(June 18, 2018) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share a reflection…
Recently I (Robert) was waiting in the church prayer room for someone I’m counselling to arrive.
As usual midweek I was casually attired, wearing my leather jacket, chinos and, not my Fedora, but my Greek fisherman’s cap. As time was going on I decided to stand relaxedly looking through the room’s large down-to-the-ground windows onto the pleasant garden outside.
A young pastor happened by: Stopping, he commented, ‘For some strange reason, Robert, I had the impression you were casually waiting for a train!’
No, I wasn’t: I was just waiting for someone who wasn’t showing up… and waiting, expecting…
Christians waiting around for that good old gospel train?
Suddenly I had reminiscences of old glory ‘gospel train to heaven’ songs – and lines such as those from David Meece’s Gospel Train that declare ‘All aboard for the gospel train, my seat’s reserved, and my ticket’s paid.’
Then a picture came to me – one of many Christians from different churches waiting at that station called The Church, all confident that they were all right and would definitely be on board when the ‘gospel train to heaven’ eventually came along.
They were just standing there… standing at the station called The Church – and doing nothing, going nowhere. Oh they sang a few precious choruses, prayed some, had cuppas and chatted occasionally, many were hooked on SMSing and ignoring spouses and family. I had the distinct impression that they were just hanging around and even as the person I had expected wasn’t turning up, neither was that expected gospel train.
An odd vision indeed – but when I shared it later with Maureen it got us thinking…
It’s been a while now since we last heard anyone saying, ‘With the way the world is going, it looks like Jesus will be coming back soon.’ Occasionally someone still does… gloomily, even fearfully.
Jesus isn’t due back yet, folks!
Despite what theologians, and particularly false prophets, or others such as futurists, physicists and ‘intelligent design advocates’ have claimed to know the exact date of Christ’s return – from the past predictions of Hippolytus, Africanus, and Irenaeus claiming 500AD through to the 2015 claims of Mark Biltz’ blood moon prophecy all have been wrong as well as confusing and deceptive. Today we have more misleadings, such as Ronald Weinland’s 2019 theory and Frank J. Tipler’s date of 2057. In reality no one but no really knows!
The truth is that although he could return at any (but unknown!) moment Jesus isn’t scheduled to return just yet! There’s still much for Christians and churches to do!
In Matthew 24:4-5 Message we read what Jesus made very clear to his disciples when they asked, ‘Tell us, when are these things going to happen? What will be the sign of your coming, that the time’s up?’ He warned, ‘Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities… They will deceive a lot of people.’
Jesus then described what could be expected around the world – and to some of his followers – before he will return. Then in verse 36, he stated: ‘But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.’
No one knows includes so-called prophets! But in verse 44 he gave us a fair warning to be on our toes, not lounging doing nothing and waiting idly: ‘Be vigilant… You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.’ And in verse 46 the kind of Christians he will be looking for are highlighted: ‘Someone the Master can drop in on unannounced and always find him doing his job. A God-blessed man or woman, I tell you.’
Back in verse 14 Jesus declared, ‘All during this time, the good news – the message of the kingdom – will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come.’
Note that word ‘all.’ The reality is that despite all our 21st century wizardry of mobile phones, DVD players, laptops and popular TV evangelists (calling for huge financial support!), not all the world has been reached in over 2000 years since Jesus returned to heaven – never mind his returning to Earth!
Unreached Peoples Groups figures such as The Joshua Project (https://joshuaproject.net/) reveal that there are still many people – 7088, 41.7% of the world’s population – who have never heard the gospel (that is a clear, genuine presentation of the gospel)!
There’s definitely still too much to do! World missions are so important – see Dr George Forbes’ article this month but…
What about unreached people in our own community?
Today we hear a lot of talk about churches being a community and community-oriented. Sounds good! Well such a community is active, one of the ‘could’ and ‘could be’, a locale where:
- Unreached lost people could be found
- Found people could grow to full maturity in the faith
- Lonely people could be enfolded into life-giving community
- People in need could be loved and served
- Bored people could find a pulse-quickening purpose
- Together gender, racial, and generational chasms could be bridged
- The Holy Spirit could and would guide every aspect of church life.
But is this happening in our local churches? The pastor or pastoral team can’t fulfil this role alone – it takes everyone who relate to the local church regardless of age or circumstances. There is a decided need for churchgoers to grow up in their Christianity, to get their act together and if genuine followers of Jesus to be active for him and their church. It is not a railway station!
Now we understand that some people have physical or mental problems or other difficulties… but somehow even such can serve Jesus in some area.
We think of a dear lady we once knew. She was living in a country area, was incapacitated and couldn’t express herself too well, was not a minister and didn’t want to be one (!). But she served Jesus and blessed us and many other ministers across her state with the use of phone books, encouraging us all to continue in our service for their Lord.
How? She was a ‘could do, can do’ lady and…
- Collected used envelopes from all sorts of sources
- Peeled off the used stamps
- Looked up many pastor’s addresses (regardless of denomination)
- Painstakingly typed and glued new address labels on these envelopes
- Included a short note of encouragement (even though typing was difficult due to arthritis!)
- Set aside from her pension enough money to buy postage stamps.
- Made it to her local post box
- Brought much encouragement to many overstretched ministers.
This dear lady wasn’t waiting at the station called The Church – she had let the Holy Spirit show her something she could do… and she did it without complaint!
As for those of us who can get around, meet people and are willing to be used to build our local church and encourage people whether Christian or not, well… if we allow the Holy Spirit to use us we can reach who knows how many people in any one week. God-given opportunities always come up to pray for people, encourage others, show acts of kindness and be a blessing to needy people in both church and ‘out there.’ (See last month’s article on the inverted T principle: (See link below).
Community-minded churches are places where active Christians find some way to help their church advance in its mission to share the love of a caring God and a gracious Saviour with a lost local world (as well as its overseas missions’ vision).
Thus we can all help reach the goal of the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples!
Every Christian has divine help!
Those who know the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in a personal indwelling manner know that he is there to assist us whoever we are, whatever we are, however we are. It doesn’t matter if we’re not feeling on top – we are not alone, we have the same Spirit as Jesus has… therefore we have no excuse!
Cheerful Christians all do something! The baptism of the Spirit is just not to enable us to freely worship God in an unknown language, but for service!
The principle of what Jesus said we’d be able to do if we ever came up against magistrates for our faith can be applied to sharing the gospel: ‘Don’t worry about what you’ll say. When the time comes, say what’s on your heart – the Holy Spirit will make his witness in and through you’ (Mark13:11Mge).
Thank God that the Spirit is the great helper! We like what the constitution of Mill Park Baptist Church boldly proclaims…
‘All members have been gifted by the Holy Spirit for their part in this ministry and are called to fulfil the meaning of their baptism by exercising their gifts together in nurturing the growth of Christian faith, peace and love.’
Have a fresh read of the Spirit’s amazing power gifts that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12! And realise we can all flow in these to help build the kingdom and enthuse and bless many.
May no one be standing idly at the station called The Church! Let’s help the unchurched discover the fullness of Christ and help them get their tickets for the glory train to heaven… and then help disciple them ensuring that they are not standing idly at an empty station!
(Scripture and other emphases ours). Relating links: Norman & Margaret Moss click here / The Joshua Project click here / Robert & Maureen McQuillan May article click here / George Forbes click here / Jim McClure click here