May 22, 2005

Second Sunday after Pentecost

"Go"

(Matthew 28:16-20)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

This morning I'm going to use a word that some people say shouldn't be used in mixed company. Some say it should NEVER be used from the pulpit because it will run off any visitors you have. And still others say it is so repulsive a word that it should never be used at all.

I'm going to go out on a limb this morning and use that word. And I hope it doesn't offend your sensibilities too much. I'm talking about the "E" word. Evangelism.

I hope you'll forgive me if that offended you but that's what I think our passage this morning is all about. Let's look Matthew 18:16-20

[16] Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

[17] When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

[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] and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I think you can see why I think this passage is about the "E" word, can't you. There's that little imperative word: "GO" and then all of those words like, make, baptize, teach, obey that follow that sort of make it like military marching orders.

"GO" is such a simple word with a simple meaning. "Don't just stand there, do something." We use it to start races, "On your mark, get set, "GO." There's not a racer anywhere who hearing those words and hearing the starting pistol says: "Who, me?"

This morning I want to deal with the Who, Where, How and Why of the "E" word. the Who, Where, How and Why of the command to GO and make Disciples.


I. WHO:

A. The first is WHO? Unfortunately, most of us act like the out-of shape, overweight man who decided to take up tennis. He took lessons from a pro. He read several self-help books which advised him to "think positively" and "develop a winning attitude."

A friend asked him how his tennis was going. With a positive, winning attitude in his voice, the man replied, "When my opponent hits the ball to me, my brain immediately barks out a command to my body: 'Race up to the net.' Then, it says, 'Slam a blistering shot to a far corner of the court. Then immediately jump back into position and return the next volley to the other far corner of the court.' And then my body says, 'Who, me?'" (1)

I'd be willing to bet, if we could go back in time, that the first words out of the mouths of all the Disciples after Jesus spoke these words were the same: "Who, me?" You have to remember that the events of this passage actually took place before Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the question is still pertinent. "Who, me?"

B. And the answer, of course, is, "Yes, you." Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 says: "We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us."

"Who, me?" "Yes, you."

You because You are much better at it than either me or Leslie. You see, it's because it's part of my job. Most people expect me and Leslie and every other minister in the world to witness and do the "E" word thingy. You're sort of like secret agents. Most folks don't expect you to talk about your faith or be involved in this whole Evangelism deal. But you know what, you are exactly who Jesus would have chosen. Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors, and the every day ordinary kinds of people. He didn't have a single Pharisee, Sadduccee, Priest or Levite on his staff. It was all run by the laity. And after Pentecost their ministry exploded.

William Willimon said: "In baptism we are initiated, crowned, chosen, embraced, washed, adopted, gifted, reborn, killed, and thereby sent forth and redeemed. We are identified as one of God's own, then assigned our place and our job within the kingdom of God." (2)

So you see, it is all about You telling all about Him. "GO!"


II. WHERE:

That leads us right into the next question: "WHERE?" Well, the operative word in the passage is: "GO" remember. If we don't "GO" somewhere we'll wind up getting Nowhere.

Did you know all the research about people who join the church say that 75-80% of them were brought into the church by their friends and personal acquaintances. Only 9% were brought by pastors and only 2% by Sunday school teachers.

I don't want to make light of our Seminary Degrees, I know how hard Leslie and I both worked to get them. But the power of the laity, the power of friends and friendship is much more valuable than any number of degrees that we could have.

In the book, The Greatest Salesman Who ever Was, the author says the average person knows about 250 people, some more, some less, but about 250. (3) That means if each of you brought just one person to worship, and that person became an active faithful member of this congregation, we would double our worship attendance. We'd have to start new worship services, new classes, new ministries, possibly begin the plans for the next phase and potentially wind up never having to mention financial struggles ever again.

When Jesus said: "Go into all the world" He was calling each of you to be a missionary as well as an ambassador. Some of you may answer the call to be an overseas missionary. For most, the call to be a missionary is a call into the mission field of your world. The world or people you know and like and who know and like you. The world of your family. The world of your friends. "GO!"


III. HOW:

Then there's the "HOW?" Have you seen the Staples Office Supply Commercials with the Easy Button? Don't you wish we had one of those when it came to Evangelism? Knock on someone's door and push the easy button.

In a sense, we do. Because the "HOW?" is really pretty simple. The first thing we do is trust the Spirit of the Risen Christ. And trust the Holy Spirit. And trust the miracle of God who works in our lives in such a way that our lives are transformed into an invitation to a relationship with God through Christ.

You see, we can't force or make anyone be a disciple of Jesus. But we CAN pray for them. And in that prayer we can ask God to enter their lives in such a way that Jesus becomes real and their relationship with God grows deep. And then ask God for the right words and the power of God's Spirit to speak them when the opportunity arises.

We can engage in conversation about their faith and their relationship with God in a non condemning manner. We can encourage. We can invite. We can offer counsel. But we leave the hard work, the heart work, up to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You see, we are not on some sort of spiritual mugging mission.

Rebecca Pippert, the author of Out of the Salt Shaker: Into the World, tells of a time she was sitting in her car at a traffic light with her window rolled down. As the light turned green a car drove by and it's occupant threw something into her car hitting her on the cheek. It didn't hurt but she was so startled that she pulled over immediately. When she unrolled the paper, she discovered it was a gospel tract. She says she was the apparent victim of what she refers to as "torpedo evangelism."

I'm sure the torpedoer meant well. At least I hope so, but they did the wrong thing for the right reason in the wrong way.

The "HOW?" is simple. Pray. Listen. Love. Live your faith. And be ready to "GO" when the start signal comes. Be ready to tell others in your world of influence "Why" it's important to you.


IV. WHY:

A. And that brings us to the final question: "WHY?" William Temple once said: "The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers." (4)

Now the obvious answer to the "WHY?" Question is simple: "Because Jesus said so."

But I don't find that very compelling. Probably even less compelling than when we tell our kids "Because I said so." Oh, there is that whole obedience thing. We can't overlook that. But the most compelling reason is because of what Jesus has done in our lives.

We want others to know and experience the love of God which we've experienced. We want others to experience the same forgiveness and new life we've experienced through Christ's death and resurrection, that we have.

B. And here's another reason "WHY?" (Show clip: "That's My King") Listen to the words of Dr. S.M. Lockridge's brief sermon.

The Bible says My King is the King of the Jews. He's the King of Israel. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of Heaven. He's the King of glory. He's the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that's my King. Well, I wonder do you know Him?

My King is a Sovereign King. No means of measure can define His limitless love. He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. Do you know Him?

He's the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world. He's God's Son. He's the sinner's Savior. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's the loftiest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He's the only one qualified to be an all sufficient Savior. I wonder if you know Him today.

He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's strengthens and sustains. He guards and he guides. He heals the sick. He cleansed the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meager. I wonder if you know Him?

He's the key to knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. Do you know Him?

Well, His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you.

He's indescribable. He's incomprehensible. He's invincible. He's irresistible. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hand. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him.

Well, Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilot couldn't find any fault in Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. Yeah, that's my King. That's my King.

There's now way I could be as compelling or do justice to Dr. S.M. Lockridge's sermon. But now you know not only the "WHY?" But the "WHAT?" as well.


CONCLUSION:

Most of us don't like the word Evangelism, but that is our primary mission. That's what Jesus meant when he said:

[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] and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

We have to "GO!" That's part of being a Disciple. But we're called to remember that we don't go alone. God is with us. Christ is with us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And we need to remember that we don't have a communicable disease, we have a communicable cure for sin, loneliness, low self esteem, lack of purpose, lack of direction and guilt. And what we want to do is infect everyone we meet.

So, be upset with me if you want to be about my use of the "E" word. But Evangelism is our purpose. You can get all over me for using that word, I don't care, as long as you "GO" and "DO" what Jesus said.

It's time to "GO!"

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. www.deconsil.com

2. William Willimon. Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 4.

3. Edward F. Markquart, www.sermonsfromseattle.com

4. William Temple, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.

Other References Consulted

www.SermonWriter.com (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000)

www.SermonMall.com

www.deaconsil.com

www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermon.html (Richard Fairchild Lectionary Resources)

Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)

Lectionary Homiletics, (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc. Midlothian, VA)

Dynamic Preaching, (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN)

The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)

Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)

The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)

The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)

Lectionary Preaching Workbook, Cycle A, (CSS Publishing, Lima, OH, 2002) SermonPrep Version.

Preaching the Miracles, (CSS Publishing, Lima, OH, 1998) SermonPrep Version.

Preaching the Parables, Cycle A, (CSS Publishing, Lima, OH, 1997) SermonPrep Version.