Whose kid actually ends up going into the lemonade stand business? Youve seen them before; maybe your child tried it one afternoon. But there really are professional lemonade stands out there, so logic would dictate that some kid somewhere ended up going into the lemonade stand business full time.
He wanted to try it one hot summer afternoon after seeing some of the other kids in his neighborhood doing it, or maybe he saw one set up at a baseball park and thought, I could make a little on top of my allowance with this.
So he tries it out. Gets his dad to help him set up a rickety little stand. Hand paints a sign
Lemonade Fifty Cents. And after one successful day, he tries it again. And again. And again.
Then he gets invited to bring his lemonade stand to a middle school baseball game, he ups his price to two dollars a glass, and pretty soon hes got a lot of invitations to bring his lemonade stand to all kinds of events. Hes getting really busy, taking his lemonade stand all over town.
Sure, hes making a really nice profit. But now things are a lot busier, a lot more professional.
Its taking up more time than he expected. Hes got to make special orders on lemons, hes
having to keep track of all his expenses on a spreadsheet, and what started as a little hobby
has become a time consuming commitment.
And in that moment, he had to make a choice. Is this going to become a kind of career?
Is he going to hire a few employees to share the load? What will he choose? Some of you are thinking, Maybe I should go into the lemonade stand business. Others are thinking,
I wish that was my kid. My son doesn't even know what a spreadsheet is.
Whatever you're thinking, you understand that moment. There's a moment when we all have
to make a decision. Is this a hobby or is this a career? Is this for fun or for something more?
Am I trying this out or am I investing in it? Am I a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ?
Somehow you and I must decide if we really follow Christ and carry out His mission.
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him but some of them doubted!
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:17-20 NLT
It is the Great Commission. It was some of the last recorded words that Jesus spoke to His disciples. These are the words He wanted them to hear and take to heart. Unlike His first message known as the Sermon on the Mount, which was full of principles and rules to personally live by, His final words were missional and straight to the point. These are the words every Christian or Christfollower should hear and embrace.
There is a battle to be fought and that battle is for the heart of the mission of the church. For the last twenty years there has been a move by many churches to be relevant. While relevancy is a noble goal in some areas there are things about the church that will never be relevant nor should they be.
Os Guinness in his book, Prophetic Untimeliness, writes these words, How have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant? Rarely has the church seen so many of its leaders solemnly presenting the faith in public in so many weak, trite, foolish, disastrous, and even disloyal ways as today. How can we do better in a day that is hungry for a word from God?
Relevance is at the very heart of the gospel of Jesus and is the secret of the church's power down through history. In itself the good news of Jesus is utterly relevant or it is not the good news it claims to be.
The church is largely irrelevant to Western affairs at a supremely important moment. For today the forces of globalization unleashed by the West are simultaneously stimulating other civilizations (such as the Chinese, Indian, and Islamic) into life while undermining the authority of Western beliefs in the West itself.
By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant.
It is time to challenge the idol of relevance, to work out what it means to be faithful as well as relevant, and so to become truly relevant without ever ending up as trendy, trivial, and unfaithful.
A vital secret of the church's power and glory in history lies in its calling to be against the world, for the world. The Christian faith is simultaneously both world-affirming and world-denying. When the church is weak or careless in maintaining this dual stance, it leads directly to cowardice and corruption, decadence and decline. But when the church is faithful, it lies at the core of her power to transform and renew culture.
Of all the cultures the church has lived in, the modern world is the most powerful, the most pervasive, and the most pressurizing. And it has done more damage to Christian integrity and effectiveness than all the persecutors of the church in history. (51)
Few Christians are willing to think or live decisively not of it. (52) Evangelicals and fundamentalists have embraced the modern world with a passion unrivaled in history. (53)
In the new evangelicalism therapeutic self-concern overshadows knowing God, spirituality displaces theology, marketing triumphs over mission, concerns for power and relevance are more obvious than concern for piety and faithfulness, talk of reinventing the church has replaced prayer for revival, and the characteristic evangelical passion for the missionary enterprise is overpowered by the all-consuming drive to sustain the multiple business empires of the booming evangelical subculture.
I guess you need to know something about this message today. As the lead pastor of this church I feel very responsible for what I would call vision or mission creep.
Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. The term often implies a certain disapproval of newly adopted goals by the user of the term. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied to many different fields.
Mission creep happens in the church when we expand and keep adding complexity instead of keep it simple and focused on what Jesus clearly instructed the church to be and do. Let me sum it up for you simply.
This is what I want you to do: Go and make disciples, baptize them, teach them. . .
This is where you should go. Jesus said, You will be my witnesses in. . .
This is how you should fulfill my wishes. Wait until you are filled with power. . .
This message is about the church. More specifically it is about our church. It is my hope that this message serves as a reminder to all of us that we are called to a mission. We have been given a unique mission and we are daily seeking to define and fulfill that mission. Our goal is not to be like every other church in town. Our goal is not to be like the church you grew up in or the church you left to come here. Our goal is not to become acceptable to society by changing the message to become more compatible with the environment in which we live.
Our goal is not to be different but it is to be always seeking how to fulfill Christs mission in a rapidly changing culture without changing the message.
So let me come back to the verses I opened up this message with from Matthew 28.
Jesus came and told his disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
As a Christian my heart often is broken for the state of Christianity today. The majority of Christian churches in America are plateaued or dying. In the churches that are growing often we find a lack of spiritual growth or spiritual transformation. In other words, just because you have a crowd of people doesn't guarantee that they are growing spiritually.
The only way to be a Christfollower is to follow Him!
The only way to be a Christfollower is to be in a relationship with Him that is active daily. We are called to be followers of Jesus Christ. This means that we follow Him with our hearts, minds, souls and strength. It means that we seek to know Him by opening His word, studying what He had to say and apply it to our lives on a daily basis.
Jesus reminded His disciples that He had been given authority in heaven and on earth. He was and is the Son of God. He is not just a good man or a good teacher. Jesus Christ is not just one of many Messiahs. He is and was the Messiah sent to this earth to pay a price that all might know Him and be forgiven for their sins and that they might follow Him in a way that leads others to know Him.
There is someone we should know!
I need for all of you to listen up. Really think about your life for a moment and your priorities and how you are living and ask yourself, Do I really know Jesus Christ? Ask yourself a series of questions that will allow you to be honest about it.
Do I really know Jesus Christ?
Do I really serve Him every day?
Do I discover more about Him every day by reading and studying the Bible or am I more affected by the hours I spend watching TV.
Am I in a relationship with Jesus Christ? Is He changing my life in a way that is making me more like Him in what I say, what I do and who I am?
It is critical to the mission of the church that we start by having authentic followers of Jesus Christ.
When you are an authentic follower of Christ there is another step in the mission. Not only is there someone we must know but we have been given someplace to go.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism is the heart and soul of the church. It is the heart and soul of every authentic follower of Jesus Christ. I fear that we have become victims of our society and have gone to great lengths to avoid the responsibility we bear to share the good news of Jesus Christ around the world.
In America, an identifiable "American way of life" rules as an operational worldview for many persons -- perhaps even replacing more fundamental convictions."The American way" involves, among other things, patriotism, a sense of fair play, equality, personal autonomy, and limitless opportunity. We expect each other to respect these assumptions and ideals.
But, is God accountable to the American way?
Responding to a recent report from the Barna Research Group indicating that Americans Christians are increasingly unwilling to believe that their non-Christian neighbors are going to hell, Boston College sociologist Alan Wolfe explained:
"It's just part of a 200-year working out of ideas about personal autonomy and equality that are sort of built into the American experience. The notion that someone is going to burn in hell because they have their own beliefs is just not resonant within our larger political ideals."
Wolfe, who directs the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, suggests that Americans are confusing the American experience with the ways of God. Without doubt, assumptions about autonomy and equality "are sort of built into the American experience." These ideas are now just taken for granted. Americans generally assume themselves and their fellow citizens to be unconditionally autonomous, free to make and remake themselves in protean fashion, and thus the unfettered captains of their own souls.
Americans are not sure what to do with ideals of equality and fairness, but we are generally certain that equality and fairness are the right categories to employ, regardless of the idea or context.
People who think themselves autonomous will claim the right to define all meaning for themselves. Any truth claim they reject or resist is simply ruled out of bounds. We will make our own world of meaning and dare anyone to violate our autonomy.
The same research report indicates that a majority of American Christians pick and choose doctrines, more or less on the basis of those they like as opposed to those they dislike.
This certainly explains a great deal about the current shape of Christianity in American today. Specifically, it points to at least one fundamental reason that so many Christians -- including a significant number who claim to be evangelical -- no longer believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
That reason: Eternal punishment in hell is not consistent with "the American experience" or "the American way." The God of the Bible, in other words, does not act in ways consistent with what many people consider to be American ideals. Sending people to hell is just not fair.
The Bible never claims that God acts fairly, of course. Fairness is the best we mortals can often hope to achieve. We want our children to learn to play fairly and each child learns all too quickly to cry out, "Not fair!"
But God does not claim to be fair. The God of the Bible is infinitely greater than we are. He is faithful, just, holy, merciful, gracious, and righteous. A morally perfect being does not operate at the level of mere and faulty human fairness, but at the level of his own omnipotent righteousness. We hope to make things fair. God makes things right.
I think Alan Wolfe is on to something really important here, and Christians should think carefully about what he is saying. The Holy One of Israel, the ruler of all and the sovereign of universe, is now to be judged by his own sinful creatures by the standard of fairness. Doctrines ruled to be "unfair" are cast aside and overridden by our cherished cultural assumptions.
Evangelism is no longer considered politically correct by many church attenders. I alluded to this in last weeks message. We should be willing at all times to give a description of our faith. We should be living in a way that makes it possible to be a witness for Christ without having to be ashamed of our lifestyle or the way we are living our lives.
When you and I are walking in relationship with Jesus Christ, He will change us and make us available to share His message with the world around us.
I love Eugene Peterson's portrayal of 1 Peter 3: Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath.
There is somewhere we should go. . .Jesus said we would be His witnesses around the world.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
The church is to be about the mission of teaching what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is not the same as being a fan of Jesus Christ!
Having a fish on the back of your car or worship song ringtones don't necessarily make you a follower of Jesus Christ.
One pastor talked to a concerned father about his daughters decision to walk away from her faith, the father said something that struck the pastor and yet sounded all too familiar. The father said, We raised her in church but we didn't raise her in Christ."
Remember you and I have been called to teach others about Jesus Christ. To do that we ourselves must bear the responsibility to live consistent godly lives that are above reproach or that will stand up to the scrutiny of those looking on. I am not talking about being good at hiding our sins but being good at following Christ.
Earlier I mentioned the term mission creep. According to Keith Drury there is a bigger concern.
creep' is not the real problem for most churches. *Mission exchange* is
-- switching from an old mission to a new one. In the military it
happens simply when the commander in chief changes his mind and says so.
It happens in the church more gradually and imperceptibly. And it's
related to 'methods.'
"Methods' you say? 'Methods are simply the neutral means to accomplishing the mission.' 'If the mission is right, it doesn't matter which methods we use.' 'Methods are neither good nor bad, they merely are tools we use to get the mission accomplished.' These are the tenets of baby boomer methodological doctrine.
But methods may be more important than we think. Why? Because methods have a way of gradually displacing our mission. Today's 'methods' often become tomorrow's 'mission.'
Consider the YMCA, as an example. In its early years, 'the Y' had a simple and clear *mission* of evangelizing Young Men, utilizing the *method* of recreation. They were good at it, thanks to Dwight L. Moody and others. The method was genius. The mission was solid. What happened? Today, in many YMCA's (I know, not all of them) the *method* gradually has displaced the *mission,* so that the new mission is now 'recreation' not 'evangelism.' Yesterday's method became today's mission.
I am going to talk to you more about our mission and how we are to fulfill it next week but let me assure you that as long as I am the lead pastor of this church I will do everything I can possibly do to lead us to fulfill Christs mission.
I want us to watch a video that should be a bit sobering and thought provoking:
They defy logic and at times, good taste. They've performed together for 30 years; skewering the genre of magic, their sold-out audiences, and themselves -- very often all at the same time, within one mind-boggling evening.
They call themselves a couple of eccentric guys who have learned how to do a few cool things. Since first teaming up in 1975, when they combined Tellers silent, occasionally creepy, magic with Penns clown college education and juggling expertise, the two have created an entertainment success story that went from the streets to small clubs to national theater tours, and now to a current, multi-year engagement at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. We are not condoning their act or suggesting you spend your money to watch them. But I want you to watch a video of blog by one of these entertainers shot one evening after a show. It is a bit raw and not professionally done but the message is clear and should be a challenge for followers of Christ.
Reflective prayer: Lord, Is my life a reflection of you? Am I living in such a way that I have a witness for you? Is my life and life style above reproach and judgment or have I developed a tolerance for sin and learned to live with it. Let me be like You and live for You.
The Promise: And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.