God
Because we can do this.
The harvest, as Jesus says, is plentiful. Yes, the laborers are few, and that can be intimidating. But when we come together and remember our approach to the Gospel, unify ourselves within God’s vision to share the Gospel, and work to search for, and seek out, the lost we will see that our many hands will make light work of the call and mission of spreading and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Amen.