November 12, 2006
The first time I ever prayed the kind of prayer I’m going to describe to you I was 20 years old, a sophomore at Florida State University. I knelt down in our athletic dorm, rested my elbows on the air conditioning unit, looked out over a darkened parking lot and said these words, “God, help me to point someone to you tomorrow.” That’s what I prayed. “God, help me to point someone to Jesus tomorrow.”
The next day, I was walking to class with one of my teammates. This guy had just transferred from another school because he’d gotten kicked off his basketball team due to drug usage. And the Florida State Seminoles picked him up.
As we were walking, we were going back and forth. And I could tell something was heavy on his heart and life. He just looked at me and here’s what he said. He said, “Ed, there’s something different about you, man.” He said, “I want what you have.”
I was ambushed by the power of God. I just felt his presence and I knew he was cracking open the door for me to walk through. So I began to talk to this guy about my life. I just simply told him about what had happened to me. And God began to take over. And about five hours later I found myself in his dorm room leading him in a prayer to commit his life to Christ. With tears streaming down his cheeks, I saw this guy step over the line of faith and become a believer. That situation messed me up. My life has never been the same because of that transaction that God allowed me to be a part of.
Behind me is a La-Z-Boy recliner. I hope you recognize it. I mean a La-Z-Boy is like the icon of comfort. Everybody knows about a La-Z-Boy, right? Who has La-Z-Boys here in the house? If you have a La-Z-Boy, don’t be shy. God bless you. Hands are going up everywhere. God bless you. God bless you.
Grandparents have the dual La-Z-Boys. Have you seen those? Side by side La-Z-Boys. La-Z-Boys are all about comfort. I like to be comfortable and so do you. And our culture is all about comfort. We have the Comfort Inn, we have this whole comfort spa mentality, pedicures and manicures and massages. We want to be comfortable. Everything is comfortable—comfortable clothes and comfortable furniture and we want to be financially comfortable. It’s all about being comfortable.
I love La-Z-Boys, though, because La-Z-Boys are just perfectly designed. Whoever thought about a La-Z-Boy knew what they were doing. You can sit like this. You can recline. This posture is just phenomenal, because right here, you can eat mass quantities of food. You can sleep, can’t you? You can watch television. I mean this is the ultimate. People always say, “Well, I’m going to my La-Z-Boy.” The La-Z-Boy is synonymous with comfort.
I need a La-Z-Boy, don’t you, in this uncomfortable world? Let’s face it; our world is uncomfortable with wars and terrorism and all these crazy things happening. There’s a lot of stress and anxiety. I need a La-Z-Boy. I need some comfort in my life and so do you. La-Z-Boy. I like a La-Z-Boy.
I don’t think that Jesus was sitting in a La-Z-Boy. I don’t think Jesus had comfort on his mind when he said in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” I don’t think Jesus was thinking comfort when he said that. I don’t think Jesus was thinking about comfort when he said in Matthew 28:19, “…go and make disciples of all nations.” I don’t think he was thinking about comfort. I mean, that’s just my reading of the Bible.
Jesus was talking about what? About being uncomfortable. Look at Scripture. Scriptures tell us—I’m talking to believers now—that we’re to be comfortably uncomfortable. Say that with me, “Comfortably uncomfortable.”
God got uncomfortable for you and me. He sent Jesus Christ to live a very uncomfortable life, to die an excruciating, uncomfortable death. Jesus conquered death and rose again and he offers us eternal life, a life of comfort.
Everyone is facing eternity. And we spend more time on that side of the grave than on this side of the grave. We have a choice—either eternal comfort or eternal discomfort. Jesus got uncomfortable, he told us some uncomfortable stories, and did some uncomfortable things, just so we can experience comfort.
Comfort. We like to be comfortable. We want Fellowship Church to be a place where people are comfortable. If you’re a believer, if you’re a Christ-follower, we want you to be comfortably uncomfortable. If you’re far away from God; if you don’t know Jesus; if you’ve never stepped over the line of faith like my friend did about 20 years ago, we want you to be comfortable, yet hear an uncomfortable message. So we do a lot of work to keep people comfortable here at Fellowship Church, especially those who are far away from God.
It’s very interesting, because if you read the data and do the research you see that the longer someone walks with God, the fewer contacts they have with people who are far away from God. In other words, the longer a person is a believer, the less connectivity they have with people who aren’t believers. That’s the antithesis, though, of what Christ has called us to do. We’ve got to learn to become comfortably uncomfortable.
One day Jesus called these four guys. You know the four guys. We name our kids after these four guys—Peter, Andrew, James and John. You know “the guys;” I’m talking about some disciples.
These guys had been fishing. And in Mark 1:17 Jesus tells them something that is odd when you think about it. And I’m sure it just kind of went over their heads. He said, “Guys, follow me and I’ll make you…”
Let me stop here for a second. They were probably thinking, “He’s going to make me a better husband, a better father, a better fisherman, or make more money.”
Jesus said, though, “Follow me, guys, and I’ll make you into something you are not. I will make you fishers of men.”
Now, you know they had no clue what was going on when Jesus said that. Fishers of men? Jesus was going to turn them into something that they weren’t; fishers of men.
Followers fish. If you are a true follower of Christ, you’re going to fish. If you follow, you fish. You’re not really following if you’re not really fishing. Fishers of men. Jesus said, “I’m going to teach you to do that.”
When I became a Christian years ago, do you know why I became a Christian? I became a Christian because I didn’t want to go to hell. That’s why I followed Jesus. The Sunday school teacher said, “You can either go to heaven, Eddy, or you can go to hell.” I’ll choose heaven.
And a lot of us become followers of Christ for different reasons. And that’s cool. Maybe you’ve found yourself in the deep weeds; maybe you’re engulfed with substance abuse and that led you, maybe through a 12-step program, to open your life up to Christ. That’s awesome. Maybe you got into a real difficult relational issue, some marriage problem or whatever. Maybe you’re a single parent struggling with all that stress and anxiety. Maybe that’s led you to a point where you receive Christ. Awesome! That’s great. That’s what it’s all about.
I’m going to tell you something, though. I didn’t realize when I made that decision as a kid that Jesus would turn me in to a fisher of men. I didn’t know that. Followers fish. I didn’t get that.
It’s like marriage. Lisa and I’ve been married almost 25 years now. I didn’t realize the implications of that decision until later on. I’m still realizing the implications today. You know, when you walk down the wedding runner and say, “I do,” you don’t really know what’s going on, do you? You do, but not fully.
Well, the same is true as we walk with Christ. Jesus wants to make us and change us into fishers of men. And to be fishermen we’ve got to get and remain—here’s the key word—uncomfortable. That’s sounds so strange, doesn’t it? You show me someone who is a deep, someone who is a mature believer, and I’ll show you someone who is comfortably uncomfortable.
And this whole thing I’m talking about is so rich. It is such a monumental task that Jesus knew we would need supernatural power just to do it. So if you have your Bibles, turn to the book of Acts 1:8.
Do you remember that show, “Good Times?” That was my favorite show. Jimmy J. J. Walker, I love him. “That’s dyn-o-mite!” I mean, I love him. I used to have a hat like him. I had a shirt with Jimmy Walker’s picture on it that said, “Kid Dynomite.” I wore that thing out. I love him. You might be wondering, “Why did he mention ‘Good Times?’” Well there’s a reason.
Acts 1:8, “You will receive power.”
Say the word “power” with me. Power. The word power in the Greek is pronounced dynomous. We get the word dynamite from it. So think dynomite, okay?
[the verse continues] “You will receive power (that’s the power of the Holy Spirit of God) when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…”
What’s a witness, anyway? I mean when I was 20, I didn’t know all the answers this guy was wanting me to come up with about the Christian faith. I didn’t know every angle, every Scripture verse. I was only 20 years old. Give me a break. I didn’t know all that junk. I didn’t. I could just tell him what had happened to me. I said, “Here’s what’s happened to me. Here’s my life before Christ; here’s my life after Christ. This is just what happened to me.”
And because I told him what happened to me, it happened to him. Was it me? No way! It was the Holy Spirit of God. The power. The dynomite power.
[the verse continues] “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Isn’t this amazing that God has called us to this? But so many of us go through the same ritual and routine, day after day, week after week, month after month. We’re just going through the motions, you know? We just kind of diesel through life thinking, “That’s just the way it is, man. I’m just doing life in a rut. It’s just predictable.”
Well, here’s the deal about this. What I’m talking about can give you and me the opportunity to turn the mundane into the miraculous. We have an opportunity to bump up against people and to change their forever. We have an opportunity to get in dialogue with them, to talk about things with them, to serve them, to pray for them, to alter their forever.
When we do that, everything has this miraculous meaning behind it. It’s not just boring and predictable and same-old, same-old. When we’re buying the latte at the coffee shop, we can look at the person and see the person the way the Holy Spirit wants us to see the person. We can engage them in conversation. We wonder, “Are they a Christ-follower or not?”
Some of you right now are going, “Wait a minute, I’m the guy at Starbucks. I’m not a Christ-follower. What do you mean? I’ve got some target on my back? You guys are going to try to take me out with a Gospel gun? Are you telling me that all these people are going to come to me and saying, ‘Man, if you don’t turn you’ll burn. You’re going to hell.’”
No. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying, based on Scripture, it’s all about love. Once you’ve been ambushed by the love of God, true love cannot be contained. It’s got to spill over on everyone, even the barista at the coffee shop. So we’re wondering about this person. We see our neighbor, but we don’t just see a neighbor.
“Yeah, but you don’t know his morals. You don’t know his language. And the way he treats that animal that he has in the backyard.”
God has placed you and me in those situations for a reason. We know people that are unique to us. It’s been ordained by God and you’re there and I’m over here to influence others for Christ. Isn’t that mind blowing?
So every client, every business transaction, every time we talk to someone on the athletic team, we have an opportunity to… Well, I’ll tell you what we have an opportunity to do. It’s in Matthew chapter 13. We have an opportunity to go Matthew 13 on people. And let me give you the Cliff’s Notes®. You can turn and read that later, don’t worry about that.
Matthew 13, Jesus was talking. And Jesus was the ultimate word picture guy, the best teacher ever. If you want to know how to communicate, just communicate the way Jesus did. Seventy percent of his words were words of application, 30% of his words were words of information. So he gave bite size chunks for information, 70% application.
One day he said, “See that dude over there, sewing seed?” And this guy was just like scattering seed. He said, “Some of the seed is going to fall on the sidewalk. And see those birds behind him? They’re going to take the seed off. That seed is gone. Other seed will fall on rocky soil. It’s not going to last. Other seed,” Jesus said, “will fall on thorny soil. The weeds will choke the life out of the plant.
“Other seeds,” he said, “will fall into fertile soil, soil that’s ready and receptive. And it will take root and grow and produce a bumper crop.”
Jesus said we should be into sewing seed. Seed is the Word of God. That’s what we should be about as Christ-followers. We should be obsessed with sewing seed.
So what do you do? What’s your agenda? What’s my agenda? It’s scattering seed. It’s just scattering seed. That’s why we have Fellowship Church. That’s why you are where you are on that block, in that complex, working in that store, selling that item, taking that test, shooting that basket, scoring that touchdown. You are there for a reason. It’s to do what? It’s to scatter seed.
Fellowship Church, I want to thank you. You guys are unbelievable. So many of you have this freaky faith. Do you know why your faith is freaky? Because you walk on the edge, man. You’re deep. You remain comfortably uncomfortable. And that’s why we have to build buildings like this and that’s why we have to do all these satellite campuses. And that’s why we had to build this thing in South Florida, this church in Miami. It’s amazing! You fish. You understand that followers fish. And you’ve invited your friends and family.
For example, how many of you attended Fellowship Church for the first time because someone invited you? Lift your hand. Look at that. Unreal. Followers fish. And that’s why we’re here. To fish. That’s why we’re here, to scatter seed.
Some people get real comfortable when I speak. So comfortable they fall asleep, you know. And that’s okay. Those chairs, you can fall asleep. And I think people will listen and absorb stuff while they’re asleep. Satan, though, the evil one, is very sly because he wants to get us so involved in the good that we miss the best.
A lot of us become believers; we’re fired up for the first three or four years. We’re doing the stuff. We’re sewing seed and then you hear this giant sucking sound. The Christian sub-culture sucks us into the La-Z-Boy.
“Whew! I feel good. I didn’t like that place. I was feeling too uncomfortable, too challenged. The music and video and the messages? That was too much. This, though, is for me. The La-Z-Boy. I’ll just hang out in this Christian sub-culture. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll just separate from the world. White hats against the black hats. The good guys against the bad guys. Us against them. Whoa! And I’ll surround myself with Christian music and Christian friends and when my toilet breaks I’ll call a Christian plumber. Everybody’s a Christian in my life. Everything Christian. I’m just a Christian. Christian, Christian, Christian, Christian. Yeah, I know my family is facing hell and they’re going to hell and that’s just the way it is. Yeah, I know my friend that I play golf with. Well, I don’t play any more, I used to play. But he used a couple bad words and he drank a little too much. No way. I’m just going to sit here and relax.”
Here’s what Satan does, the evil one. Do you know the evil one loves for us to sleep?
“Rock a bye Christians in the tree top,
Snoozing will cause your growth to stop.
Ignore the Word, stay in the chair,
You’re telling God you really don’t care.”
“Shhh! Don’t wake him up. Don’t wake her up. If they woke up, then they might start sewing seed. They might start seeing the person at Starbucks as someone that Jesus died for. They might start seeing that client as someone that’s far away from God. They might serve the client and begin to pray for that client. And the client might become a believer. No. The person on the team? You could invite them to church and they could step over the line of faith. Don’t do that.”
That’s what the evil one does. He wants us comfortable.
And yes, there is an element, please hear me, of comfort in the Christian life. There’s a tension between it. We’re comforted by Jesus. No doubt about it. God got uncomfortable, though, to send Jesus to live an uncomfortable life, die an uncomfortable death and he offers us comfort. True comfort. Once we receive the comfort of Christ, though, we must stay and remain uncomfortable enough to scatter seed.
This Christian sub-culture can suck us into doing good things—not bad things—good things. And some believers cut these side deals with God. Because as a believer, remember followers fish. It’s not optional. But many believers say, “You know, sharing my faith and praying high-risk prayers is for other people. That’s not for me.” We bargain with God.
“God, I’ll tell you what. I’m not going to share my faith. I’m not going to pray high-risk prayers. I’m not going to invite people to church. But here’s what I’ll do. I’ll become Bible Boy. Man, I will know the Bible. I will study the Bible. I want to do a Bible study on the book of Revelation. I’ll become Bible Girl.”
And we immerse ourselves in the Bible. The Bible was not meant to be worshipped. It’s not written for information; it’s written for transformation. It’s great to go to a Bible study, but allow the Bible to study you enough to get off of your rear and in to the game.
“I’ll become Bible Boy, God. Or I’ll become Missions Man or Missions Girl. I’m not going to share my faith or pray for those who are going to hell in my life. But boy, I’ll be there for every missions trip offered. You just start to say missions, and I’m there. I’m a missions man or a missions girl. Or I’ll volunteer. God, I’m not going to share my faith, and I’m not going to fish for men, but I’ll volunteer. I’ll be at Fellowship Church. I promise you five nights a week, God. I’ll be all over volunteerism.”
I want to know how you reconcile the two. If you call yourself a Christ follower, how do you reconcile the two? How do you do that? To go on missions trips, man that’s awesome. Do it. To serve, you need to serve. To know the Bible and go to Bible studies, that’s great. What’s the main thing, though? The main thing is communicating with others. That’s why we’re here. That’s why the church is here.
2 Timothy 4:5 says we are to do the “work of the evangelist.” The work. It takes work to sew seed. It takes work to be sheep who walk out in the land of wolves. It takes work to get out of our comfort zone and into being uncomfortable. And once you do that, it will mess you up.
Don’t allow the Christian sub-culture to suck you into the La-Z-Boy. Because after a while, some believers just get tired of being uncomfortable. They get tired of being challenged. So they find a La-Z-Boy church with lazy boys and girls and they just eat the comfort food and look around and see other people’s feet. They are insolated and isolated from the world. That’s not the way it should be.
I want to talk to you about doing several things. I have a little homework assignment during this first installment. Number one: I want you, again, to realize that you’ve been strategically placed where you are by the God of the universe.
God’s given you your personality, your talent, your ability just to sow seed in someone’s life. It could be an act of kindness. It could be a word. It could be inviting someone. It could be a number of things. It could be sharing your story. God has placed you where you are for a reason.
Number two: I want to challenge you to pray a Colossians 4 prayer. Colossians 4:2-3, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.”
You pray that for the next thirty days and I’m telling you, all heaven will break loose in your life. It will mess you up just like it messed me up. I promise you it will. Simply say, “God, crack open doors and I’m going to walk through them. God, I’m fearful. It’s going to make me uncomfortable. But God, I’m willing, by faith, to walk through the door and to ride on the ragged edge of maturity and depth.”
I’ve been to seminary. I’ve studied the Hebrew and Greek. I know theologians. I’ve debated different things in Scripture. You ask me, “Ed, what is the thing that causes you to mature more than any other thing?”
You know what it is? It’s doing this. It’s sharing. It’s praying that Colossians 4 prayer. It’s seeing God use a sinner like me to change someone’s forever. And when that happens, the mundane will become miraculous. You don’t just go to the cleaners anymore. It can be a miraculous thing. Don’t just drop it off; get to know the person. Just pray, “God, help me to point others to you.”
And you’ll not believe what will happen as you do that. So many are just one question away, one conversation away from becoming followers of Christ.
Number three: Use Fellowship Church as leverage. As I’ve said, we spend a lot of energy trying to make this place comfortable. Fellowship Church is the only church I’ve ever been a part of in my life where I’ve felt complete confidence to invite anybody from any situation here. Because I know they will hear the comforting message of Jesus Christ. Whether I’m speaking or someone else is speaking. I know it’s going to happen in the children’s ministry, in the student ministry, in the singles ministry, out in the parking lot, with our ushers, with our extravagant hospitality, with what goes on in here. Everywhere, I know it.
And I want to just again give you a big shout out. You guys blow me away by how many people, how many opportunities you leverage to invite people right here to Fellowship Church. Because once you have someone on your elbow that does not know Christ, once you see them step over the line, once you see the power of God hit them, once you see the Holy Spirit move, your life is never the same. It will mess you up. You’ll see church like you’ve never seen it before.
I think it was last week; I was in an area down south. I woke up real early to have some breakfast and I was by myself. My appointment that day was cancelled, so I was going to do some studying. I got up early, had some breakfast and started to do some work. So I’m in this little coffee shop eating a bowl of oatmeal, had this Bible out on the table, and was just studying and journaling and things like that. I could tell there were some people in there that were looking at me. You know when you can feel people are looking at you? And I kind of glanced over at them and they were European looking. You know European people have that cool look. The guy looked a little like Sting, real hip and his wife looked edgy. Even the kid was cool looking. I was like, “Wow, I wonder why they are looking at me?” So you could hear them talking. I don’t know what language.
As I was walking out of this coffee shop the woman stands up she goes, “Ed Young?”
I said, “Yes.”
She said, “I want you to know something. We watch Fellowship Church every week in Amsterdam. And Fellowship Church has a huge following in Holland.”
I said, “Get out a town! Are you kidding me?”
She was talking about our television show, so I even have confidence in our television show that people will understand what’s going on. So use this church as leverage. Let’s join hands together and reach this community, this city, this state, this country, this world for Jesus Christ.
You remember my friend who prayed that prayer in the dorm room? I wish I could tell you he’s doing great. But the last time I heard from him, he wasn’t doing well at all. After he made that decision, I invited him to the church I was attending. And the church I was attending was an okay church, but it was a La-Z-Boy church. Lazy boys and lazy girls were doing stuff for the already convinced, using Christian-ese, singing songs and communicating sermons that this guy could not connect with. Their little Christian clique, their little holy huddle, us four and no more, white hats against the black hats, good guys against the bad guys.
And here’s my friend still struggling with drugs and stealing stuff. He’d just stepped over the line. He didn’t know everything. And for the first time, I saw church through his eyes.
Looking back on that, I think, “How pathetic.” How far away was this church from an Acts 2 church? How far away was this church from a biblically functioning community? It was just a country club for the comfortable, just littered with La-Z-Boys. My friend never came back.
What if a church like Fellowship Church had been there? What if a church like this had been there? What if a church like Fellowship Church, that is comfortably uncomfortable, had been there? What if a church that challenged people to get off of their rears and into the game? What would be different today in his life? You do the math.
But I want to thank you for fishing. I want to thank you for inviting. I want to thank you for prayer. Because you’re messed up, like I’m messed up.