Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jesus Loved Them...Shouldn't We? (Part 2)

So what do we do?

Most of us who have been given new life by faith in Christ know too well how easy it is to retreat into a "holy huddle" and lose total contact with those outside the faith. Picture in your mind a huddle of football players getting the next play from their quarterback. They're all faced inward.

But they don't stay that way for long. In fact, if they stay in the huddle too long the ref blows a whistle and they're penalized by losing ground. The huddle is an important time, but its purpose is to get everyone on the same page as they turn to face the other team. It's a comfortable place. Everyone in the huddle wears the same uniform. We know each other. We're a team and are comfortable together. And in the huddle we get a bit of a breather. Not a perfect illustration, but I think it makes some valid points for the church.

We need that time together when we're getting the Coach's instructions for our next steps. He's got a game plan for us individually and collectively. In a nutshell it is found at the end of Matthew's gospel. We often call it the "Great Commission", and it tells us that as we're going into the world we're to make disciples. Guess what? That requires leaving the huddle and getting into the game by engaging those who don't yet know Christ.

When I played football we all knew when it was time to leave the huddle. The quarterback, who had been given the next play from the coach, called out the play to us and the snap count that would start it. Then he repeated it just to make sure we all heard it and heard it clearly. With that accomplished he said, "Ready" and simultaneously all eleven of us clapped our hands once and said, "Break!" The huddle was broken and we assumed our positions on the line of scrimmage.

If we're going to have balance in our lives, engaging in both edification - building one another up in the church - and evangelism - taking the Good News to the world, somebody has to call "break". I guess that's one of the duties of pastors and leaders: Saying to the team, "Let's go. We know the strategy; we've had the coaching; our assignments are handed out. Let's take the Gospel to those who don't know."

Jesus didn't just hang with His disciples. Sure, He invested a lot of time and energy with them, getting them ready to carry on. But He also broke from them to spend time with a woman who was rejected by others at a well outside of town. There He told her how to drink the water that gave life everlasting. He was willing to be criticized by those in His day who never left the huddle to eat and drink with the spiritually starving. And it wasn't long before He sent them out two by two as "lambs before wolves". He knew their purpose as lambs was to leave the safety of the fold and tell others how to be in the fold.

If you're not taking His instructions and then going into the world, making disciples, you'll never gain ground. In fact, you and your huddle, your group, your church, if they're doing the same and looking inward, you're losing ground. You're being penalized. We have to be actively involved in both the inward and the outward. That means I may have to put my insecurities in God's hands. I may need to find ways to spend time with those outside of my church. If you realize all your friends are just like you, something's wrong.

And here's what will happen if you stay in the huddle too long. Paul warned that in the last days women (and this can happen to men as well) will be "always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. 3:7) We can be guilty of being learners but never practicing what we've learned. In my experience, those church members who tell me they just can't get enough "Bible study" also never (that's right, never) bring another person to Christ. Somehow their hunger for God became all about knowledge and never about making disciples.

In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul told them they had plenty of knowledge. Yet, they were at the same time filled with division and selfishness. "Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds them up." (1 Cor. 8:1) If we fill our heads with spiritual truth but never allow that truth to transform our lives into loving witnesses it only serves to fill us with spiritual pride. (Now there's an oxymoron.)

Ask yourself these questions. Then decide what you need to do.

When was the last time I shared my faith with a non-believing friend?
When was the last time I brought an unchurched friend to church with me?
Have I allowed my Christianity to distance me from those who need Christ?
Are all of my friends at church?
Who will be in heaven because I took the knowledge I learned and gave it away?
Do I jump at the chance to attend a church related conference or Bible study but don't invite my neighbors to an outreach event?

Ready? Break.

1 comment:

Ken Pontes said...

Loved the football analogy...a great way to put it.