Sunday, February 10, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer
#1—Serving our city
Video: Blues Brothers clip.
I’ll come out after the clip in costume and say, “We’re on a mission from God.”
Jake and Elwood were on a mission from God to save their Catholic orphanage (St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud) from foreclosure. And I’m on a mission from God today: to convince you that you are on a mission from God too. Every Christian is a missionary—God has sent you right where you are to do His work: to make disciples and to do good.
That’s what we’re going talk about. Let’s pray.
What is your mission field?
Introduction and offering
We are on a mission from God! And I’m going to tell you about it! (Toss hat, coat and sunglasses.)
Last Sunday I told you the Big Story of the Bible in four parts. Do you remember the four parts?
God sends us.
For the next three weeks, I want to talk with you about that last part: God sends us. Your story is part of God’s Big Story. When you become a follower of Jesus, God sends you into a broken world as His agent.
John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
These are Jesus’ words to His disciples after the resurrection. It is John’s version of the Great Commission. We are sent by Jesus to carry on His work. I want you to hear these words today as though Jesus was speaking them directly to you:
John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Where is He sending us? He is sending us into our world—here, near and far. Here in our city, near (our region, state and nation) and far (to the ends of the earth).
What are we to do? He is sending us to do His work, which includes making disciples and doing good. Today, we’re going to start with doing God’s work here:
The Big Idea: God is sending you into our city to make disciples and do good.
1. Why? The theology for serving our city.
Before we get to the practical stuff—the how-to—we should start with the God-reasons for doing it. Let’s begin by seeing what the Bible says about each of us being sent by God to serve our city.
Jeremiah was a prophet who spoke for God before and during Judah’s exile in Babylon (around 600 BC). After the Jews had been taken into exile in Babylon, there were false prophets telling the people they would be going home soon. But God had already said it would be 70 years. So Jeremiah wrote the exiles a letter (Jer. 29) and told them:
Jeremiah 29:5-6 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.”
What is he saying? He is saying, “Settle in—you are going to be there for 70 years.” And then this:
Jeremiah 29:7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
They are living in a foreign land, in the midst of a foreign culture, with a foreign language. The temptation would be to keep to themselves, to form an enclave and only look out for themselves. But God forbids this and tells them to become part of the city where they are planted, and to work for the peace and prosperity of that city.
It’s possible for Christians to live in an enclave—a Christian bubble—and not engage the city where they live. We can develop a fortress mentality, and we live inside the safety of the church and Christian relationships. God is a sending God. He won’t let us stay in the bubble; He sends us into our city to work for its peace and prosperity.
God is a sending God, and…
A. Every Christian is a missionary.
Our English words “mission” or “missionary” come from a Latin word that means, “to send.” A missionary is a sent one. God is a sending God. He sent Jesus into the world to rescue us. In the gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as the one “sent from the Father”, and to the Father as “the One who sent Me.” He does this 40 times. God sent Jesus, and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower us, and then He sends us into the world. God is a sending God. And so every Christian is a sent one—a missionary. We are on a mission from God!
Luke 10:2–3 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Here is a prayer that Jesus asked His disciples to pray. Ask God to send out workers into His harvest field. Do you ever wonder what to pray? Well, here is something that Jesus told us to pray. I think we should pray this often. But look what happens! Jesus tells them to ask God to send out workers, and then tells them to go and He sends them! They become the answer to their own prayer! I think that’s what God intends for each of us. We pray for God to send workers and He sends us! It is like Isaiah’s experience when God called him.
Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
“God, send workers! Here am I. Send me.”
God is a sending God, and every Christian is a missionary—a sent one. Where is God sending you? Here, near and far…but it starts here.
ILL: When I was in high school, there was a discussion one day in our youth group about becoming missionaries somewhere in the world. I was a trouble-maker, so I asked one of my fellow students who was talking about becoming a missionary, “When was the last time you shared Jesus with someone at school?” No response. “Why should God send you to Africa if you won’t walk across the room at school and share with your friends?”
It’s got to start here! He sends us everywhere, here, near and far; but it starts here.
You are a missionary to your family.
You are a missionary to your neighborhood.
You are a missionary to your school.
You are a missionary on your job.
You are a missionary at your gym.
You are a missionary in our city.
Each of us is sent by God right where we are to do God’s work. So, what is that work?
B. We are sent to make disciples.
Our first calling is to make disciples. We help people find and follow Jesus. We are to share the good news of Jesus with everyone everywhere.
Matthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “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.” (Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8)
This is called the Great Commission—it is our mission, what Jesus sends us to do. Wherever we go, we are to make disciples of all nations. This good news is for everyone everywhere. We are sent to help people find and follow Jesus.
The verses from Acts show that it wasn’t just the church leaders who made disciples everywhere—it was all the believers.
Acts 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
The apostles stayed, the believers were scattered and “preached the word wherever they went.” Making disciples isn’t just my work; it’s our work. Every Christian is a missionary—right where you are!
We are sent to make disciples, and…
C. We are sent to do good.
I’ve listed lots of verses—we’ll look at just two.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Jesus told His disciples that they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are to let our light shine before men—in other words, live out our faith in Jesus by doing good for others. One of Benjamin Franklin’s maxims was, “The surest way to glorify God is to do good for people.” That’s similar to what Jesus says here. When we do good for others because of Jesus, people will praise God.
When Christians do bad, God gets a bad rep. When we do good, He gets a good rep. Let’s do good! There is a reason so many people say, “Jesus, yes. Church, no.” Or, “I love Jesus; it’s His followers I can’t stand.” Jesus did good for people. We should too! He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and helped the poor. And He clearly expected His followers to do the same.
Matthew 25:34-40 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
I’ve listed lots of other verses.
We don’t do good to earn God’s favor; we do good because we’ve freely received God’s favor. We do good because it’s the right thing to do. We do good to help people find and follow Jesus.
Please note: it is not one or the other—making disciples or doing good. It is both. The gospel is shared in word and deed. We tell the good news. And we must be the good news.
ILL: How many remember Show and Tell in grade school? One time in the fourth grade, I got in trouble because I took this picture to Show and Tell. Hell froze over. I thought it was funny. My teacher thought it was inappropriate. Aren’t you glad I got saved?
Show and tell. That’s what we do. We show the gospel by doing good; and we tell the gospel. The gospel is shared in word and deed.
Every Christian is a missionary sent to make disciples and do good. Let’s get practical. I want to focus on the doing good part.
2. How? The practice of serving our city.
I believe that God has strategically spread us all over the city. Christians are in every sphere of life, every school, every business and agency, every neighborhood. God placed you there to represent Him—right where you are. The biggest mistake we could make is to take you away from where God planted you!
Most Christians won’t find their primary ministry in the church but in the community. Every Christian is a missionary. God has sent you right where you are. Bloom where you’re planted! Make disciples and do good right where you are: in your home, your neighborhood, your school, your job, your community.
On Tuesday, we sent out an all-church email (if you didn’t receive it, but wish you would have, give us your email address.) I asked you what you were doing in the community. And I received over 100 responses. I read every one of them—it took hours, but they were very inspiring, and I wish I could read them all to you! I can’t—but you can read them on our website. If you ever think, “I don’t know where to serve,” this will give you 100 ideas! So I am going to share a few with you as examples of serving right where you are.
Serve right where you are.
I coach my son’s Upwards Basketball Team. I have never coached before. I’m pretty sure I checked the box unintentionally. I have had a great time doing it; it has been an absolute blessing. (We have a lot of coaches!)
I have started a Bible Study on Friday morning at Spokane Community College. I feel that my role is to encourage and share the love of our Lord with those who need it. I started this to deepen my relationship with the Lord but in the process I have the opportunity get give others some insight in how to have a deeper relationship with God.
After “The Hole in Our Gospel,” I sought to expand my faith outside myself. For the last 2 years I have been a volunteer with Global Neighborhood, a Christian refugee relief agency. I was placed with a Bhutanese family of Nepali origin. They had been living in a refugee camp in Nepal for 19 years when they finally were allowed to resettle in the United States. The family is large — a grandmother, parents, three sons, a daughter-in-law, and two babies. They are Hindu. Although there have been some culturally uncomfortable moments, I have grown to love these kind, hardworking, generous people. They have opened their home and hearts to me and I have been able to help them make the difficult transition into a vastly different culture. Global Neighborhood actually needs lots more volunteers to work with our refugee community.
We moved here from the Seattle area a little over 3 years ago! We had lived on 10 acres of property but spent so much time maintaining it that when we moved here we intentionally decided we should be spending our time helping to build God’s kingdom! So we built a house in a neighborhood & have spent the last few years serving & building relationships with our neighbors! We have annual barbecues, pancake breakfasts, and have now have a neighbor coming to our Life Group! My husband snow blows, we babysit, we mow, and serve our neighbors any way we can! One of the greatest blessings is that God has changed our desires & preferences to be his: to put people above everything and to love unconditionally!!
Our family tries to stay involved with our community and help others as much as we are able. My husband has a guitar repair business and has a ministry of sorts where he does not charge worship team members from local churches for repairs if they can’t afford it. And he gives them the parts at his cost. He also has given away several guitars that he has fixed up to those who could not afford to purchase an instrument but wanted to learn to play. Sometimes as a family we volunteer at City Gate Saturday mornings to feed the homeless. I have a jewelry business where 50% of my sales each month are donated to local and national non-profits and charities. I volunteer at the Spokane Veterans Home most Saturday mornings. I volunteer as a baker for Free Cakes for Kids Spokane. It’s an organization where we bake and deliver Birthday cakes to kiddos who might not get a cake otherwise. We love giving of ourselves as well as financially when we can. It’s like we are driven to do it!
I have a ministry to elderly people who have lost their partners. I keep a list of their anniversaries, their deceased partners birthdays and their birthdays. I remember them on those days with cookies, a phone call, a card or a visit. I am now training my German Shepherd puppy to do this with me when we visit. This week it is making Valentine’s Day cookies. I dedicate Valentines Day to making visits and delivering cookies. It is a delightful and joyful day! The Lord allowed death to touch me young and often. It is out of this hole that God called me to love on people who have lost loved ones.
I have been going to Life Center off and on since I was around 10 years old. The last couple years have been really eye opening to me and I can feel my heart aching to learn more about Jesus and learning to put all my trust in him. It really began when I started volunteering and mentoring for a non-profit organization called Younglives. It is a Christian based organization that helps guide, love, support, feed, and tell the story of Jesus to teen moms. I was a teen mom and I know how hard it can be to move forward. I was determined to not become a statistic, went to college, worked full time and I graduated from the University of Washington. I have always asked myself and God what my purpose is here on earth and I now know: it is to be a person these girls can look up to, can go to with any problems they have and I will love them unconditionally. It has been one of the most heartfelt journeys in my life thus far and I look forward to a long future with them. I am now a part time employee for Younglives and continue to mentor teen moms. Their stories of life are so inspiring and I hope to bring some love and joy to their lives. To show them it is NOT the end of the road, that Jesus loves them and they can do whatever they want.
Another couple has partnered with my husband and I for the past several years to offer a Good News Club (after school Bible Club) at our kids’ elementary school. We serve around 90-100 kids, and offer snacks, worship, a Bible lesson, and small group discussion. It is a lot of work, and a ton of fun. We’ve seen many kids accept Jesus over the years.
This same friend runs the staff appreciation events at our elementary school. This is a huge undertaking, and she devotes a lot of hours to each event. I know it means a lot to the teachers and staff at Meadow Ridge; it makes them feel valued and honored. This couple are fabulous examples of what it looks like to be a Christian family in the public schools. They serve continually, in many different capacities, investing in children and teachers, and their family stands out. Jesus is so visible in their lives and in their relationships with others.
I teach a money management class at the Union Gospel Mission.
Our dear friends offered to rearrange their schedules in order to watch our twin grandkids two days a week, for free in order to keep the kids out of daycare (which is not recommended for premature babies and which their mother cannot afford)! In addition to watching the twins two days a week, this family regularly prays for our daughter and the kids. They often go above and beyond by making meals for them, bathing the kids, keeping them for a weekend (in order to give momma a break) and have given momma and the kids regular rides before they had transportation.
I wanted to tell you this story because I feel people often think if they are not volunteering at school, the church, a hospital or some official charity that they are not “serving”. You and I both know that is not the case. Our friends are the perfect example of people who are affecting the community in a quiet, small, but oh so important way each and every day. I would like people to recognize this quiet obedience as affecting the Kingdom eternally so that more people will see the importance of the “small” things they do everyday!
Three years ago in Oasis we were challenged to reach out into the community as a small group. Our small group reached out to the kids incarcerated at the Martin Hall Juvenile Detention center in Medical Lake. We make gift bags that include bibles, soap, candy, stuffed animal, puzzles and such. They are allowed only a limited amount of things so we make the same bags every year. This year was year three!!!!! The group of volunteers that goes with me each year is from the three ministry groups I mentioned above. This year we are feeling led to do more for them and I am currently working on getting approval for a group of us to go in and begin a Christ centered recovery bible study with them. We are hoping for clearance for this.
My family and I host two exchange students – one is from Japan and the other is from Kazakhstan. It has been an amazing experience!
I know that my husband would never share this so I’ll do it for him! He sells his blood plasma in order to afford to pay for a monthly meal for 50 underprivileged kids at Youth For Christ. Finances are really tight for our family and he figured out a way to give to the community without putting more strain on our budget.
I’ve been mentoring a 4th grader at Sheridan Elementary. She is a delight and we look forward to our time together each week. We play games, color or do puzzles all the while chatting about our lives. We have been supporting a few kids through World Vision and that is great but to actually sit down and have a relationship with this girl makes it all the more real.
The mentoring program at Sheridan is one of several community service partnerships we have at Life Center. You can find out more about it on our website at: lifecenter.net/local.
You’ll also find information about our Blue Collar Crew, a group of skilled laborers who assist disadvantaged members of Life Center in need of help. Video here.
You can find out more about that on our website: lifecenter.net/local.
I wish I had time to read all these stories; people are serving in our community is ways I’ll bet you never dreamed of! I’ll finish with this last story.
My husband and I are in your 75 age-group. We both visit some elderly. My husband and his buddy do lots of small remodel helps for those who can’t afford to pay. They give blood faithfully- help take food to some of the shelters, etc.
I pray. Because my heart doesn’t allow me to do things weekly to help, the Lord gave me an assignment. Pick out one or two people in the areas we sit in each week at church, introduce myself, ask a few questions, get their answers, and then let them know I will pray for them each day for the week. This helps me feel like a part of my church. By the way, one of them was a young father and he gave his life to the Lord when you gave the invitation. Awesome!
Every Christian is a missionary…doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 75! You’re not too young and you’re not too old!
Closing prayer: Lord, send out workers into Your harvest field.