ALL CHURCHED UP AND EVERYWHERE TO GO SERMON SERIES
THE FRIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
JANUARY 21, 1996
I am going to take an informal poll. How many of you were first invited to this church by another person? Look at those hands. Keep them up there. Almost everyone. I am in a series on the purpose of our church. The Fellowship of Las Colinas exists to reach up, that is worship which is expressing love to God. We also exist to reach out, that is evangelism which is communicating Christ with others. We also exist to reach in, that is discipleship, which is developing our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is vital that we as a church understand why we do what we do. Today I want you to meet someone whose life has been changed as a result of the subject matter I am addressing in this session. His name is Michael Tamer. Michael would you please come up here. Michael is from Colleyville. He is president of a telecommunications company. He has been coming to our church for just a couple of months. Thanks, Michael for being here.
Michael, let me begin by asking you what were your first impressions were when you attended the Fellowship a couple of months ago?
In September, John and Kendra Famigilio invited me to come to a service with my wife and our two children on a Saturday night. My wife and I are from Connecticut. My wife is Catholic. I grew up being what I would call “northern” Methodist. We used to describe our relationship with God as kind of casual. We went to church but we didn’t go during the summers. We took the summers off. I was brought up to believe that the best parts of church were the pot luck dinners and softball games and the fellowship. No pun intended.
We came to church. Just look at this place. There are electric guitars and drums, a video display and a couple of rock and roll guys playing instruments. They hit the amplifiers and you get this major league jolt. They did the music and then did the play. By this time my eyes were wide open and I was wondering what I was going to tell my friends when the service was over. When it was time for the preacher, I was expecting an elderly gentleman in a robe. Instead, I got Ed, with the whole GQ look that he has got going. Then he spoke and I thought that the message was brilliant. I remember thinking to myself, “God, is he good.” I probably should have said gosh.
When the service was over we walked out. Kendra said, “Well, what did you think.” There was this one word that kept repeating itself in my brain, and I was in church so I had to say it. “I thought it was really funky.” And she said, “Funky, what do you mean by funky?” I answered, “Because of everything that I was brought up to believe church was, the robes, the candles, the elderly gentlemen and the organs, I shouldn’t have liked this place.” I shouldn’t have liked it at all. But there were a couple of things that occurred while I was here that I couldn’t not admit. The first one was that I really enjoyed the service. The second thing was that I felt better after the service than before I came, which was really unusual. The third thing was that I learned a whole bunch.
Michael, where did you go from there?
Well, the band is going to hate me if I don’t cover myself here. The next week we came, but came late. We came after the music. I missed it, so I had to call Kendra back to assure her that I really liked the music even though I had called it funky. We started coming to church regularly. We were invited to go to one of the home team bible study groups.
Let me break in right there, Michael. If you don’t know this, our home teams are part of our small group ministry. We have small groups that meet throughout the metroplex. Go ahead.
It fascinated me that they would let people that weren’t members, weren’t part of the club, actually go to home teams. People were very gracious and quite nice. I will give you one advance bit of advice. If you are ever invited to a bible study, there is one critical component that you should bring with you – a bible. We didn’t bring one. But they were nice about that omission. A group of adults sat around and discussed the Bible, not a lot of thees or thous, they were just talking about the Bible and what it meant to be a Christian. It was fascinating for us because, although we had done many Christian-like things, it was the first time that we were made aware of the fact that we didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ so we weren’t Christians. That was kind of a surprise after 37 years.
Michael, did you actually have a Bible at that time or did you later go out to get one.
Well, actually the next week during one of your sermons you made a comment that you should view the Bible as love letters from God. Well, I like to read and I had never read the Bible, so I thought I should. I went home and I looked all over the house. We didn’t have one, so I didn’t feel too bad about the home team episode. But then, not wanting to make too much of a commitment, I went to Half-Price Books to get one. For those of you who might be looking for a Bible, they have a whole bunch of them there. I was trying to find a New Testament, a modern translation. I bought a paperback New Testament. Someone had taken it from the Day’s Inn and sold it to Half-Price Books. I was charged twenty-seven cents for it, which I thought was really neat. I read that New Testament and then somebody bought me a whole Bible. Then I started reading it in public places. That is kind of a unique experience. For those of you who are business people, if you want your own row on an airplane, just crack your Bible. They all just move right away. Lots of room.
So, Michael, you still attended the church regularly. Then what happened. Next I began trying to find out how you could establish a personal relationship with Christ. I believed in God and I believed that there was a Son of God. I believed that He died on the cross for our sins and rose to heaven and that if God wanted to squish us, He could squish. But I didn’t quite understand the Christ in your heart thing. If you have grown up in another church and you look back at it, it is pretty powerful but I clearly missed it. Or it happened and I didn’t see it. I remember I joined the church, but I didn’t retain a really cognizant memory of it occurring. So I wanted to do it for the right reasons. I didn’t want to do it for the insurance plan. Don’t get me wrong. An eternity in heaven compared to the crying and gnashing of teeth is a major league benefit. But I didn’t want to do it as a placebo, I didn’t want to do it because of fear. I wanted to do it for the right reasons.
What would you say to people out there in the 10 o’clock worship service who might be where you were, or maybe they are where you are today?
Well first off, come to the nine o’clock service because there is less crowding, there are no people standing in the aisles. Two things. The first thing is that having read the Bible and attended church, there is so much stuff that you can learn from it. A friend told me that love is not an emotion, it is a decision. Every morning you wake up and you decide to love your spouse and you decide to love your neighbor despite their shortcomings. Ultimately it comes down to the same thing with believing in Christ. For a long time there, I thought that I was going to fall in love with God. That I was going to kind of swoon. That it would jolt me. That at the end of a service I would feel a powerful feeling while Ed prayed that prayer. What I came to understand was that despite my doubts, and I would be the Colonel of doubt, I would have to choose to believe. I did that twenty-seven days ago. So I am just kind of a pup.
The second thing would be that it is OK to be a seeker. It really is. My search was incredibly cool. And I know that from now on it will be even better. This is a great place to seek. When I come into this church and sit down, I am jazzed, I am engaged. I know I am going to hear something. I talk to a lot of bright people every day of the week, but I think I learn more here in an hour than I do over the course of a week. Somewhere along the line I think that we have gotten a little out of whack here. My Mom calls and asks if I went to church. Did the kids go to church. It is like someone is checking it off somewhere. Maybe somebody is! But I think that is the wrong question. I think the right question is, did you listen at church? Did you learn anything at church? Did anything that you heard there seem applicable? When I drive to this place I know that I am passing people that are going to some other place and I hope that it is really good. But I’ll tell what, this is a pretty special place. Some people have been here for four or five years. I only wish I had known about it earlier. There is lots of stuff to learn here.
Michael, we appreciate your coming by. For those of you who don’t know, Michael is not a member of our church. He has been attending for awhile. We are so thankful, though, that he has made the most important decision, which is to know Christ personally. He sure is a brave guy to sit on one of these stools and be interviewed by me. Again, we appreciate your coming.
I am sure that many people over the four services this weekend can identify with the spiritual pilgrimage of Michael Tamer. Maybe you are investigating the claims of Christ. Maybe you are seeking. We want you to know how important it is that we communicate Christ to you. That is why we are spending an entire weekend talking about evangelism, one of the core values of our church. Today, this message is designed specifically for those here who are believers, for those inside the family of God. If you are outside the family of God, relax, listen but remember that this is for those who are members here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas.
I want to ask and answer three questions about communicating Christ this morning. I call this the 3M approach to evangelism. The first question is this. How can I be motivated to share Christ? First, when I realize the scope of my blessings. You know when I see seekers who matter to God poking around the garbage dumps of life, looking for security and meaning and power and strength, when I see them moving from lover to lover, bar to bar, fun fix to fun fix, when I see them moving down this dead end street, turning down that dead end street, I want to stop them and ask if they realize what they are doing. You need to experience God. I encourage you and challenge you to pray and write your prayers out. One of the important aspects of journaling is that it makes you see on a page the scope of God’s blessings, what He has given to you, what He has done for you. When I realize who I am in Christ, when I get a grasp of the scope of God’s blessings, it motivates me to communicate Him with others. I say to myself, who wouldn’t want to have a personal relationship with the living Lord.
The second thing that motivates us to share our faith, and should motivate us to share our faith is when we realize that we can be used by God. Take out your bulletin insert. I love what it says in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be My witnesses…” Circle the word witnesses. Amazing as it seems, normal, everyday, average human beings are God’s special agents to communicate His message on earth. Jesus said, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” See how strategic Christ was in evangelism? You can be used by God. Just think about it. Someone in your corner of the earth needs a person like you, with your personality, with your background, with your experience, with your education to share Christ and communicate His love to them. I can’t do it in your circle of friends. You can’t do it in my circle of friends. God has given all of us a scope and an area of influence. Will we communicate Christ or not? That is the question. But when I realize that I can be used by God, that motivates me to share Christ.
The third motivation is simply this. I am motivated when I realize the reality of hell. I don’t like to talk about hell, I don’t like to read about it. I don’t like to think about it. Hell is a factual place. I believe in it rationally. I believe in it intellectually. The Bible says that people who matter to God will spend eternity there if they don’t repent and turn by faith to Christ. II Thessalonians 1:8-9.
“…those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept His plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of His power.” One of the major teaching themes of Christ was the reality of hell. Jesus was saddened because he saw the rich young ruler on a road to hell. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because he knew scores and scores of people who would spend eternity in hell. Researcher George Barner writes that 2.2 million Americans will die this year. He estimates that about 1 million of them will go to an eternity in hell. When I just ponder this thought, when I realize the reality of hell, it motivates me to get off my spiritual duff to do something in someone’s life for Christ. Who knows. I could be their last hope. You could be their last hope.
The fourth motivation concerning communicating Christ with other is when you realize the blessings and benefits of leading someone to Christ. The Bible says in Luke 15:10, “…there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” A cosmic celebration, a heavenly hoedown. All you have to hear one time someone say, “Because of what you told me about Christ, my life is changed.” If you hear that once, that will be the motivation to communicate Him to other people. Lost people matter to God so much that He commissioned His only Son to die on the cross for them. If it is important to God and to Christ who made the irreligious and the lost a major priority in His ministry then it must be important to the church. The church must have as one of its core values the area of evangelism. We have to have one hand with God and the other hand reaching out to those persons who do not know Him, inviting them into the kingdom. In Luke, chapter 15, Christ talked about three circumstances and situations where something important was lost. He talked about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. Every time something that was lost was returned, a party was thrown. The lost sheep, the lost coin and the son returned home, the place went nuts. God says that in heaven every time one sinner comes to Him, they throw a party in heaven. That is why we spend so much energy and effort and time and prayer being sensitive to the needs of those people who are outside the family of God. The motivation of sharing Christ.
Here is the second M in the 3M approach to evangelism. What should be my method of communicating Christ? I see the motivation and I am starting to get motivated. Now what is the method. Picture, if you will, the stereotypical evangelist, hair spray glistening, hell-fire preaching, finger pointing, southern accent modeling evangelist. And many of these evangelists are great individuals. We see them when we channel surf. We read about them in the newspaper holding this revival and that conference. I have got news for you. They only reach a fraction of humanity. Most Christians say this about evangelism. I’m not going to share my faith. I’m not going to communicate Christ with others because if I do I will have to turn into the stereotypical evangelist. I will have to become someone I am not. I can’t do that. And the evil one loves to give us those lies. “Hey, it will turn you into a weirdo. It will turn you into a spiritual freak.” That is not true, not at all. It is obvious that because people are different, are unique, they need to be reached with different and unique people, all communicating the truth the way they are wired up. In other words, God says through His Word, you communicate Me like I made you. Don’t try to do it like Ed Young. Don’t try to do it like Jim Smith. Don’t try to do it like Lori Todd. Do it the way you are wired.
I want to share with you briefly six Biblical methods of communicating Christ to individuals in your sphere of influence. These methods are highlighted and detailed in a book I highly recommend entitled BECOMING A CONTAGIOUS CHRISTIAN by Lee Strobel, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg. We will be teaching this course to our membership once a quarter beginning in two months. The first method that you might identify with is the confrontational method. Can some of you identify with that? Are you a confrontational person? Do you say, “Man, your breath is horrible?” “That really doesn’t match.” If you are a confrontational person you are in good company because there was a man in the Bible who was confrontational. His name was Simon Peter. He preached a sermon in Acts 2. Here is what Peter said to all of the Jewish people. He said, “You guys and gals crucified the Messiah. You killed Him. But He rose again. And you had better repent and be baptized.” Three thousand repented and were baptized that day. Peter was the one who tried to walk on water. At least he stepped out of the boat. Peter was a man of action, a type A personality. When they tried to arrest Jesus in the garden, he took up a sword and cut the guys ear off. Peter said that he would never turn his back on Jesus but he did. There are certain people who will only respond to the truth when they are slapped with it. They need to be confronted. If your approach, your style and your giftedness is confrontational, go out there and confront. But, take a cue from Lost In Space. Remember that old television show? The robot said warning, warning, warning, warning. Hey, confrontational, warning, warning, use tact. Use tact.
The second methodology that maybe some of you can identify with is the intellectual approach. “Well, Ed, how do I know if I am an intellectual or not?” If you love to debate, if you love research, if you are well educated, if you like to bring in all sorts of arguments, you are in good company. The Apostle Paul used the intellectual approach many times in his ministry. Case in point, Acts 17. Paul gave a brief message, a defense of the faith, on a place called Mars Hill. There was a giant statute there and inscribed below were the words, “To An Unknown God.” Paul said that this God was unknown to them, but he could tell them about that God who revealed Himself through Christ. He defended, the Bible says, and explained Jesus. Push the pause button. Bring in Mr. Confrontational, Simon Peter. What do you think Peter would have said to the intelligentsia on Mars Hill. He would have said, “Give me a sledge hammer. This idol is ungodly. You repent and you better be baptized.” It would not have worked. God uses specific people to reach unique individuals for Christ. Be yourself. Are you an intellectual? Warning, warning. Intellectuals, you cannot argue someone into the Kingdom of God. You can’t do it. You have to let the Holy Spirit do that. He has got to work, He has got to bring them in.
The third method is the testimonial method. Remember the blind beggar that Jesus healed? He simply said this to everyone he saw. “I was once blind, now I see. If this is not God, who is He?” If you can tell stories well, if you have had a dramatic testimony like Michael Tamer, if people respond when you talk, if you see seekers really connecting with your life experiences, this might be your method. It very well could be the approach that God wants you to take. Warning, warning. Testimonial people, don’t talk too much about yourself. It is tempting to always talk about yourself.
The fourth method is the relational method. Maybe you are Mr. Friendly or Ms. Friendly, always inviting people over, going out to eat, never met an enemy. Matthew was like that. Matthew was a wealthy tax collector who fell in love with Jesus Christ. Matthew couldn’t confront, he wasn’t that intellectual, maybe he was only OK with a testimony. What could Matthew do? He could throw a party. He could put one on. So he invited all of his hell-bound friends over to his palatial home, he invited Jesus Christ and the disciples. He knew that when his friends rubbed shoulders with Christ and the disciples, they would see something different. They would see changed lives. He threw a party with a purpose. Maybe you need to do that. The sad thing is, research tells us that two years after you become a Christian you have no real relationships with those people you knew before you became a Christian. That is sad. How about throwing a party with a purpose. Do the Matthew thing. Warning, warning. Don’t get so involved in the party and the friendships that you put truth telling on the back burner. One day you have got to tell the truth about who Christ is.
Another approach is the invitational approach. Jesus met the woman at the well. She ran back home and brought all the town people back to hear Jesus. Many people met Him personally. Who needs to be invited to this church, from your apartment complex, from your neighborhood, from your health club, from your foursome? Who needs to be invited here? Maybe you can identify with the woman at the well. Maybe you are good at inviting people. Warning, warning. Don’t put it off only on the church. You, too, will have to come to the point where you discuss the claims of Christ.
The sixth method is service evangelism. Dorcas is a lady mentioned in the New Testament. She served people. She made clothes for the needy. She assisted them. She communicated Jesus with others. Because of her acts of service, because she modeled true Christianity, people got saved. Maybe that is you. Warning, warning. Don’t get so enmeshed in service that you forget to speak.
The first M, motivation. The second M, method. The third M, what is your MO, modus operandi. How do you do it? Three quick, easy yet profound steps. First build a relationship of integrity with an irreligious person in your life. Some of you are saying that you don’t have any. Build the relationship on a common passion that you share with this person. Don’t build it on deep theological debate. Build it on golf. Build it on bowling. Build it on antiquing. Build it on sewing. Build it on snowboarding. Build it on flyfishing, yea. Build it on something that you have in common with the individual. And the first time you are with this person, the second time you are with them, the third time, the fourth time, don’t mention Christ, the Bible, God, the Holy Spirit, church, salvation, unless the Holy Spirit muscles you to say something. Show the person that you love them. Because if you know Christ, you do love them. If I didn’t know Christ, I wouldn’t give a flip about Michael Tamer. Who cares about him? But I know Jesus. He is in my heart and He gives me a supernatural love for people. That is why I love him and I will love him eternally. Brothers and sisters in Christ love each other and we should love the lost the way Christ loved them. Build a relationship of integrity. You can’t go to the bars, the topless clubs, to places that will cause you to compromise. Model authentic Christianity. For some of you, around your nonbelieving friends, you don’t have a testimony to tell because you are one way with one group and another way with another group. That is pretty heavy. Build a relationship.
The second step. Share a verbal witness with this irreligious person. And here is how you share with them. You pray. You say, “God, you give me an opportunity to share.” And just give them sparks of Christ. You should be able to give your testimony in about a minute and a half. Your testimony is this. How you met Christ, your life before Christ, what Christ has done in your life and now what He is doing and going to do in your life. Say that to someone, not using all the church terms, but terms a person can connect with. Talk about a high risk prayer. A lot of you say to me that your life is kind of boring right now. You pray that prayer and you will find out what happens. Talk about maturing, talk about growing deep, talk about being a fully devoted follower of Christ, start sharing your faith. Sad to say, the first time I ever prayed this prayer I was twenty years old. I had been a Christian for years and years and years. Then I prayed this prayer because someone challenged me to do it. And the next day a teammate of mine walked up to me. He was involved with drugs, involved in stealing, involved in a lot of other things and he said, “Ed, something is different about you and Lisa. I see you all going to church. There is something different. Is it this God thing?” I was rattled because the prayer was answered so rapidly. I fumbled and stuttered and quoted about four or five verses incorrectly. I didn’t know what I was saying. The Holy Spirit, though, interpreted, and the guy became a believer. He accepted Christ. And I thought, how unbelievable, God used me to do this when I prayed that high risk prayer. And that got to whole adventure going. Sad to say. I am going to tell you right now about this friend of mine named Scott. I had no place, no church to invite my friend to attend or become a part of. I though about the church that I was attending. It was a church set up for the already convinced, a holy huddle. We had our own secret language for the secret club. We were nice, it was clean, it wasn’t messy, it was easy. He couldn’t connect. He couldn’t relate. If we are serious about being a Biblical church, one of the core values must always be evangelism. It has to be. If a church is not evangelistic, they are not Biblical, they are not Holy Spirit inspired, they are puffed up, pietistic, legalistic, hypocritic institutions. They are taking the easy way out. You know what Jesus said to believers? “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men and women.” You know I love to fish. I love it. Fishing, though, is a messy sport. It is messy, it is dirty. Evangelism is messy. It is dirty. We attract a lot of people with a lot of problems who have messed up hearts and lives. We have got to grow deeper. We have got to mature. We, though, sould never lose what Christ came to do, seek and save those who are lost.
And that brings us to the third step. Invite the person to attend a church, a service like this one that is sensitive to their needs. Do you realize what we have here? I have confidence to invite anyone, from the Michael Tamers of the world, to whoever, to our church and I know they will hear a message from the music, from the drama, from video, from whoever is teaching about Christ in language they can understand. We don’t transform the gospel, we translate the gospel. We translate it into words that people can understand and connect with. What would happen if you guys and gals invited one irreligious person to our church next week? We couldn’t hold the people, we would have to have ten services. Research shows that one out of four nonchurched adults would attend church this weekend if someone they knew invited them. In other words, there are 14 to 18 million adults sitting at home right now who would be at church today if Christians had invited them. There is nothing like it.
Now what do we do with Michael Tamer? He is just a pup. A babe in Christ, 27 days old, still on formula. What do we do with him? Do we say, “Michael, hey, you’ve got a ticket to heaven…..and we don’t care. We’ll see you later.” Then we go to the next one. No, we don’t do that. Now, the church must become intentional and process-minded to take this person who used to be uninterested, now he is interested and has committed his life to Christ, and move him down the track to being a fully developed, devoted, mature follower of Christ. We will talk about that next week.