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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The year of outward connection

Andrew did it really well.  The Samaritan woman at the well was phenomenal at it. I know of many people in our church family who excel at it.  

What is  it?  Inviting people to come to Jesus.  Inviting friends and family to come to church.  

Do you know someone who doesn’t come to church?  I would suggest that we all do.  

William Temple has written, “The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers.”

Someone once wrote, “Evangelism is witness. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food. The Christian does not offer out of his bounty. He has no bounty. He is simply a guest at his Master's table and, as evangelist, he calls others too.”
Our theme at Stone Church for 2014 is, "The Year Of Outward Connection." 
We desire that people, non-churched people connect to Jesus Christ!

I was recently reading an article by R. Thom Rainer entitled, “Ten surprises about the unchurched.”  These “ten surprises” will inform you as well as challenge you.  They are taken from a survey that was done amongst a segment of the unchurched across America. 

Surprise number one: 

Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend. 

Rainer writes, “Perhaps the unchurched responded in this way because that is the time they have always heard church should be.” 

Surprise number two: 

Most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church for different reasons. 
For some it’s because they have children they feel need to be in church.  For others, it’s because it’s tough to start a habit of doing something they’ve never done before.   

The question was asked, “Why do the unchurched continue to avoid church?”  Rainer writes, “As strange as it may seem to the churchgoing Christian, the church intimidates the unchurched person.  They do not think they can fit in a place they have never attended.  And they are uncertain about church protocol.  They just fear that they will feel out of place.”   

So the question arises, “is there anything that could get the unchurched to attend church? 

Here’s what I want you to catch.  It leads us to surprise number three: 

Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited! 


If you take 160 million people in the United States that are unchurched, and if we define unchurched as attending church two or less times in a year, the implications are enormous.  Over 153 million people would start attending church if they were invited! 

You might ask, “What constitutes an invitation?”   

For many of the unchurched, it is a simple invitation to come to your church. 

For others, it is an invitation that includes an offer to meet them at church to show them around or walk them through in our building.  

In either case, it’s pretty basic.   


Let’s go on and ask another question.  Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church?  Rainer writes, “The heartbreaking answer is “no”.   

Only 21% of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year.  Only 2% of the church members invited an unchurched person to church.   

Rainer writes, “We who are leaders in the church must challenge the church members.  When is the last time they invited an unchurched person to church?  When is the last time they offered to meet someone and show him or her around the church?  The answers they give could make the difference in the eternal destiny of a person.  Perhaps it is time we sounded the clarion call to invite the church.  It may be that simple, and it may be that profound.” 

Don’t ever say “no” before you give an invitation to someone.

John Ortberg writes, “When it comes to inviting people [to hear the gospel], never say no for anyone. Never say no on anyone's behalf. Jesus didn't give up on the people everyone else gave up on. You just never know."
Ortberg writes, "I remember a banquet in a secular setting. A group of us were sitting at a table, and there was one empty seat. This guy sat down in it. He was a smooth character. I sat on one side of him, and a very attractive woman sat on the other side of him. When he sat down, his first comment was to the woman: "Well, what have you been doing here except turning the heads of everybody in the room?"

I said, "Well, just eating lunch."

That launched us into an interesting conversation. The discussion turned toward spiritual things, and at one point I talked about being at a church for people who don't like church. He said, "That's interesting," and told me about his background. He grew up Jewish and had no involvement in that faith beyond age 12. He had been to a Unitarian church a couple of times and had been divorced three times.

If I had to assess someone on the basis of one conversation who was as far away from faith in Christ as could be, it would have been this guy. His name was Steve. I invited him to come to our church, and I never thought I'd see him again.

The next Sunday he came to our worship service and sat in the front row. He talked with me afterwards and asked where we got our material. I told him about the Bible, and he got a New Testament. He had never read a New Testament in his life. He started getting up early, and he read 20 or 30 pages of the Bible every day. He came back to church the next week and the next. We kept talking, and he started thinking about making a decision to believe in Christ. It would be a costly thing for him because of his heritage—his family told him if he became a Christian he would be dead to them. But he finally said yes to God.

The last time I saw him he was with a friend. He threw his arms around me and said to his friend, "I want you to meet the person who helped bring me to Jesus."

I almost missed that because I almost said no for him.”

Surprise number 4: 

Very few of the unchurched had someone share with them how to become a Christian.  And Christians have not been particularly influential in their lives. 

Follow the logic:  if Christians don’t invite non-Christians to church, we can’t be surprised if they don’t share the gospel or influence the unchurched. 

Rainer writes, “You might be surprised that, when some Christians may think “the time is just not right,” the unchurched are wondering why we are so reticent.” 

Surprise number 5: 

Most of the unchurched have a positive view of the pastors, minister and the church.   

Only a few said the ministers are hypocritical, only after money, always drive nice cars, and have a condescending view of others. 

Rainer writes, “The scandal of the televangelist and other Christian leaders is a faded memory for most of the unchurched.  And for those who still have vivid recollections of the tainted past, most do not believe that all pastors and ministers are like their fallen brethren.  Perhaps even more surprising was the generally positive attitude the unchurched had toward the church.  For the vast majority of the unchurched, the church IS STILL RELEVANT, today.  Indeed many of them perceive the church to be the most relevant institution in society today.” 

This brings up the question, “if the unchurched see the church in a positive light, and if they perceive the church to be relevant, why are they still unchurched?” 

For some the answer lies in experiences that have been negative as they have visited a church.  Unfriendliness, unkempt facilities, poor signage, and general confusion have been some of the descriptions about the church from the unchurched. 

But what is amazing is that most of these men and women still view the church positively after a negative experience.   

But the other reason lies in the fact that we have mentioned before.  Most of the unchurched have NEVER been invited to church.  AND MOST OF THEM WOULD COME IF INVITED.   

If you get nothing else from this blog, hear this main point.  


Surprise number six: 

Many of the unchurched have a church background.   

Some had previously been members of church and left for various reasons.  Others visited one or more churches for a season.  Still others were taken to church as children. 

Here’s the point, and I quote Rainer, “do not assume that all unchurched persons are clueless about the church.  A majority can recall many years of church in their past.” 

Why did they leave the church? 

Some had negative experiences.  Others who went as children dropped out when their parents dropped out.  And a number of unchurched tried church but left unimpressed and inspired. 

Rainer writes, “Conventional wisdom about the unchurched suggests that these men and women are total strangers to the church.  Such is not the case with the majority of the unchurched.” 

Surprise number seven: 

The unchurched do not mind being asked to church, but don’t show up at their home without an invitation.  As one person said, “it reminds me of a telephone solicitation, only worse!” 

However, being asked to church in the midst of a casual conversation is welcomed.  Peter W. of San Diego said about a Christian friend of his who works with him, “Eric is a trip.  We will be talking about the Chargers or the Padres and, before I know it, he’s telling me something about his church or God.  I really respect him, you know.  He doesn’t beat me over the head with his beliefs, but he sure isn’t shy to talk to me about it.  Most of the church people I know act like they are ashamed of what they believe.” 

Rainer writes, “The bottom line of cold-call evangelism seems to be to make the most of every opportunity that God gives you.  Pray for such opportunities.” 

Surprise number eight: 

The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian.   

But be sincere.  Twyla Fagan writes, “Most of the unchurched can easily tell the difference between ‘drive by’ evangelism and a person who really cares.” 

Most unchurched people respond positively to a genuine Christian who spends time with them in a non-judgmental relationship.  People don’t care how much you know or what you know until they know how much you care. 

Rainer writes, “If we who call ourselves Christian really believe that a person is lost outside of salvation through Christ, we would make the lost and the unchurched one of our highest priorities.  And if we really had broken hearts for the unchurched person, we would take whatever time is necessary to get to know them and to share the love of Christ in word and deed.” 

It’s not a big mystery.  There are thousands of men and women in Battle Creek who are waiting for one of us as Christians to spend time with them and to show them we really care.  Jesus desired that none would perish.  In the midst of his packed schedule, he took time to show his love to sinners.  Are we willing to do likewise? 

Surprise attitude number nine: 

The attitudes of the unchurched are not correlated to where they live, their ethnic or racial background, or their gender.   

Surprise attitude number ten: 

Many of the unchurched are far more concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children than themselves.

You might be saying, “George, that’s interesting stuff, now what do I do with it?” 

Let’s look at Andrew. 

Andrew is just a great example of someone who brings people, invites people to Jesus.  Almost every time you see him in the New Testament he is bringing someone to Jesus.   

Andrew couldn’t preach like Peter and he couldn’t lead like Peter.  Yet Andrew had an important place in the kingdom.  He brought people to Jesus. 

In John 1:40-42 we read, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.” 

How can you invite people to Jesus? 

1.    Go 

You must go. 

You must tell. 

“The first thing that Andrew did after coming in contact with Jesus was to find his brother Simon.” 

Andrew didn’t know everything there was to know about Jesus.  But that didn’t stop him from bringing his brother to Jesus.  That didn’t stop him from immediately and urgently bringing Simon to the Lord. 

What gave Andrew that sense of urgency?  The joy of the Lord!  

Andrew grew up in a time when Jewish people in Israel were expecting a Messiah.  And In Jesus they found Him!  Andrew is full of joy and the wants to share that joy with the one person in the world whom he loved more than any other –his brother. 

Andrew was also grateful for what Jesus had done for him. He wanted to share with Simon out of a heart of gratitude. 

2.    Tell 

John 1:41 states, “the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “we have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 

Notice Andrew's approach. 

It was personal.  He says to Simon, “we have found the Messiah”!  Andrew wasn’t giving Peter something second hand.  It wasn’t something he read in the “Jerusalem Times.” 

Andrew shared with Peter something he knew not only in his head but also in his heart. 

Let me stop right here and challenge all of us to examine our philosophy of bringing people to Christ.

In most Assemblies of God churches we HOPE that someone will walk through the church doors, and we HOPE that the pastor will preach an evangelistic message, and we HOPE that he will give an altar call and we HOPE that someone will come forward and we HOPE that they will make a confession of Christ and we HOPE that someone will follow up on them and we HOPE that they will come back.

Someone once said that “the definition of insanity is doing what you’ve always done expecting different results.” 

I am convinced that one of the most powerful ways of bringing people to Jesus is on an individual, one on one personal basis. 

Andrew brings Peter to the Lord.  And then Peter brings thousands of others who bring hundreds of thousands more – well you get the idea. 

Andrew was also humble.   

Notice that Andrew didn’t say, “I found the Messiah, but “we have found the Messiah.”  He didn’t make it sound as though he was the only one who knew of Jesus. 

Nothing will turn off someone who is unchurched more than a feeling that some Christians give of elitism.  That they have the truth and others don’t.

I know you are in agreement with me that the only reason that you have a relationship with Jesus is by the cross and grace of Christ Himself.

The first season of the TV show The Apprentice tracked the lives of 16 up-and-coming business people as they vied for a highly coveted job with Donald Trump. It was the top-ranked-show among new TV series in the first half of 2004, with over 20 million viewers.

In this scene, Donald Trump faces two of his apprentices at the opulent boardroom table. On the left is Kwame, the polished Harvard MBA, and on the right is Troy, a business-savvy risk-taker without a college education. They have earned their place among the final few contestants, but now, one of them must leave.

Trump turns on Troy and in his gruff manner says, "Troy in reality we're dealing with multibillion dollar companies here. The consequences of hiring a live wire like you could be costly and devastating. So I have to say, you're fired!" The camera fades to Troy, head bowed in disgrace.

How different from the scene Jesus promises his people. In the opulent boardroom of heaven, Jesus turns to us and says, "In reality, we're dealing with something far greater than multibillion dollar businesses here—we're talking about the salvation of the world. The consequences of hiring someone like you could be costly and devastating. So I have to say, you're hired!"

In a world full of “un-grace”, Jesus gives grace.

By His grace He forgives us for our mistakes and failures. 

Andrew is saying, “John and I have found the Messiah.”   


The unchurched are turned off by spiritual elitism and pride.

John Orberg writes, “Our fallenness makes us want to be a part of not just any group, but an exclusive group. By definition, every society includes people who connect, who belong to one another. Yet every society includes people who feel left out, who don't get chosen at recess, whose invitations to dance get turned down, who get blackballed and cold-shouldered and voted off the island. We exclude others because of pride or fear or ignorance or the desire to feel superior.

I thought of this tendency we have to divide people the last time I was aboard an airplane. The first-class passengers were served gourmet food on china and crystal by their own flight attendants; those of us in coach ate snacks served in paper bags with plastic wrappers. The first-class passengers had room to stretch and sleep; those of us in coach were sitting with a proximity usually reserved for engaged couples in the back row of a movie. The first-class passengers had flight attendants bring them moist Towelettes for comfort and personal hygiene; those of us in coach had to sit and stew in our facial sweat.

On almost every flight, once the plane is under way, a curtain gets drawn to separate the two compartments. It is not to be violated; it is like the Berlin Wall or the veil that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Holy of Holies in the temple at Jerusalem. The curtain is a reminder throughout the flight that some people are first class and some aren't. Those who aren't first class are not to violate the boundary. They can't even see what's going on behind the other side of the curtain.

On a recent flight, a voice came on the intercom system, telling us that because of new security measures, the attendants were not allowed to fasten the curtain. But the airline wanted all of us in the Court of the Gentiles to know that we were not allowed to use the facilities in the Holy of Holies, even though there was one restroom for eight people up there and two restrooms for several hundred of us (mostly children under six who had been drinking Jolt Cola the whole flight) on the other side.

Let the curtain stand for a tendency deep inside the fallen human spirit—the tendency to exclude. In the act of exclusion, we divide the world up into "us" and "them."

Good stuff.

Andrew was positive.  Humility doesn’t mean that you can’t speak openly and with boldness. 

Andrew is saying, “There may be things about Jesus I don’t know, but I do know what he as done for me and that he is the Messiah”! 

3.    Bring 

John 1:42 states, “And he brought him to Jesus.”   

John doesn’t write that Andrew converted or “saved” Simon.. 

It says that Andrew persuaded Peter to understand how he needed to investigate this opportunity for himself.  Andrew knew that only Jesus can change our lives. 

In a TV commercial by one credit card company, the scene opens with a couple standing at the check-out counter. The woman says, "'Tis the season," and takes out her credit card to hand to the cashier. Her husband looks alarmed and says, "Wait, what credit card are you using?"
Suddenly hordes of barbarians begin surging into the store. They run down the store aisles yelling, with weapons drawn, toward the couple making the credit card purchase. The point of the ad is that making yourself liable to the finance charges on credit cards is like bringing on the barbarians.
One quick scene in the ad gives us a spiritual metaphor. As the barbarians charge past one store clerk at the perfume counter, she sprays perfume on them.

Trying to civilize a horde of bloodthirsty barbarians, to get rid of their foul aroma, with a few squirts of perfume, is what we are doing if we hope to transform sinners by squirting them with religion. Religion cannot change the barbarian at the heart of every child, teenager, or adult. Only a relationship with Christ brings the soul conversion that changes a sinner into a saint.

But there’s the key:  In order for Jesus to do what He could do, Andrew had to first do what he could do – inviting people to Jesus.


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