Involvement in Outreach

(Jeremiah 18:1-11; Luke 14:25-35)

Sun, Sept 8, 2019 – UBC Digby – J G White

Yesterday, our local fire department had five calls to answer: two alarms at a local hotel, one car off the road, one pole on fire when wires were struck, and one tree landed on a house. It takes sacrifice to serve as a firefighter. What if there was no local fire department? What on earth would we do?

There is great cost in joining a fire department. But there is also great cost in not helping, in not becoming a servant. So to in Church. In our Christian Faith we speak of being disciples – followers and workers of Jesus, of God. Two thousand years ago, Jesus had dozens of close followers. Today, He has millions… supposedly.

So, recruitment into this movement is important, into this Jesus Movement, the Way. Joining up is costly, to us who have done so. In 1937, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave the world his book ‘The Cost of Discipleship,’ and its influence is powerful still today. Bonhoeffer’s most famous phrase from it is: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Perhaps this whole books comes out of Jesus’ words, “Take up your cross, and follow me.”

Let me put Bonhoeffer’s words in context with this quotation. (p. 99)
When Christ calls a [person] he bids him [or her] come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like that of Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world.

In the ways we invite people to join God, to come to Jesus, we remember that there is a cost of discipleship. We just heard words of Jesus. ‘Count the cost of being My disciple,’ He says, still today. Christ used extreme language to get His point across. ‘Hate your family, give up everything you own, carry the tool that will execute you!’ He is not a literalist, but Jesus is a realist. Discipleship to Him is costly.

There is also a cost of nondiscipleship. What do we loose out on if we convert, but do not truly follow as disciples? In 1980, Baptist thinker Dallas Willard brilliantly wrote an article about this, for the magazine Christianity Today. What do we lose? Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, [it costs us:]
a life penetrated throughout by love,
faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good,
hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging circumstances,
power to do what is right & withstand the forces of evil.
In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). (Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 1988, p. 263)

Today, we heard that famous Bible bit from Jeremiah, about the potter forming something from the clay. We love this scene! But notice, this prophetic word is a severe warning. God is preparing to smash the people of faith, because they have been faithless, and make something new of them.
We must count the cost of non-discipleship.

We keep these things in view when we reach out into our community. When we, inside, go outside, and go on mission. We are in our mission field. Dennis Bickers says: (The Healthy Small Church, 2005, p. 115)

When one goes to the mission field, there are new languages to be learned, new foods to eat, new cultures to understand, and new stories to hear. To effectively enter into and impact the mission field, we must first understand it and then translate the biblical story into a message that can be understood and accepted by the culture we seek to reach.

This is our work together, now, Church. And we are well on our way. For I believe each of us is deployed in our community in lots of places, and we already know the culture of our mission fields.

Me? I am a hiker and nature lover. Remember my first couple years here? I got us reading Bunyan’s classic book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and watching it on film. I preached on the pilgrimage theme all the time. I had friends who had walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain come and testify to their experience. I scheduled spiritual walks and invited you to join me outdoors.

But I did not find any of you to join me in this passion. That’s OK. If I want to start a fresh expression of Church that happens outdoors, with hikers, I will just have to do that on my own with a few hikers who are believers from other congregations. And I know a few. Pray that I will find the right teammates to help start some spiritual hiking.

You, you know the culture of the golf club, or of the fishery, or retail stores, or farming, or of a seniors apartment. Your life intersects with the Baptist Church, and something else. Those are your people. You may have a mission there.

Involvement in outreach is all about when we are out, not when we are in. When we are in, when we are here, we may be preparing and training, but outreach itself does not happen in this building, on Church property. Outreach happens when the Church – the people – are out and about.

I recently read a story in Mosaic, by Leanne Friesen, Pastor of Mount Hamilton Baptist Church, ON. Regarding evangelism, she speaks of youth today

What I certainly see is a huge passion for service and for helping others and for stepping in and really doing what I would call ‘God’s work’. At our church, we have two sisters, one is 15 and the other 22, and they actually formed an organization called Sisters for Sisters. Every year, they do a fundraiser for an organization in the city. One year, it was a breakfast to raise money for the native women’s health centre. Another year, they were doing a dinner for a different group. What’s interesting is that they don’t necessarily feel insistent that they have to get up, like I have at some point, and say, “By the way, we are all here so I can tell you about Jesus.” I was taught to do this…yet there’s such a longing in their hearts for social justice, so there’s a lot of great starting points with our next generation that may look a little different than my generation. (Mosaic, Fall 2017, p. 7)

Finding our starting point – this is so important. The Jesus we want people to have is so demanding, and so giving! To be a disciple, we go, and work at making other disciples of Jesus. We come together to be ‘boomeranged’ back out there, for the work at hand. The work of living abundantly.

So throw yourself into us, the faith community, to be boomeranged back into the wider community, where you are deployed. Don’t come in here never to zoom out into service. That would be like the problem in one of Sharon’s favourite songs of childhood. “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.”

Let’s not let our town, our streets, say we never came back to them, once we entered the Church. Jesus is here for us. Jesus is out there for them.
Reach out!

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