(March 04, 2020) Robert and Maureen McQuillan challenge encouragingly…
Chatting to friends recently about churches growing in 2020 once again raised the issue of everyone being involved; that we all need to get back to grass-roots discipleship of sharing our faith/ testimony every opportunity that comes our way.
That neither pastor nor pastoral team alone can fully build the local church!
But… the challenge in this ever-so-busy-lifestyle-packed age is: ‘Are we open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to take those opportunities?’
A memory flooded back to me (Robert)… I was in a church office awaiting someone coming for counselling and time was getting on. I had turned to gaze through the tall, wide windows onto the pleasant garden outside when the youth pastor happened by. Stopping, he commented, ‘For some strange reason, Robert, I had the impression you were casually hanging round, waiting for a train!’
I had smiled. Unexpectedly a line from David Meece’s Gospel Train hit me… ‘All aboard for the gospel train, my seat’s reserved, and my ticket’s paid.’
Then a picture – one of many Christians from different churches waiting at a station called The Church, all confident that they were all okay and would definitely be on board when that ‘good old gospel train to heaven’ eventually came along.
But… they were just standing there… hanging around ‘that’ station – doing nothing, going nowhere.
Oh they sang great choruses, prayed some, had lots of cuppas and chatted occasionally, many hooked on SMSing while ignoring spouses and family. Just hanging around and – even as the person I had expected wasn’t turning up – neither was that expected gospel train.
An odd vision – but when I shared with Maureen later it got us thinking…
Jesus isn’t due back yet
Occasionally someone says… gloomily, even fearfully, ‘With the terrible way the world is, even this latest no-hugging-no-kissing-anyone virus, Jesus must be coming back soon.’
Reality: Despite what some theologians, false prophets, others such as futurists, physicists and ‘intelligent design advocates’ have claimed regarding the exact date of Christ’s return – from past predictions of Hippolytus of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Irenaeus (claiming 500AD) through to Mark Biltz’ 2015 blood moon claims and Ronald Weinland’s 2019 theory all have been wrong – as well as confusing and deceptive.
Today we have more misleadings, such as F. Kenton Beshore’s 2021 prediction, Alice A. Bailey’s 2025, Jakob Lorber’s 2029 and Frank J. Tipler’s 2057. In reality no one but no one really knows!
The truth is that although he could return at any (but unknown!) moment, Jesus isn’t scheduled to return just yet! And why? 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 on their asking ‘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 before he will return. And 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.’
Any of the above named ‘Father’? Of course not! ‘No one knows’ includes so-called prophets!
Note: In verse 44 Jesus gave us a strong warning not to be hanging around doing nothing and waiting idly: ‘Be vigilant… You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.’ Verse 46 highlights the kind of Christians he will be looking for: ‘Someone the Master can drop in on unannounced and always find him doing his job. A God-blessed man or woman, I tell you.’
And in verse 14 he 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.’ Sad to say that despite our 21st century wizardry of mobiles, DVDs, laptops, worldwide Christian TV programs, not all the world has been reached in over 2000 years since Jesus returned to heaven!
Unreached Peoples Groups figures, such as The Joshua Project (link) reports, reveal that there are still 7372 UPGs – 42.6% of the world’s population (3.19 billion people!) – who have never heard the gospel (that is a clear, genuine gospel presentation)!
There’s definitely still too much to do! World missions are so important – but what about unreached people in our own local community?
‘Community-centred’ local churches
Today we hear talk about churches being a community and community-oriented. Sounds good! Well such a community is an active, welcoming one!
- ‘Unreached’ local people are warmly welcomed along
- Lonely people are welcomed into a friendly community
- People in need are welcomed, loved and served
- ‘Found’ people are welcomed to grow in the faith
- Most importantly… the Holy Spirit is welcomed to guide every aspect of church life!
But – is this happening in our local churches?
Local churches aren’t waiting rooms!
Everyone relating to a local church needs to grasp Jesus’ Matthew 28:19-20 charge: ‘God authorised and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’
There is a great need for churchgoers, if really genuine Jesus followers, to…
- Grow up in our Christianity
- Get our act together
- Be active for him and our church
- Know the church is not a railway station, not is the pastor a stationmaster!
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 know. Living in a country area, incapacitated and unable to express herself very well, she serves Jesus and many ministers across her state with the use of phone books, encouraging us all to continue in our service for their Lord.
How? She’s a ‘could do, can do, is able to’ lady and…
- Looks up minister’s addresses (regardless of denomination)
- Collects used envelopes from all sorts of sources, peeling off the used stamps
- Despite painful arthritis, types and glues on new address labels and includes a short note of encouragement
- Sets aside from her pension money to buy postage stamps and posts her handiwork
- Brings much encouragement to many overstretched ministers.
This precious lady isn’t waiting at the station called The Church – she lets the Holy Spirit show her something she could do, can do… and does do without complaint!
As for those of us who can get around, meet people and are willing to be used to build our local church by encouraging 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.’
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 world.
Thus we can all help reach the goal of the great commission to make disciples – and build the local church!
We all have 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!
Spirit-filled Christians are active disciples! 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 our local Bapto church, 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.’ Now here’s a church that’s daring to go for it!
Have a fresh read of the Spirit’s amazing power-for-service gifts that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 12! And realise we can all flow in these to help build the kingdom, 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 tickets for the glory train to heaven… and then help disciple them ensuring that they are not standing idly at an empty station!