How Important is Sharing Jesus’ Hope With Others to You?

SYATPLast night, I had a chance to speak to about 400 teenagers at a See You at the Pole Rally in Big Lake, MN. It was an awesome night. Dozens of students prayed to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. Many of those who prayed had been invited to the event by friends.

A recent study showed that the majority of churchgoers never invite their unchurched friends or family members to church.

In his book, The Unchurched Next DoorDr. Thom Ranier points out that:

  1. Most people come to church because of a personal invitation.
  2. 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.
  3. The top “rational” reason adults seldom or never attend church is they don’t agree with organized religion or what they preach (24 percent).

Unchurched Next Door Here are some other sobering statistics:

 

  • “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” –Dr. Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
  • “Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.” –Dr Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
  • “A study including more than 15,000 adults revealed that about two-thirds are willing to receive information about a local church from a family member and 56 percent from a friend or neighbor. The message is clear that the unchurched are open to conversations about church.” – Philip Nation, LifeWay Research
  • “Four percent of formerly churched adults are actively looking for a church to attend regularly (other than their previous church). Six percent would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended. The largest group, 62 percent, is not actively looking but is open to the idea of attending church regularly again.”–Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “Clearly we can encourage Christians to pray that the unchurched would sense God calling them back, but God works through His people.” “The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).” –Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “The issue of affinity also surfaced in the responses. Thirty–five percent indicated that they would be inspired to attend church ‘if I knew there were people like me there.’” –Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “Much to the surprise of the ‘Chicken Little’ crowd, people are still going to church. And more people would attend if given one simple thing—an invitation.” – Philip Nation, LifeWay Research

– See more at: http://backtochurch.com/participate/resources/statistics#sthash.sabFBbjf.dpuf

Do you know what Jesus encouraged the disciples to do about those who were outside of the family of God? To pray.

In Matthew 9:35-38 we read,

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds,he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

There is no question that we live in a day and age where the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to be his laborer. Jesus called His disciples to be people who make disciples. In His Great Commission, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commanded us to go into all the world to make disciples.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, Jesus told the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest. Later He commanded His disciples to be those laborers, promising His presence when they would obey. So, why aren’t we inviting others to join in the family of faith?

If 98% of those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus won’t invite someone to church this year, what does that say about us? What does that say about who we believe Jesus to be?

Some might argue, inviting someone to church isn’t the same thing as making disciples. I agree. But, a disciple who seeks after Christ, will seek time with God’s people. In Hebrews 10:25, the author of Hebrews spoke the the importance of gathering together with other believers.

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In part of a larger teaching on the doctrine of salvation, the Apostle Paul shares these convicting words in Romans 10,

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

You may worry about what your friend, co-worker, neighbor, family member, or stranger might say if you invite them to church. But, if faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, isn’t it worth the risk to invite them to place where the hope of the Gospel of Christ is shared on a regular basis? Don’t you want your acquaintances to come to place where they are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord?

Let’s commit together to be people who live the faith that we say that we believe. Let’s be people who believe that sharing Jesus’ hope with others is the most important thing that we can do this side of eternity.

Making disciples is a process that can only take place this side of heaven. 

CTStudd1Charles “C.T.” Studd, was born to a wealthy English home in 1860. His father, Edward, was converted under the preaching ministry of D. L. Moody. He too followed Christ, but not with passion. Jesus was low on his list of priorities. Studd became a phenomenal cricket player. He would represent England on the national team.

When Studd’s brother George became seriously ill, C. T. came face-to-face with the questions, “What is all the fame and flattery worth . . . when a man comes to face eternity?” He recognized that he had been living a carnal Christian life, he was a backslider, and he committed his life to serving God as a missionary. In coming to that decision he would express, “I know that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last but it was worthwhile for the world to come.”

So convinced was Studd of the need for people to know Christ, that even with the incredible challenges of travel in the late 1800’s and the early part of the 20th Century, Studd served in China, India, and the Congo. Studd and his wife Priscilla would start Worldwide Evangelism Crusade which included mission work in South America, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. What an impact this man and his precious wife made!

Today, Studd is best known for a poem he wrote about what really matters. It’s a poem that my Grandpa Ray, a pastor, used to share with his grandchildren, and it’s called Only One Life, ‘Twill Soon Be Past. This poem captures the essence of what this blog post is all about. Invest your life in what Jesus is calling you to invest in. Don’t waste your life!

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
– C.T Studd

Remnant Ministries produced this quality video of a call to action, from one of C. T. Studd’s sermons. Watch it and be inspired.

 

 

Yesterday

 skyYesterday 18 kids at Woodbury Community Church’s Sky Vacation Bible School program made a first-time commitment to Jesus Christ. This means that they heard the Gospel, understood what they heard, and prayed a prayer to God that acknowledged that they were sinners in need of God’s grace. They asked God for His forgiveness. They admitted that they believed that Jesus is who Jesus says that He is, and invited Him to rule their lives as Savior and Lord.
18 kids were rescued by the God of the universe, who in His great love and mercy sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross so that we might have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him.18 kids, who likely have so much life ahead of them made the most important decision of their lives.18 kids were justified by the Lord of the Universe. At the moment of salvation all of their sin was forgiven and they were seen as pure before God.18 kids began the process of sanctification. It is a process that will not be completed until they are in heaven someday. They began the process of being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

18 kids began to walk as disciples of Jesus. And, like the original disciples those 18 kids will have moments of doubt, failure, frustration, disillusionment, and despair. They will also see the faithful hand of God on their lives.

Will all 18 kids continue walking with Christ? I sure hope so. But, none of us know. I do know that the work of God began in their life long before yesterday, and it will continue long after tomorrow. So, I rejoice!

Do you realize how cool yesterday was?!

It was so cool that God rejoiced!

Luke 15:10 says, “10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

I used to think that verse meant that the angels were having a party in heaven. But, when read in it’s context it hints that the one rejoicing is God, Himself!

There will be some who will say, “You’re fooling yourselves. The majority of those kids will not stay faithful to the decision that they made yesterday.” Instead of asking how they can get involved in the continuing discipleship process of new followers of Christ, they will criticize.

Others will criticize and say, “It was never their decision to make. God chose them and what happened yesterday has nothing to do with them.” In their theological dogmatism they will miss out on the joy of what God has done and what He will continue to do in the lives of these kids.

Others will say, “Kids were manipulated into making emotional decisions for Christ through slick programming, emotionally charged lessons, and lots of fun.” These folks will probably always have issues with any method we use to join Christ on His mission of making disciples. As I write these words I’m listening to close to 100 kids singing their hearts out on the last day of Vacation Bible School. The words they are singing? “Anything is possible with God . . . Nothing is impossible . . . We will fly . . . We will soar . . . Trusting God and leaving our fears behind . . . We will fly.” Vacation Bible School isn’t manipulation, it is telling the truth of Jesus Christ in a culturally sensitive manner to a generation of kids. The Gospel is always culturally relevant. Vacation Bible School gives us a way to bring that message to kids who otherwise wouldn’t hear. This year 8 in 10 of the kids at Vacation Bible School are not from Woodbury Community Church. That excites me!

Some will say, “Kids can’t make important decisions. Their brains haven’t learned to think critically yet. They see everything in black and white.” It was as a four-year-old boy that I made the most important decision of my life. It was on Easter Sunday, 1974 that I trusted Jesus as my Savior. Were there days of doubt? You bet! Were there days of despair? Sure. Were there days of rebellion? There are still way too many of those. But, God has been with me every step of the way.

Yesterday, 18 kids trusted in God’s grace, receiving the gift of salvation offered to them through Christ Jesus!

It seems to me that much of what is written in the blogosphere today as it relates to the Bride of Christ is cynical. There are enough cynical people in the world today. Take some time today to rejoice at what God did in these kids. Take some time to rejoice in the fact that the story of God isn’t through yet! Take some time to rejoice that all over the world people today placed their faith in Jesus! And, ask yourself what part you are playing in the discipleship process of the next generation. Those 18 kids crossed the starting line yesterday, not the finish line. They will need our guidance as they walk through life.

God is growing his church around the world. I rejoice that He has chosen to allow Woodbury Community Church to experience His growth in recent years. There is no growth that brings more joy to my heart than the birth of new believers! May God continue to bless the spiritual nursery of His kingdom! And, may we all get involved in the mission of honoring God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ!