bits from bob....
In the fall of 2002, I had the privilege of listening again to Larry West of "I Care, We Care" ministries during his presentation at the North Town Church of Christ in McAlester, Oklahoma. I made notes during Larry's presentation, as I often do as I listen to sermons. Most of the time my notes reflect a little of what the speaker says and a lot of my personal reflections and applications during the sermon. My notes are nearly always reflective and introspective, and these are no different. In fact, my notes begin with the question in our title, "Do we really care?"
If we need a test, we could find few places more appropriate to begin than in Jesus' words in Matthew 25:31-46. It is clear that Christians are called to care. Condemnation goes to those who do not care enough to provide clothing, food, nourishment, shelter, and encouragement. It is clear that Jesus expects his people to care. Based on Matthew 25, we can be certain that it is going to come up at the judgment.
Not only did Jesus teach about the necessity of caring, he modeled that exact kind of attitude and care during his ministry. It was Jesus who spoke the familiar and treasured words of John 3:16. Jesus expressed his concern for a strange Samaritan woman whom he met at a well near Sychar (John 4:27). Jesus spoke of his care for his people under the metaphor of a shepherd caring for his sheep (John 10:27-29). He does all he can to provide leadership, guidance, support, encouragement, and protection. Jesus is again speaking in John 12:27 when we read about his struggle preceding the cross. It is not easy to care! Read the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Read the results in 18:1-4, and remember that Jesus already knew the price that would be required, and he was willing to care that much.
This quick overview of John's gospel reminds me that Jesus only accomplished his mission because he was fanatical about his mission.
When Paul said God is at work for good in all things (Rom 8:28), "all" doesn't leave anything out. God is machinating all things in our world, orchestrating every event in your life, working in our world to accomplish his will (Eph. 1:9-10ff).
Our world little understands this aspect of God. Our world, in fact, little understands God. When we read in 2 Pet. 2:4 that God did not spare angels, the text clearly says that one sin sends one to hell. Our world seems to think that God can overlook sin. But sin and God are mutually exclusive. There is no possibility of any connection. We must try to understand the depth of God's love and the desire of Jesus to care for those God had given him (John 17).
Because of this clear biblical background, we need to ask our Lord, what do you want? We must find the heart to care enough to get back to our evangelistic mission. What do you really want? (Illus: Christmas, David wanting water, etc.) Love makes sacrifices!
What does God want from us, for us? The answer is not in the "Big Bs"--bus, buildings, budgets--but souls. His is a list of "S" words. He seeks souls. He wants us to use our spiritual gifts, to express our caring in small groups, to be students, to be willing to make sacrifices.
Larry read an 1865 article form the Baltimore American, describing the Restoration Movement, and a growth rate without parallel in church history. According to the article, there were 600,000 members in the U.S. and 4200 preachers. That is really something--140 years ago, the church in the U.S. was over 1/2 the size it is now. We have only managed to double in almost 150 years. We have grown less than 100% in almost 150 years, while the population has multiplied. The church grew rapidly in the 19th century.
We know that the growth continued in the last century. From 1900-1970, the U.S. grew 3 times over, churches of Christ experienced a seven-fold growth. The church was exploding in relation to the population. But most of us also know that in the 1970s we plateaued.
From 1970-1997, the net growth (net number of baptisms) was approximately 1 per church per year. During this period, we added 255,000 members, which is about 10000 per year.
From 1997 to today, over the past 5-10 years, statisticians tell us that it is taking from 4 to 7 churches to baptize one soul annually (beyond our children). The facts are clear--we are not holding our own. We are not far from the caustic words of Jesus to the Laodicean church as recorded in Rev. 3:16-17.
I believe our world is filled with folks want to go to heaven, but don't know how. I raise the question, Do we really care? We are will to pay the price to grow, aren't we? Remember, the solution is not in buildings, buses, budgets, but in bold brothers building up the kingdom.
As Larry so often says, We will not convert until we confront. The gospel is the only answer. Friendship is OK, but put the evangelism in it. Small groups are OK, but put the evangelism in it. We must understand the three P's of evangelism: presence, proclamation, persuasion.
The song is right: Everybody ought to know. Even more, lots of people want to know. I am not against entertainment, but something is wrong when entertainment drives us! What drives you? What motivates the church where you worship?
According to Paul in Eph. 6:10ff, we are at war. I know that the idea of war here is a metaphor. But each of us must look at the obvious truth in the current world situation. How much do you really care? How long has it been since you talked to someone about the Lord?
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