In September and October, I spoke several places and shared what we do here at Life Center. It was received enthusiastically everywhere I shared it. Then I thought, “When was the last time I shared this with everyone at Life Center?” and realized it had been too long.
So this Sunday and next, I want to talk with you about Our Big Deal. We have a clear mission as a church, and a very clear strategy to achieve it. It’s Our Big Deal—and I want you to know it and own it and live it.
Love, Win, Grow, Send.
Love—Love God with all you’ve got and love people.
Win—Win those we love to Christ.
Grow—Grow to become whole-hearted followers of Christ.
Send—Send out every Christian and send out new churches.
These four purposes guide everything we do. They are Our Big Deal. They are summed up in our mission statement:
The Big Idea: Our mission is to honor God by helping people become whole-hearted followers of Jesus.
This Sunday and next, I want to talk with you about the Win and Grow purposes. Why do we try to win people to Jesus? And how do we do it?
Why do we try to win people to Jesus? Let’s look at the Great Commission. It’s the mission that Jesus gave us.
Matthew 28:18-20 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What is the mission? To make disciples of all nations. There are four verbs in the Great Commission: go, make disciples, teach, and baptize. Only one of them is imperative: make disciples. That is the main verb. The others are participles, which means that they modify or describe the main verb. Literally, it reads, “When you go, as you’re going, in all your going, make disciples, teaching them and baptizing them.” When you go, wherever you go, you are on a mission: you make disciples.
What does it mean to make disciples? We might draw it this way.
Draw a line; at the left end, write your name; at the right end, right “God”. I used “Joe” because that’s my name—it’s a good name—you can use it if you don’t like yours. This line represents our journey to God; in reality, the line isn’t straight—most of us wander around—but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just use a straight line. We start out over here far from God; we want to end up over here, close to God, fully devoted to Christ – a disciple. Right in the middle we’ll put a cross. That represents conversion, when we believe in Jesus, we’re born-again, become a Christian. From here (left edge) to the cross is evangelism – the process of introducing someone to Christ. We call this “win”. From the cross to here (right edge) is edification – the process of helping someone grow to maturity in Christ, to full devotion. We call this “grow”. Win people to Jesus and help them grow to become all God wants: this is disciple-making. We help people we love find and follow Jesus. We help people move from lost to found to follower. This is the Great Commission – this is our mission.
Why do we do this? Why do we try to persuade people to believe in Jesus and follow Him? Why don’t we just live and let live? Why is this Our Big Deal?
Well, first, Jesus commands us to do it. As we just read, He made this the church’s mission: make disciples of all nations. So He commands it; but why did He command this? Why is it so important to help others find and follow Jesus?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Without Jesus, people are perishing, but with Him we have eternal life.
ILL: If you were walking and saw a house on fire, and the family inside eating dinner, blissfully unaware, what would you do? You’d bang on the door and tell them to get out! Why would you do that? It’s the right thing to do—otherwise, they’ll die! You’re not doing it because you think you are better than them—that has nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of life and death.
Or if you hear a friend has a potentially fatal illness, and you know of a cure, what would you do? Tell them—you would try to persuade them to take the cure. Why? You love them and don’t want them to die. You’re not doing it from a sense of superiority, but love.
This is why we try to persuade people to follow Jesus. There is a cure for our brokenness; there is a remedy for our alienation from God; there is hope. It’s good news, and we don’t share it from a sense of superiority—we’re better than you—we share it with love, and with wonder. Someone said that evangelism is one beggar telling another where to get bread. If people were starving and you knew where to get bread, would you tell them? Of course! That is why we tell others about Jesus. God has done something to heal our brokenness and give us eternal life. This is the good news: you are more broken than you ever imagined, and you are more loved than you ever dreamed.
So that is why we try to persuade people to find and follow Jesus. But how do we do it?
We have tried a lot of ways to reach people for Jesus, and we found one that consistently works. It’s a very simple three-step process and here’s the really cool thing: it’s in the Bible!
John 1:40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andres did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Look at the verbs.
Andrew found Peter, and he told him about Jesus, and then brought him to Christ.
Later in the chapter, Philip found Nathanael, told him about Jesus, and brought him to Christ.
In John 4, a woman met Jesus by a well. The first thing she did was go back to town, find her neighbors, tell them about Jesus and bring them to introduce them to Jesus.
In Mark 5, Jesus freed a man from a legion of demons. When the man asked to go with Jesus, Jesus told him, “Go home to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you.” So the man did—but he not only told his family; he told everyone he knew in his region. The next time Jesus came to that region (Mark 7-8), crowds were waiting to welcome Him because they had heard this man’s story. He had found people he loved, told them about Jesus, and brought them to Christ.
In each of these stories, when someone met Jesus they immediately found someone they knew, told them their good news, and brought them to Jesus. Find, tell, bring. It’s relational evangelism or friendship evangelism. Let’s look at each step.
1. Find someone you love.
Andrew found his brother Peter; Philip found his friend Nathanael; the woman went back to town and found her neighbors. Brother—friend—neighbor. The first thing each person did after meeting Jesus was find someone he or she loved. They reached back into their existing network of relationships.
The first thing to realize about our pre-Christian neighbors is that they probably won’t be won without a relationship! Ninety percent of the people who come to Christ do so through the influence of a trusted friend or family member. Intrusive measures rarely work.
ILL: Mormon missionaries vs. best friend on Saturday morning. How do you feel? Intrusive measures rarely work.
So, once we’ve met Jesus, we want to find friends who haven’t so that we can introduce them. For new Christians, that’s not hard at all. New believers are often best at this because they still have lots of non-Christian friends and family to find.
But for those of us who have been Christians for two years or longer, we may not have many pre-Christian friends. That is why it is so important for all of us veteran Christians to make this a conscious step, to be intentional about building authentic relationships with unbelieving people. Otherwise, we end up isolated from our world, cocooned in safe relationships with other Christians, insulated from the lost people that Jesus is seeking and wants us to find! Who are your unbelieving friends? What pre-Christian people are you intentionally building relationships with?
ILL: For many years, I built friendships with people at my kids’ schools. Laina and I sat through hundreds of football and basketball games, and track meets. We made friends with other parents. One of them, a friend named Jon, starting coming to church with us. One Sunday when we were baptizing people, he came up and asked me to baptize him—it’s one of my most cherished memories. Later, he sent me an email:
I can’t tell you how special it made me feel to know that I had been on your love list for over a year. I only hope that as I mature as a Christian, that one day I may lead one or more friends to Christ, as you (and Laina and Michael and Kathy and Andrew) have lead me.
Thank you again so much for all that you have done.
Hang out with pre-Christian people!
ILL: Luis Palau said, “The church is like manure. Pile it up, and it stinks up the neighborhood; spread it out, and it enriches the world.”
So, we’ve got to spread out and intentionally build relationships with lost people.
We make a Love List—a list of friends and family who need Christ and we are praying for. Would you make a Love List right now? Write down the names of 4-6 friends, family members, neighbors, or acquaintances that you will pray for. And then tuck that in your Bible as a reminder to pray for them every day.
Make time in your life for pre-Christian people. Find and love them. Love them till they ask you why! I can’t emphasize too strongly how important this first step is! It all begins with a relationship. Love them until they ask you why, and then…
2. Tell what you know.
Andrew found Peter and told him about Jesus. Philip found Nathanael and told him about Jesus. The woman found her neighbors and told them about Jesus. When you’ve loved someone, when you’ve been a friend, you’ve won the right to be heard. They’ll listen. So you tell them the good news.
The word “gospel” is the word Christians use to describe the message of Jesus. It means good news. Good news demands to be told. It’s not hard to share good news – it’s hard to keep it in!
ILL: In January, my daughter Sally will give birth to her second child—our sixth grandchild. Laina will be there with her, and as soon as the baby comes, what will Laina do? She will call, text, email, Facebook, and Instagram pretty much everyone in the known universe. Why? Because it is good news: we have another granddaughter! (Sally and Toby think this is about them, but we’ll make it all about us!)
Will anyone force Laina to do this? Will the nurse hold up a scalpel and say, “Don’t make me use this.” Of course not! Laina will be excited to tell everyone. Good news is easy to share!
There is a difference between advice and news. If I give you advice, I am telling you what you ought to do. If I tell you news, I tell you what has happened, what has already been done. Sometimes we mistakenly reduce Christianity to advice. We make it about us, and what we must do to satisfy God. But Christianity isn’t advice; it’s good news—and the news is about what God has done for us in Jesus.
ILL: When we were in Kenya, Kaleb and I were talking with a group of high school boys. Their teacher made a comment about religion, so I asked the boys, “Do you know the difference between religion and the gospel?” I explained that religion puts the emphasis on what we do for God; we spell religion D-O. The gospel puts the emphasis on what God has done for us in Christ; we spell the gospel D-O-N-E. One is advice, telling us what to do; the other is good news, telling us what has been done for us.
The good news is what God has done for us in Christ. On Friday, we read this in our Bible reading plan:
2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (NLT)
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
This is just one example of the gospel, what God has done for us:
He has made us new persons and given us a new life.
He has brought us back to Himself.
He has reconciled the world to Himself.
He has made us right with Himself.
Have you ever had a broken relationship with someone? Isn’t it wonderful when it finally gets fixed—when the wrongs are forgiven, when the hurt is healed, when the hatred ends and you are friends again. This is what God did for us through Christ.
We get to tell people this good news. You are forgiven. God has done it! God has reconciled you to Himself—the war is over. You can stop fighting!
ILL: Shoichi Yokoi was a Japanese soldier stationed on Guam in World War 2. As the war drew to a close, fearing capture by American forces, he ran into the jungle and hid in a cave. He learned later that the war was over by reading one of the leaflets dropped into the jungle by American planes, but he feared it was only propaganda and that he would be captured and tortured. So he remained in his cave—for 28 years. For 28 years he came out only at night. For 28 years, he existed on frogs, rats, roaches and mangoes. After 28 years of hiding in fear, some hunters discovered him on January 24, 1972, and convinced him that the war was over. It was safe to come out; he could go home—and he did.
This is the good news we get to tell people. “The war is over; God has made peace. He won’t harm you; in fact, He wants to be your friend.“ It is the best news in the world and it’s not hard to tell.
At some point in the friendship, you’ll get a chance to say something about Jesus. Tell them what you know. Tell them the good news of what God has done for us in Christ.
One thing you know is what happened to you. I like the story of the blind man in John 9. When he was asked theological questions he couldn’t answer, he said, “I don’t know about that, but one thing I do know: I was blind, but now I see.” He knew what happened to him. Tell people your story. Tell them what has God done for you. Here’s an assignment: write a 3-minute version of your story built around this model: “I was…but now I am”. Email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the new year, we are going to talk more about God’s story and our story, and we may use yours!
One of my favorite ways to engage people is to ask, “Tell me your story.” I love to hear people’s stories and get to know them. Often, they’ll ask for my story—and my story includes Jesus changing my life. If you have a 3-minute version of that, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll get to share it!
Find someone you love.
Tell them what you know.
3. Bring them to church
Andrew found Peter, told him about Jesus and brought him to Jesus. Philip found Nathanael, told him about Jesus and brought him to Jesus. The woman found her neighbors, told them about Jesus and brought them to Jesus.
You’re thinking, “How do I do that?” Bring them to church—or to your Life Group.
Now, how many of you have ever thought that church was the last place on the planet you would want to take a seeking friend who needed Jesus? Have you ever brought a friend to church and winced through the whole service?
Church looks very different when you have a seeking friend at your elbow. Brother Bob plays the piano like he has mittens on. Sister Susie sings off key and forgets the words to the song. And Pastor Joe – holy smokes – Pastor Joe preaches some eternal sermon on the wheel in the middle of the wheel from Ezekiel 1, and no one understands it, not even him. Try to see your church through the eyes of your lost friends.
Most churches are designed completely for Christians. They are a culture unto themselves; they speak a different language, listen to different music, practice different customs. So guess what an outsider feels like? An outsider. “I don’t belong here.” When Jesus was on earth, irreligious people were attracted to Him and flocked around Him, but the church that represents Him today often repels those same people and makes them feel unwelcome and unwanted. That bothers me. If Jesus was the friend of sinners and made them feel welcomed and loved, the church should too.
ILL: Archbishop William Temple said the church is the only organization in the world that exists for people who aren’t in it.
I believe that! So we have intentionally designed our church to be a place where unconvinced people can come to find Jesus and feel welcomed and loved in the process. That’s why we do church on the weekends the way we do it.
We use contemporary music because our friends aren’t driving around listening to organs and hymns.
We use drama and video because our friends can relate to visual arts – it’s the culture we all live in.
We try not to speak Christianeze – just everyday language, because that’s what our friends speak.
We try to share clear messages that apply God’s truth to everyday life, so that you don’t listen for 40 minutes and walk away wondering “What did he say?” or worse yet, understanding what we said but thinking “So what?”
We work hard every weekend to offer a service that will challenge and nurture Christians, but will also be understood by those who aren’t. If we’re going to tell you to bring your seeking friends to church, then there’s got to be something good to bring them to! We want you to feel confident and enthusiastic about bringing your friends who need Jesus. We try to be a safe place to hear the dangerous message of Jesus.
But some might ask: Why bring them to church? Christianity is a team sport. We do it best together. No one can follow Jesus alone. When Jesus called people to follow Him, and they did, they immediately found themselves in company with other followers. No one followed alone—it was impossible. It is still impossible to be a Christian alone. It’s like saying, “I want to play football—but by myself.” It can’t be done.
If you lead someone to Christ and don’t connect them with other Christians, it’s like giving birth to a baby and abandoning it to survive on its own. Not good odds! What does a baby need more than anything? A family.
We’ve discovered that when people are connected to church while they are exploring the faith, when they decide to follow Jesus, they naturally do it with others. They are born-again into the family, not apart from it.
But what if your friend won’t come to church? Bring them to your Life Group. Include them in a circle of friends who are trying to follow Jesus. I want to challenge all our Life Groups to open your hearts and include seeking friends.
How many people in your circle of influence may be just one invitation away from eternal life?
Find, tell, bring. Find someone you love. Tell them what you know. Bring them to church.
ILL: I became a Christian when I was 13 because a 13 year-old boy named Don Lang had the courage to do find, tell, bring with me. Don sat next to me in science class. One Saturday morning, he came to my house and knocked on my door and invited me to a youth rally at his church that night. I went and met Jesus, and my whole life changed! I am living a new life because a 13 year-old boy won me by doing find, tell, bring.
If a 13 year-old junior high boy, can do this, I can do it. You can do it. We can do it.
Find, Tell, Bring. This is Our Big Deal. And we can do it.