Sermon Brainstorming

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
[Matthew 28:18-20]

This coming Sunday (June 11), I am preaching on the above stated passage; a passage that many of you know well. The following are my top ten thoughts thus far:

(1) Jesus has ALL authority, not just some or a lot. (See Daniel 7:13-14)
(2) Our obedience to the command to “Go” is based on the authority of the one giving the command. If I were to command you to show me your driver’s license, you might laugh at me, but if a police officer made that command after a traffic stop, you would comply.
(3) Jesus said “Go“, not “Stay and wait for people“.
(4) Make disciples, not members.
(5) We are to be about Kingdom building not kingdom building.
(6) Jesus said, “all nations“; all people, not just the ones you like and/or comfortable with.
(7) Discipleship making comes through proclaiming the Gospel not threats from the Law.
(8) Follow up from #7: People follow Jesus out of thankfulness and love, not fear of punishment.
(9) Once a follower, teach people what Jesus has commanded. No one and done; bang-them-over-the-head-and-leave evangelism.
(10) Does this sound overwhelming? No worries, Jesus will be with you always, to the end of the age.

As I said, these are the thoughts running around in my head and heart. A lot of sermons here so don’t worry, Living Word, I won’t dump this whole load on you at once 🙂

O.K., back to sermon prep…

The Pastor -|—

Avoid One and Done

I have discovered a proliferation of door to door sales people here in Washington as compared to rural Minnesota where I lived for 44 years. I’ve had people come by trying to sell me home security services, pest control and lawn services. I listen to their sales pitch but I tell them that I am not going to buy anything now but rather I want to do my own research. I want to get to know their company and what they are selling. I want to trust them before I make an investment. They usually don’t like this response as they want the sale now.

The same mentality is often seen among Christians. One presents the Gospel to someone and then wants to see the fruits of their efforts now. They want to make an instant “sale” and then move on; feeling good that their numbers are going up. This tactic, though, is rarely effective in the long term, especially for the one “buying the product”. One and done evangelism is often more damaging to the one being evangelized. It’s like selling someone a whatchamacallit without an owners manual.

Instead, we need to spend time with people and develop relationships with them.  We can’t have a “one and done” mentality. We need to invest in people, provide for any needs, be a guide and help them along the way as they grow in Christ. When you look at the early church in Acts, the apostles spent time in the towns in which they planted churches. They didn’t just preach and go. They weren’t one and done evangelists. They invested in people.

Door to door ministry can be effective, but only if a relationship eventually ensues. Leading people to Christ can be a time consuming thing but it is important work as we are called and commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples…”. Spend time with people and live out your faith. Show them Christ’s love through your words and deeds. Be a “little Jesus” to them. Walk with them and when the opportunity presents itself, tell them about Jesus. Basically, earn the right to be heard.

So all you door to door sales people, don’t expect me to buy what you’re selling until I get to know you. Make an investment in me and earn my trust. Not practical for you, I know, but for you, Christian, it is. It’s what Jesus and the apostles did. Follow him and walk AS Jesus did and don’t be a one and done evangelist.

The Pastor -|—

Making Disciples

As a church, what are you about?

A church strategy that focuses on getting people to come to you through flashy programs, big events, creative gimmicks or high energy worship technology misses the point of being the church. Jesus never said, “Go therefore and make members of all nations…“. Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make DISCIPLES of all nations…“.  The work of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus create Jesus-followers or better yet, those to walk/live/talk/act AS Jesus would. It is a command to live out loud in such a way that people see Jesus in you and thus give glory to God. The work of the church is “out there”, not in the safety of your four walls.

If, as a church, though, you are only focused on bringing in more people so you can cover your budget, you are nothing more than community-minded club. Following Jesus is not a club but a way of life. Following Jesus is messy. Following Jesus is joy in the midst of a messed up, sin-filled world.

As a church, ask yourself this question:
If we evangelize someone; sharing the Good News of Jesus with them, and they come to believe, will we still rejoice if they choose to worship elsewhere?

Think about that. If your answer is no then some soul searching needs to be done.
Why do you exist?
Who are you trying to glorify, yourself or God?
What’s more important, building your kingdom (building) or God’s Kingdom?

Sure, more than likely, if you help lead someone to Jesus, they will come and worship where you worship, but they may not. If they choose someplace else, then still praise God. Praise God they are part of the flock. Praise God they are worshiping him. Praise God that there is another disciple out there ready to do battle with the forces of evil. Praise God.

As I said, following Jesus is messy work but if you are unwilling to get messy, then you will miss the joy that is discipleship. Get out of your neat, safe and comfortable buildings. Hit the messy, dirt road; kicking up some dust along the way and getting dirty; knowing that you are already washed clean through the Holy Spirit.

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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
[Matthew 28:19-20]

Let’s get messy.

The Pastor -|—

Walking

Lord Jesus,
you have not called me to walk with you
but,
to walk as you would walk,
to live as you would live,
to love as you would love,
to forgive as you would forgive.

You have called me
to shine a light in this world,
to speak THE truth into darkness,
to live with abandon,
to trust with my whole life.
Lord Jesus,
you have given me an example,
you have shown me the Way,
you have promised me the Helper,
you have prepared a place for me.

Lord Jesus,
after all you have done,
after all you have said,
how is it that I could possibly be afraid?
How is it that I could possibly hold back?
How is it that I could possibly let a opportunity drift by?
How?

Lord Jesus,
increase my faith.
Draw me closer.
Show me more of you.
Make me more holy.

Lord Jesus,
you have called me.
May I walk by faith.
May I walk with boldness.

The Pastor -|—

To Follow

Holy God,
through Jesus Christ You call us to action,
as You call us to follow.
But road is not easy
and the task is daunting.
We are tempted to give up
or take shortcuts so not to offend people.

May we never do so.
May we always be faithful.

Grant us Your Spirit
that we may fix our gaze upon Jesus,
so much so,
that his glory is reflected in the world
through our faithfulness.
May our actions shed light
in a dark world
and
may our words speak peace and hope.

You call us to follow,
may we do so now without hesitation.
All praise, glory and honor
be unto You,
Creator God,
through Christ Jesus our Lord,

Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Sunday morning prayer – one more week

One more week…

…it’s hard to believe I am actually typing those words.  One more week until the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  Thirteen months of training will be tested to see if I have done enough.  Even though I have been training and talking about this for quiet sometime, part of me thought this date would never get here (if that makes any sense whatsoever).  One more week to go…

Starting this Thursday I will be taking some vacation time through Monday, Oct. 6 (I am thinking that on Monday I will be getting a nice massage).  On Friday or Saturday, Connie and I will be heading to my sister’s place in Apple Valley where my parents will also be going to join “Team Eric”.  I am so very thankful that I will have a cheering section there for me.  This will indeed be a source of strength for me.  Later this week I will publish a post that will have some more information on marathons, the Twin Cities marathon and how you can track my progress on line (if you are interested).  But basically I ask for your prayers as I finish the preparation stage and run this grueling test of human endurance.  Thank you for the encourage and support people have given me these past 13 months.

Let us pray…merciful Lord and gracious God, we pray that in our hearing we may hear the Word of truth and life. We ask that this word of truth and life you may strengthen us to serve as faithful disciples in your creation; that as we are encouraged and comforted by your tenderness and compassion we may show the same to others; having the same attitude of that of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord in whose name we pray, Amen.

Take care and God bless!

-edh-

God’s bare voice

"And this is the glory of faith, namely, not to know where you are going, what you are doing, what you are suffering, and, after taking everything captive — perception and understanding, strength and will — to follow the bare voice of God and to be led and driven rather than to drive." (From Luther’s commentary on Hebrews)

A friend of mine from seminary wanted to propose the preceding statement, from Luther’s commentary on Hebrews, as a tag line on seminary diplomas.  Given that the Gospel text for Sunday (5th Sunday after Pentecost) is about discipleship the preceding excerpt (which is taped to my computer monitor) serves as a great reminder to me of my call.  It is a scary thing to not know where you are going or what you are doing or what you are suffering.  We want to be in the know.  But when we can turn things over to Jesus the ride is always much more fun than with us at the wheel.  When it comes right down to it…we don’t know how to drive.

Dear God, help me to hear and listen to your "bare voice" so I may be led and driven. The journey is too treacherous for me to handle alone.  Please take control and drive.  Amen!

-edh-