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Preaching Follow up

Yesterday I preached from 1 John 4:13-21. One of the questions that kept popping up in my mind was that if fear has to do with punishment and we are free from God’s punishment through faith in Christ, then why aren’t we taking more risks to love people into Jesus? Risking our feelings, emotions, prejudices, and even our worldviews can be an anxiety creating effort but it is worth it. I shared a passage from the most recent issue of Leadership Magazine that I’ve been wrestling with for a couple of weeks. The passage is part of a conversation with Jim Cymbala and he says:

“The number one sin of the church in America is that its pastors and leaders are not on their knees crying out to God, ‘Bring us the drug-addicted, bring us the prostitutes, bring us the destitute, bring us the gang leaders, bring us those with AIDS, bring us the people nobody else wants, whom only you can heal, and let us love them in your name until they are whole.'”

That’s risky. Last week at a conference I attended I heard Bryan Collier of the Orchard in Tupelo, MS say that it’s hard to convince people to invite the people Cymbala described because we don’t want to deal with their baggage. In other words, we don’t want to risk the time or the effort it takes to love them into Jesus’ name.

So, how do you convince a group of people to take that risk? The fourth question Andy Stanley asked in my last post was, “What is the vision?” If our vision is that we want to be a people who love others in Jesus’ name (I think it is even if not formally stated), then what would our church look like if we risked ourselves to welcome the broken, hurting, and addicted into our church and love them in Jesus’ name?

I’m pretty terrible at closing or applying much of what I have learned from Scripture in the sermon itself, but this vision approach really seemed to work. I saw a lot of uncomfortable people yesterday. I don’t mean that glibly. What I mean is that I saw people wrestling with the reality that if what I said was from Scripture and the Holy Spirit, then things will have to be different. I asked them to think of the person who they avoid at all costs, who makes them angry or anxious when they see that person, or who they would least like to sit next to in church and pray this prayer for that person:

“Jesus, thank you for dying and rising, for saving me from my sin. I pray that you will bring to us ____________, whom only you can heal and change, and let our church love them in your name until they are whole. AMEN.”

I think some folks will pray this prayer and it will be interesting to see what the Holy Spirit does with that prayer.

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  1. Jeff
    May 8, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    You’re on the right track, Matt. Shake people up enough, though, and they might not like you for it. It’s unusual for a Methodist pastor, and unlikely to further your career much.

    And thanks for saying what’s on your heart.

  2. June 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Excellent post. Wish I could have heard the sermon.

    When we’re comfortable in society, we’re very much not following Jesus in the ways he asked us to feed and care for the hungry, sick and poor.

    Some of God’ most important work, is the work in the margins.

    Blessings
    Mitchell
    http://www.broomfieldumc.org
    twitter: mitchellashley

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