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Circle of Influence

Matthew 28:18-20 

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And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. [19] "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (NKJV)

 The Healthy Church Group of the California Southern Baptist Convention works with our churches who call them for consultations.  They help churches discover and maintain balance in the five purposes of the church.  Randy McWhorter, who heads the group said, "In almost every situation we've assessed, the two greatest issues are evangelism and discipleship.  This is partly because worship, ministry, and fellowship are more natural and come a little easier. Evangelism ranks low on church strength lists, I believe, for three reasons: first, evangelism is at the forefront of spiritual warfare; second, leaders are too often program-driven rather than strategy-driven; and third, our churches, beginning with their leaders, need a deep-down, gut-level, heart-wrenching passion for the lost." http://www.calmissions.com/HealthyChurch/-1999935104/-1999324626.htm

 Are you willing to be on the frontlines of spiritual warfare?  Are you willing to move from the safety of stained glass rooms to the dangers of evangelism in the trenches?  This work is not for the faint of heart, rather it is for those who are willing to go “to the end of the age” and who will take God at His word the He will be with them always.

 I believe that McWhorter is right, not everyone is willing to live life on the edge and face the risk of having to defend their faith or have their faith tested.  But I also know that there are some among us who feel secure placing their lives in God’s hands.

 McWhorter also said that we are often “program-driven rather than strategy-driven.”  Often time we are more concerned with fielding the right brand of program and never take time to develop a strategy.

 I’ve asked Jeff Cunningham to take a few minutes this morning to talk about a strategy for Evangelism that we will be studying for the next eight weeks during Encounter.

 Some of you may recall that in the last newsletter, I wrote that “We are the “they” in Evangelism.”  There are no “them.” And I said, if we say we have a relationship with Jesus Christ and we are a Christian in the biblical sense of the word, then we have a responsibility to share Christ’s love and message to the world.   This is apparent when we examine scripture, especially passages like the Great Commission as referenced earlier in Matthew. 

Well, over the past several months, I have prayed about, thought about, and examined the mission strategy outlined by the authors of a book called The Insider.  The pastor and several other members have read their mission strategy and we agree that their message is well founded in scripture.  The undeniably Biblical message is one that our local church body should, in the very least, take time to consider given our evangelical commitment to Christ.

The authors of The Insider write:  “As a citizen of God’s kingdom, you are already uniquely positioned to live out your kingdom citizenship among the people you relate to every day.  God has called you to be an “insider” to your family, neighborhood, and workplace.  As you adopt the winsome patterns of a kingdom lifestyle, people in your life will see that there is, indeed a better way to live.” 

I believe that we all could learn to adopt lifestyle habits and patterns that enable us to live a kingdom lifestyle, a lifestyle that promotes loving all of the folks in our lives just as Christ has shown us love. As this slide illustrates we all have relationships with people, whether they be coworkers, family or neighbors.  If these folks do not know Christ, we have the responsibility to share the love of Christ with them.  Don’t misunderstand me.   I am not saying that the first words out of our mouths should be a sales pitch for Jesus.  We are not his little salesmen.  God doesn’t need salesmen.  He wants people, who have been given His ultimate mercy, grace and forgiveness, to provide the same thing to those who do not know Him.  God has called us to something much greater than isolation. 

He wants us to cultivate healthy relationships that demonstrate His love.

Paul is an example of how to live out our faith.  Let’s read Philippians 1:12-13, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else…”  Paul was chained to his guards.  He could have complained and been a horrible prisoner.  But we don’t see that.  Through his imprisonment Paul demonstrated the love of Christ and communicated the message of salvation to the guards who in turn shared the message of the gospel to others!  The gospel spreading in this manner only happens when we have the boldness to converse our faith and the patience to develop a rapport to share our faith.  Paul was in a trying situation, but he unabashedly brought the kingdom of God to his community.  It is imperative that we as believers do the same, all the more so because are not in chains or imprisoned.  Yet while our situation is so different from Paul’s it is also like his situation.  Symbolically, we are locked to those around us, by the mere fact that our employers tell us who we must work with and by the fact that we must live in a community that we can afford.  Whatever our situation we must not isolate ourselves from the world.  We are to be the light in the dark places and the salt in a world without salt.

Beginning this Wednesday we will learn how to cultivate relationships with our neighbors, coworkers, family and friends in such a way that we serve them and ultimately bring the Kingdom of God into their lives!  And please if you already do this well, come and share your insights with the rest of us.  I believe that this time will beneficial for everyone.
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