Lecture 9: Overcoming Barriers to Spirit-assisted Evangelism, Part 3
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Christianity is a relationship with God. Not a philosophy of life, but a way of life. We are the body of Christ. Each of us is indispensable to the church. Our ministry is more important to God than it is to us. The first greatest sin is self-reliance. The second greatest sin is oppressing the poor.
I. We Assume Inadequacy
A. I Corinthians 12:12
B. Story of the abbot and the rabbi
C. Once we become a part of the body of Christ, we are indispensable to it
D. Our greatest strengths are our anointed weaknesses
E. Story of Olympic training camp
Course: A Short Course on Evangelism
Welcome to session nine. For the last two sessions, and this one included, we’ll be talking about overcoming barriers to Spirit-assisted evangelism. We talked about the first barrier, we lack motivation. We don’t realize really how desperate our friends and neighbors are; how important it is to be able to share the power of the Gospel. Christianity is not just a bunch of dos and don’ts. It is a relationship with the Living God. It is not even a religion as such. It is not a philosophy of life, it’s a way of life, it’s a relationship with the Living God. So, we lack motivation. We fear rejection, that I shared last session. Inherent to Christian ministry is 24 times more rejection than affirmation. Get over it. And the 24 “no’s” are just as important as the one “yes.”
The last one we’ll talk about in these sessions is, we assume inadequacy. We always assume that evangelism is for someone else to do. Let the preacher do evangelism. Listen, let me tell you something. We preachers, we hit about 10 percent of what we shoot at. Do you understand? And if the preacher is the only one in the church doing evangelism, 90 percent of the needs aren’t being met. Ninety percent of the people aren’t being evangelized. I’ve said in an earlier session, the Spirit of God even as we speak, is already at work, walking the streets of every town. I have a text, let me read it to you: 1 Corinthians 12 starts off talking about the spiritual gifts. We’ll talk some about those in our last session, the next session. He talks about the spiritual gifts. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. Different kinds of service, but the same Lord. Different kinds of working, but the same God working all of them in all of us. In verse 12 it says: “The body is a unit. Though it is made up of many parts and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” Are you listening? “So it is with Christ.” It doesn’t say, “So it is with the church.” If it said, “So it is with the church,” that would make this a metaphor. There is no metaphor here intended. You are not likened to the body of Christ, you are the body of Christ. Do you understand? You are the body of Jesus Christ. We are the body of Jesus Christ. We are all baptized by one Spirit, into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and we are all given the one Spirit to drink.
There is a marvelous story. I think Scott Peck’s book, A Different Drummer, tells this story about a monastery, I think maybe the 16th century at the height of the anti-monastic movement. This monastery had been reduced to just one building out of half a dozen and four monks and an abbot, all over 75 years of age. Just a matter of time and they were history. In a forest next to the monastery there was a hermitage, a cabin, frequented by a rabbi. Intuitively these monks and this abbot knew when the rabbi was in residency. On one of those occasions the abbot looks at the monks and says, “You know, I think the rabbi has a word for us. I’m going to go talk to him.” So the abbot shows up at the hermitage, the cabin. The rabbi comes to the door and the abbot said, “Mr. Rabbi, I am the abbot of this monastery in the clearing next door and our buildings have been reduced to one; and just four monks and myself remain and we are all over 75 years of age. It’s just a matter of time and we’re history. And I believe that you have a word of advice for us.” The rabbi said, “Sir, I’m sorry, I have no advice for you. The synagogue is about to go down for the same reason. I have no word for you, except the Messiah is one of you.” So the abbot goes back to the monastery and the monks gather around. “What did he say? What did he say?” “Nothing.” “But you were so sure.” “He said nothing except this cryptic saying, ‘The Messiah is one of us’”. And they began to look at each other and say, “Well, I wonder who it is. Eldridge here, messes up a lot, but he’s always there when you need him. Maybe he’s the Messiah. Phillip here, kind of low-key, but he always speaks the truth, maybe it’s Phillip. Maybe it’s the abbot. Everybody knows the abbot is man of God. Who knows? It might even be me.”
So they began to relate to each other differently and relate to themselves differently. Do you know how you can treat yourself with better respect? Do you understand what I’m saying? They treated each other with more respect and they treated themselves with more respect. So much so that the people coming from the neighboring villages to have picnics on their empty grounds, while the children ran through empty buildings, noticed how these monks and this abbot related to each other and to themselves, and were so impressed, after a couple of years several of the young men from the village came out and joined the order; and within five years the order was completely renewed. What do you think of that? I love this story. All from the cryptic saying of the rabbi, “The Messiah is one of us.” Which of course is not true. Messiah is not one of us. The Messiah is what? All of us. We are the body of Jesus Christ. Greater things than these, as the body of Jesus Christ. Jesus has sent us his Spirit, not to compensate for his absence, but to guarantee his presence. Listen to this: “The body is not made up of one part, but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I’m not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body”. If Matt, who is sitting behind the camera, were to say to me, “I don’t have Bob’s gifts” – and you don’t – “then I’m no longer a part of the body,” are we going to let Matt get away with that? Absolutely not. I mean, if it fulfills some need in your life, Matt, to hang limp on the body of Jesus, God will let you do that. But that does not make you any less a part of the body of Jesus. Once you find the body of Jesus, you are indispensable to it. I got along without you before I met you, can’t get along without you now.
I’ve told you before, the Greek didn’t have an exclamation point, so when it wants to emphasize something, it just says it all over again. Listen to this, it says: “And if the ear should say, ‘Because I’m not the eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.’” I look at Matt and I say, “I don’t have Matt’s gift, so I’m no longer part of the body.” Are you going to let me get away with that? I should say not. No! Absolutely not. If it fulfills some need in my life, to hang limp from the body of Jesus, God will let me do that, but that does not make me any less a part of the body of Jesus. Once I’m in the body of Jesus, I’m indispensable to it. I got along without you before I met you, can’t get along without you now.
I want to do two things in this session. First of all, I want to emphasize the importance of the church as the body of Christ. It is absolutely indispensable for your survival. We assume inadequacy; but together we are the body of Jesus Christ.
The second thing I want to emphasize, to remind you really, what you know already, that you are absolutely indispensable to the church for her to be what God intends for her to be. Listen to this. Are you listening? It says: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” Listen to this. Each of you has a sphere of influence where only you can minister most effectively. As sweet as I am, folks, I’ll turn half your friends “flat off.” I can’t minister effectively in your sphere of influence as effectively as you can. Each of us has a sphere of influence where only we can minister most effectively and the Spirit of God is already preparing people in that sphere for our ministry. All we have to do is show up and pay attention, to understand the concepts and the principles, that’s why we do the theology. But to realize that our ministry is more important to God than it is to us. You’re more important to God than you are to yourself, to your family, to your church. God loves you.
I tell most of my students, a lot of our ministry is helping people know that God loves them. Because you don’t know God’s love, you don’t love yourself; and if you don’t love yourself, you don’t love anybody. We love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Do you understand the concept? Of course you do. Sometimes our most important ministry is just to speak that word.
I was going through an airport once, going through the metal detector. There was a woman sitting behind the x-ray, watching luggage come through on the belt. She was weeping, very disturbed. So I said quickly, “God, give me a word for this woman.” When I walked through the metal detector, I looked at the screen and there was my briefcase, big as life, on the screen. Somebody had just given me a communion chalice; and it’s the only thing you can see in my briefcase. You can’t see nail clippers or anything. The only thing you can see is that chalice. I tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, “Guess what that is.” She was sniffling, still upset. She looked at the screen and said, “That’s probably a lamp or something.” I said, “No, that’s a communion chalice, which holds the juice or the wine, which represents the shed blood of Jesus, which means that God loves you very, very much.” She was on a swivel chair, she spun around on that swivel chair, took me by both hands and said, “Sir, I don’t know who you are, but God sent you to me.” I could hardly get on the airplane to fly home. That’s 30 seconds, folks. Showing up and paying attention. Our sphere of influence, where only we in that moment can minister most effectively.
That is who God is. That’s the God who takes the initiative in the garden of Eden. Listen to this. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’” Are you listening? Please, come off sabbatical now, this is important. “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
May I share with you a principle? Our greatest strengths are anointed weaknesses. I got up this morning begging God to help me. I said, “God, I cannot do these sessions on my own steam. I cannot do it. I’ve got to have anointing from on high, if I have any hope of blessing these dear people, around the world, wherever. God help me.” Remember the first sin in the Bible? Self reliance. The second sin, oppressing poor people. You really don’t want to do that. The only way to take it with you is to give it away, folks. You’ll never see a hearse with a U-Haul trailer behind it. I’m telling you, God has more invested in your ministry than you do.
Let me tell you a story. You’ll like this story. I have a friend named Ed Beck, who is an evangelist, now in Arizona I think. But he lived in Colorado Springs when I lived in Colorado Springs a number of years ago and we used to have breakfast once or twice a month, just to kind of catch up and commiserate. As some of you might know, Colorado Springs is the training ground for the Summer Olympics. Ed goes to the training grounds for the Summer Olympics to be with some of these athletes, looking for an illustration of community. And guess what he found? Nothing. They are competitive, canceling each other out. Two months later the Special Olympics came to town. You understand Special Olympics. They came to the Air Force Academy. He told me this story. Now, the man who told me this story saw this with his own eyes. Ed Beck. He describes the 100-yard dash. As the gun goes off, some of the kids are pretty quick, out ahead of the pack. Some of them just a little faster than a walk. Fifty yards down the track in the main pack, a little girl stumbles and falls and starts to cry. Instantly, the race stopped. Those close to the finish line turned around and came back to gather around this kid who has fallen. Then one of the trainers gets there, immediately gets down on the ground and takes over, brushes off the hurt, kisses it, saying, “Are you all right, are you all right?” And helps her to her feet. Now they are going to restart the race. In the middle of the track, they are all holding hands, looking up and down. “Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready?” “Yeah, we’re ready.” As the gun goes off, they all finish the race and they forget not to hold hands. They all finish the race holding hands. No one loses. Everyone wins.
I love that story. Do you know what the moral of that story is? Are you listening? Someone had to fall. If no one falls, that never happens. They say the Christian Army is the only army in the world that slays its own wounded. Don’t you realize that some of our effective instruments for grace are those who have been deeply wounded. Some people are just downright messed up.
What are we about? What does it say? “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are” what? “indispensable.” Got along without you before I met you, can’t get along without you now.
Lord, we’re grateful that our greatest strengths are anointed weaknesses because it’s our weaknesses that drive us to rely totally and completely upon you. It’s our weaknesses that drive us to our knees; and it’s our weaknesses that make us open to the grace, the healing power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.