At a personal level we’re resource rich and vision poor. We’ve lost our central reason for being. Yes, we’re good at playing church. But we aren’t serious about building God’s kingdom.
What is our reason for being? Why are we here? What are we called to do? What is our central purpose?
. . . we have to get back to our core DNA of mission. We have lost it. Not rhetorically. But practically.
If we can’t enunciate it, how can we live it?
Recently, I read about a sign on a church. It stated: “This church exists to take care of the needs of the church members.” At first glance this might sound good. After all, everyone wants our churches to be caring, nurturing places.
But serving ourselves is not the purpose of the church. Do you know what is? Jesus said it simply: If you follow Me, I will make you fishers of men.
Ask yourself this question: how many people did I lead to Christ in the past 12 months? How many people did I even try to lead to Jesus? I’ve travelled across our Division and I have to tell you, there are a lot of us whose answer would be a big round zero. And that just isn’t good enough. Our spiritual experience only grows when we actively live the life of discipleship Christ offers, not hide our light from the world.
Our best evangelistic resource isn’t 20 or 30 highly trained evangelists or even our local pastor. It’s all of us. Every single Adventist Christian is called to share the gospel.
Listen, I know how hard it is to bring people to Jesus. In the past five years, I’ve personally studied with a number of people who were baptised and are members of the Church. It’s hard work. Personal evangelism comes at a cost: weekly Bible studies and including your new friends in your life. It means turning off the TV or Facebook and actually taking someone on a journey of faith. And not only is it hard to bring someone in, but once they become church members they need nurture and people who will share the vision Christ has for them or they will disengage. Even if you weren’t directly involved in bringing in an individual yourself, you can still provide ongoing nurture and discipleship for a new believer.
The point is, we have to get back to our core DNA of mission. We have lost it. Not rhetorically. But practically. Across our region many are adrift.
The response to the World Changers Bible sharing initiative has been mixed. I know God is behind it. I’ve seen Him work in wonderful ways. I’ve met Adventist Christians who are alive and strong in spreading the gospel. But all too often I’ve met with apathy. How can we, a movement called to prepare the way for Christ’s soon second coming, be apathetic about soul winning? Apathy for souls is the antithesis of what we are all about.
We cannot be disciples, not real followers of Christ, if we aren’t spreading the gospel. We are called to be salt but we’ve lost our flavour. If we were serious—if every one of us was on fire—this Church would see an explosion of members. It’s in the act of sharing our faith that we draw close to Christ and grow spiritually. And I fear that is one of our biggest problems. Too often our religious experience is focused on our salvation, our life in the Church, us. We forget that to be a disciple of Christ means to actively engage others in the salvation journey. If we don’t have this active experience with Jesus Christ, how can we share it?
Think about it. In 200 years, the early church went from 120 followers of Christ to 20 million. The early Christian believers had no property, no status in society, little theological training, but they had the one thing that is crucial: a burning desire to see souls saved through Christ. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit working through our open hearts and willing hands.
Where are our open hearts? Where are our willing hands?
We’re so distracted by all the same things as everyone else: careers, entertainment, investments, all of that stuff. We think we’re strong and sophisticated. But we’re weak. We’re destitute. We need the holy fire that only God can give us.
Megachurch founder Bill Hybels says: we have to love lost people so much that we don’t want to go to heaven without them. Like Moses who was willing to give up eternity so others could enjoy heaven. Today, I fear we aren’t even willing to give up an afternoon so others can enjoy heaven!
You want revival and reformation? I’ll tell you where to start. On our knees begging for God to give us the heart of Jesus. A heart so full of love that He took curses, spitting, scourging and ultimately death because He wanted to save others so badly. Where is our love today? Where do we find that level of caring for others? We’re in an eternal battle. The stakes couldn’t be higher. All around us souls are hurtling towards the abyss. And we are silent and satisfied.
Look in your heart and ask yourself, seriously ask yourself: do I care about the eternal fate of those around me? You’ll know whether you really do, by looking at what you’ve done to win them to Christ. If the answer is a sort of shrug with a Seinfeld, “nah, not so much”, we can know for sure we don’t have the heart of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Christ was all about saving this world one person at a time.
I look around and we’re spending millions of dollars on church buildings and all sorts of things. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the spirit within the hearts of those in the churches. Until we get Christ’s mission back at our core. Until we have a thirst, a desperate desire. Until our foremost instinct is to see others in God’s kingdom, we have nothing. We don’t go to church; we are the church. At work, university, school and wherever we engage with unsaved souls.
It all starts by selecting five people you know who are not currently walking with Jesus. Commit to praying for them daily over the next 12 months. There are four distinct prayers we can pray that will help us get the ball rolling:
• That God will give you a loving heart for your friends.
• For opportunities to share your testimony/story with them.
• That they will be open to the Spirit’s leading.
• That they will realise their need for Christ.
My point? Jesus gave everything to save others. And He has asked us, you and me, to follow His example. We have a central reason for being. If we’re still breathing, God’s got a job for us to do. We’ve been given a mission. So stop playing Christian and start being a disciple of Christ. This is where Christianity starts—sharing the light that has been entrusted to us. When December 31 hits and 2014 falls back into history, only the things done for God will have any eternal significance. For most of us, this year will be completely insignificant. But if we really have Jesus in our hearts, this year will count for eternity through the lives we touch for Him. Are you a world changer?
Dr Nick Kross is Adventist Youth Ministries director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific. James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.