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On Mission

Psalm 96:1-13 

 

"Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth. [2] Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. [3] Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. [4] For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. [5] For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. [6] Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. [7] Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. [8] Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. [9] Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth. [10] Say among the nations, 'The Lord reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.' [11] Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; [12] Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy [13] Before the Lord, for He is coming; For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, And the peoples in His faithfulness."

I'm not proud of what happened, actually, I'm a little embarrassed to tell you about it, but it happened. It began as one of those days that I wanted to be perfect-my expectations were very high. I wanted Mother's Day to be perfect for Susan, which may of contributed to why I was so dissatisfied with the service. With Stephen on leave from the Navy, the whole family had the chance to sit down and eat a meal together for the first time in what seemed forever, so I wanted everything to go right. On the way to Salinas, to one of Susan's favorite places to eat, we called from the car to see how long the wait was-it was too long and they didn't take reservations so we went to plan "B." After driving through the parking lots of several other spots, we settled for about our 5th or 6th choice. We were seated quickly and everything progressed nicely until the waitress came by to take our order. One mistake followed another-I asked for the same thing on three different visits to the table-she never brought it. Jamie asked for another Coke and she walked past the table without even acknowledging he'd spoken to her. She was obviously having a bad day, but I wasn't sympathetic. Partly because of my expectations for the meal, but partly because it was obvious by her attitude that she didn't care. So I did something I've never done before, I went to the front desk and asked to speak to the manager. I explained the situation to her and asked her to assign another waitress to our table, which she did. The only thing I can think of that is worse than having a waitress ignore me in a restaurant is having one come by every two minutes to get a play-by-play analysis of every bite, which, of course, is what happened. The super aggressive service combined with the feeling deep down inside that I was a jerk for complaining in the first place made the entire "celebration" unbearable. We finished our meal, I left a generous tip and we left.

When I spoke to the manager, I had a sense of entitlement. After all, I was paying good money for this experience. It wasn't just the food I was buying; it was the atmosphere good service-the overall ambiance. I felt they "owed" me and should "cater" to me. That's the law of the consumerism jungle-the customer is always right. Our satisfaction is guaranteed. If we aren't completely satisfied, we want a refund, whether we kept the receipt or not-and by and large, businesses are accommodating and do whatever it takes to keep us satisfied and coming back. Businesses target a demographic group, discover their needs, and then cater an experience that meets their needs. It is an efficient formula for growth and success.

Why am I telling you this story? Unfortunately, the church has bought into the same philosophy and has become consumer driven, and it is easy for us to see this as an organization to cater to our needs instead of a ministering organization where we are the ministers. Twenty years ago or so, it became vogue to go out and take a survey of the community, find out what they wanted in a church, then start a church in the image of their desires. The unchurched said they were uncomfortable hearing negative sermons or preachers talk about money, so in response to the "consumer, who is always right," some pastors stopped preaching on topics like hell, judgment or tithing. The services became less reverent and more entertaining, and practical. I look back at some of the sermons I preached in the early to mid 80's and I've got to confess they look more like self-help speeches that belonged at a service club organization than a sermon that belonged at a church.

But it wasn't just the content of the services that changed. Churches started positioning themselves in the market to reach a certain type of person. They encouraged "church shopping"-- looking for a church with certain programs. Like a consumer shopping for a car, people shopped for the "options" they are used to in a church. They want to know what kind of music the church uses and which brand of children's program they have during the week. They want to know if the dress is formal or casual and what version of the Bible is used in the worship service. 

Today, I see a new trend of churches that will not settle for catering to consumers, but are recruiting people to be on mission with them to fulfill their purpose, to "tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples." Churches like Emmanuel Baptist Church in Salinas, one of our partners in ministry. As you may know, there has been a significant population shift in our community. We are now predominately Hispanic and many of our residents are learning English, but are not fluent. Last year, I felt led of the Lord to go back to college to study Spanish so we could begin a Spanish service. I know that I'm still a long way away from being able to deliver an entire sermon in the language, so I approached Joel Jimanez, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist to see if he would be willing to help us out. So every Thursday night, he and some of the members of his church drive here and hold services. On Tuesday nights, some of them come and go visiting with me into the community to talk to the people and invite them to come. A couple of weeks ago we got our first response to that visitation with people from two different households coming. This week we had people from four new households come. Next Saturday, the youth from that church are coming here to pass out 1000 flyers in the community inviting people to come. Why are they doing these things? Because they are on mission. They understand that the church is not an organization designed to cater to their whims and desires, but one that God created to accomplish His mission. These people who are driving the extra miles and doing the extra work to assist us don't get anything out of the experience except the knowledge that they are accomplishing a mission for God.

We too have the chance to be on a mission for God. Last year, a couple of Baptist Churches did a ministry to a state-owned Migrant Camp in Dixon, CA and caught the attention of Sacramento. They gave away new clothes and shoes to the children for them to wear to school. While they were at it, they also preached the gospel and distributed the Spanish New Testament to every household, resulting in over 40 conversions. This year, Sacramento has asked California Southern Baptists to adopt all of their camps throughout the state. Our church has joined more than 100 other churches in volunteering to help take care of the 24 camps that are online this year. We are working with 2 other churches and a mission to do a mission project on site. God has already worked a miracle by opening the door for the ministry. Though Sacramento invited Baptists to adopt these camps, access is granted on a case-by-case basis. They were certain that 23 of the directors would cooperate; the only one they weren't sure about was our camp. A few weeks ago the resident council warmly received us and the front office is fully cooperating with us to make this happen. So now we have the opportunity to be an "on mission" church and be used by God, along with a few other churches to give new clothes to 500 children and the gospel to over 100 families. We have a mission nearby that will follow up on the converts and a partner church that speaks the language. Together, we can make a difference in these people's world.

Our family plans on going to the Fiesta in Mid-August and help to distribute the clothes and pray for Pastor Joel as he preaches the gospel to them. We've already given $500.00 to the project and are willing to give more as God directs. Will you join us in being on mission? 

That's how it works in the Kingdom of God, one group of people helping another to advance His work. Just like Emmanuel in Salinas is helping us do something we can't do ourselves, we can work with them and other churches to do something for these Migrant workers that they can't do for themselves. In the process we will do more than give them clothes-we will give their children some dignity and the opportunity to be on mission with the God that is sending us to them.
 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
one-pointexpositiory sermon

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