Connecting the Disconnected
Hour of Power 22 September 14
We should consider a simple dichotomy.
Either God made a mistake or we are alive in 2014 America on purpose.
Maybe God intended for us to live in the first century when so many were excited about following Jesus. Maybe we were meant to live in the early 1800’s during the time called the Great Awakening. This was the time when the Spirit of the Lord was so alive in our nation. God’s Spirit, not Smith and Wesson, is what tamed the frontier.
Maybe even if we could just turn the calendar back 75 or 100 years to a time when people still hungered for the gospel.
Maybe God made a mistake by giving us life in this century and in this place.
Look around us. Just about everyone has been exposed to the gospel. Just about everyone has heard of Jesus Christ. Most folks here in western Oklahoma would say that they believe in Jesus and are glad that he died for their sins.
But that is as far as they will go.
Maybe they will throw in a prayer every now and then.
Maybe they will tell their kids that Jesus is the reason for the season while they try to figure out how to pay the rent and the electric bill now that they spent 2 paychecks on video games and smart phones for Christmas.
Maybe most are just comfortable enough living in the misery that they know and they don’t want to put out the effort to find real life.
Maybe God made a mistake by placing his followers in this time and place. Surely, we were meant to live in a different time or in a different place where people are hungry for God and his word and his righteousness.
Surely God made a mistake by putting us in this time and place.
Or, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. God did not make a mistake. This is our time to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.
This is our time to follow Jesus.
This is our mission field.
Two words come to mind when I think of our mission field in this time and this place: apathetic and ambivalent.
I don’t care; whatever, I don’t care if I care, one is as good as another.
Passion has been replaced by self gratification and comfort.
I would rather do what I am doing knowing it is not good for me than to do something different.
I am comfortable with the things that are killing me.
People only want to hear what they want to hear, and often that is not the truth.
People live by convenience and not by love. Love takes work. Love takes you out of you comfort zone.
Today’s world seems to say that it is better to live in comfortable misery than to listen to the truth and respond to love.
But this is the world into which we are sent.
We have light. We take it into the darkness. But people love darkness too much. We must not think things out of control. We knew this was coming.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:1-13 (NIV)
Now consider Paul’s words to Timothy.
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2 Timothy 4 (NIV)
People like to talk about the end times. They look to the Middle East. They look to the sky for cosmic disturbances. They hone in on the news about earthquakes. Drought and famine are cause for worry. They speculate over wars and rumors of war.
But we sometimes miss the more obvious though less spectacular signs of the end of the age.
The love of many will grow cold.
People will gather around them only those who will say what they want to hear.
People don’t want to hear the truth. They like the part about Jesus taking away our sins but don’t care much for what we call discipleship.
Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
We live in a time where people have heard about Jesus and sometimes even called upon him to save them from their sins but who do not follow him.
They do not follow him.
They are disconnected from the body of Christ that is following Jesus.
How? Some things are missing from their lives.
Worship, serving, offering, counseling, encouraging, mentoring, teaching, and even disciplining, that’s what is missing. Yes, we need discipline more in this age than in any other.
We are called to do most of this together as the body of Christ. Together!
For the past few months, I have been sending a message that some don’t seem to understand.
CONNECT THE DISCONNECTED!
It is not that people don’t know who Jesus is and the fantastic gift that he gives us. It is that they have conformed themselves to the world and the world doesn’t care who Jesus is. The world doesn’t care.
People need to return to the body, the family where they can be encouraged and counseled, discipled and disciplined, and where they can serve and sacrifice.
Yes, these are all things that come with following Jesus.
People need to get connected to the body of Christ again.
In the Burns Flat Cumberland Presbyterian Church and somewhat in the Ministerial Alliance that serves our area, we are deliberately doing away with things that conform to the world and we are getting back to the business of the church.
We don’t need programs. We need ministry.
We don’t need people registered to receive help. We need people being discipled to follow Jesus.
We don’t need efficiency. We need effectiveness.
And some who are following Jesus now, or at least thought that they were, are going to get a big lump in their throat because what we are about to do is become the church again.
The world has plenty of programs, but only one church. There are plenty of names on the outside of the buildings, but the church is one. It has one Head. It has one Lord.
And we don’t need more programs. We need more connections: People connecting with people.
Read the end of Acts 2:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Think about what was going on here. People saw what the believers had and they wanted to live that way too.
Not only did these followers receive favor from God; they received favor from others who did not yet know God. Those on the outside looking in said, “Wow. I want that!”
Those who followed Jesus lived as family and those who saw this wanted to be a part of it.
This was surely another time and another place but there is something that should have survived to today. That connected, family, community nature should still be alive in us.
Today, people see what we who follow Jesus have and say, “Oh well.”
Maybe that it because we who follow Jesus also desire the things of the world. We have forgotten how to sacrifice and live for God. We have forgotten to seek God’s Kingdom first. Ouch!
And maybe, we are just living in a time where the love of many has grown cold.
Maybe we are living in a time where people only want to hear what they want to hear.
But we who know Jesus and follow Jesus also know that to us it makes no difference as far as the time or the season. We proclaim God’s word in season and out of season. We constantly take light and love into a dark world.
Our world today may be colder and darker than any from our generation has ever known; but we are not here by accident.
And the words that we take to the apathetic and ambivalent world are the words of Jesus saying, “Follow me.”
People like to say that they can follow Jesus without going to church or they can worship at a lake or they talk to God while they are out driving.
All of these are true but they leave the person incomplete and empty. Why?
God’s word says, “Do not forsake gathering together.”
Jesus says, “When 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, I am there.”
The joy of believers in their gatherings pulled people out of their ambivalence into the family of faith.
We have a personal relationship with God that we came to through Christ Jesus. We personally experience God’s Spirit within us and walking beside us.
We have a personal relationship, but we are called to live in community. We are called to live in community. We are connected.
The pattern of the world is disconnected but we do not conform to the patterns of this world.
We do not conform.
We are transformed!
So much of our relationship with God is very, very personal and private, but he won’t leave us in that condition. He wants us to connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
He was us all connected where there are not outcasts or misfits or disconnected.
We who follow Jesus know that we are not living in 2014 by accident.
The mission field around is does not seem to be filled with people flocking to hear the word of God. We could hang our heads and throw a pity party or we can accept the mission given to us.
We are to connect the disconnected.
We are to speak the truth in love to the disconnected. Yes, we tell them that the emptiness in their lives comes from being disconnected from the body of Christ. We do this with love not judgment.
It will take our gifts and talents that God has deposited within us.
It will take that good deposit of the Holy Spirit.
It will take patience, perhaps more patience that we have ever practiced because many of the people whom we will minister to do not—they DO NOT—want to leave their comfort zones. As miserable and purposeless as they are in the patterns of the world; people are comfortable.
We take God’s light and his love and his truth into a world with much apathy and ambivalence, but this is our mission field.
Two thousand years ago, our mission field might have been filled with people hungry for the gospel but also full of people ready to nail you to a cross for sharing your faith.
Each generation of Christians is connected with every other in that we share our faith and lead others to follow Jesus in our time.
Our time—this second decade of the 21st Century—has many who only want to hear what they want to hear and where the love of many has grown cold, but this is our time.
We are not here by accident. We have God-given purpose in the here and now.
Our mission is to connect the disconnected.
We must speak truth.
We must do it in love.
And we are going to need a lot of patience for we minister in a time where people are content in their misery. Apathy and ambivalences rule their lives.
So let us accept that we are not here by accident. God did not make a mistake. This is our mission field.
Let us respond to the incredible love we know in Christ by finding a way to meet the desires of God’s heart—that none perish.
We are made in image of our Creator. We are creative beings ourselves. It is time to put that creativity to work and produce fruit for our Master.
Let us find a way to connect the disconnected.