Friday, April 21, 2006

How has it come to this?

A few years ago I attended a conference on USA/Canada Missions in Nashville, TN. The conference, sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene, had nearly 5000 participants focused on how to evangelize the United States and Canada. The M3 refers to the 3rd Millennium of Christianity, which we are now in.

Am I the only one to cringe at the concept of having to have a conference on how to evangelize our “Christian” nation? I used to make fun of the Jews because they “just didn’t get it” when they had the Messiah in their midst. In Acts 1:4,8 Jesus tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they have received the Holy Spirit and that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” People, our Jerusalem is all around us.

Look at your community with God’s eyes. Who is hurting? Who needs a friend? Who needs food? Shelter. A lift out of addiction? Freedom from fear from an abusive spouse? Who are the widows, orphans and poor that God cares so deeply about? And how can we help them?

I am reminded of King Theoden, sovereign of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, whom, when surveying the evil that surrounds his nation, asks, “How has it come to this?” (In case you didn’t know, I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Hobbit) How has it come to the Church of Jesus Christ having to make a concerted effort to see the needs of the hurting? When did our eyes stop seeing the hurt, the loneliness, and the needs in people? When did a church so rooted in serving the poor, turn its heart away from those that need Jesus? I can’t answer that, but it has been that way for a while.

I have good news. The Church of the Nazarene has reaffirmed its commitment to serving the needs of all God’s children, not just those who look like us. Speaker after speaker talked about how we need to reach out, and how we can reach out to the lost in our communities. Since 1998, more than 500 new churches have been started in the United States and Canada, and 1,000 more will be started by 2008. More than 300 of those new churches will be primarily Hispanic congregations. The church has identified leaders to reach nearly every ethnic group imaginable with these church plants. The commitment to those who are not “pale-skinned” resonated throughout all the speakers, culminating in the address of General Superintendent Dr. Middendorf, who told us this is our time, God has been ready, and now we are ready to go where he wants us to go.

Pray that we will be obedient to God’s leading in these issues. We need to be prepared to reach people who do not look like us, act like us, or are even the kinds of people we like to be around. We are all sinners, some of us are saved by Grace, and others are waiting for that opportunity. God loves these people, and we need to be obedient to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. That may mean a church plant, opening a Compassionate Ministry Center, or implementing outreach efforts to show Christ’s love to them. Or something that we haven’t even imagined. Mercifully, God is not limited by our imaginations.

Pray with me that God will lead us to follow His direction. We can’t be passive, but we need to be obedient. Pray with us, come with us, and work with us to reach the lost for Jesus.

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