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Standard Equipment

the love of Christ leaves us no choice. (one translation of II Cor. 5:14a)      

“Introducing Others to Jesus is Standard Equipment For The Church”

          Have you been into a new car showroom lately and looked at the sticker prices on new vehicles.  Perhaps you have seen an ad which says prices on a particular model start at $18999.  And sure enough there it is—at the top of the sticker.  Then there is a long list of options to add which easily run the total to over $30,000.  The starting price includes standard equipment—you know, 4 wheels, a steering wheel, motor, seats and doors.  The final price has a lot of options added.
          In some sense, the Church comes with standard equipment but may include a lot of options.   Evangelism, making of Disciples is part of the standard equipment for the Church.  A Church which does not make disciples is, in some sense, not really a church.  But it is clear some seem to think it optional.  Some time ago, a National Council of Churches poll of mainline clergy found that less than 40% believed the basic evangelistic mission of the church was to make disciples.  Lyle Schaller, who probably has more first hand knowledge of more congregations and has done more research and thinking about such things than any person in our time, was asked by Bishop Emerson Colaw why the United Methodist Church was in decline: “If you want a blunt answer, it is because we…don’t care.  We have the resources, and we know how to grow, but it is not a priority.”
          It is clear from history, however, that is a betrayal of the spirit and commitment of Methodism.  It is certainly a betrayal of the mission to which Jesus called us and which Paul affirmed in our text with those powerful words—“the love of Christ leaves us no choice.”  It is not optional!  As a church, we have affirmed that our mission is “to make disciples.” But it is one thing to say it and another to do it.  If we are going to be faithful to what we have said, it has great implications and will be costly in ways most of us have never considered.
          Behind Jesus’ commission are two important facts.
          First, we are recipients of God’s grace.  So we have something to share.  The theologian Paul Tillich wrote, “We only want to show you something we have seen and tell you something we have heard.”  Missionary statesman, D.T. Niles said, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”
          Second, people are lost.  Many don’t believe it and this emasculates any evangelistic motivation.  Even when a church accepts Jesus’ command, it can so cloud the issue as to virtually nullify it.  I read this in one United Methodist church’s newsletter:  After a discussion in Staff Parish Relations Committee about God’s will for _______ UM Church, they affirmed it was stated in Matthew 28:19 [make disciples].  Then said—“Our mandate, then is to be a positive influence in our community and in the world, sensitive to and administering to the needs of all people.”
          God help us! That sounds like what the local Rotary would say!  Jesus is pointed and direct.  In same context as the great gospel text (John 3:16) we read:         

“The man who puts his faith in him does not come under judgment; but the unbeliever has already been judged in that he has not given his allegiance to God’s only Son….He who puts his faith in the Son has hold of eternal life, but he who disobeys the Son shall not see that life; God’s wrath rests upon him.”  (John 3:18, 36)

          What can you do?  Pledge yourself to be a part in some way of your church’s discipleship making attempts.  Pray, invite a friend, a family member, co-worker to church.  Tell someone what Jesus has done for you.

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