Sermon February 6, 2022: Tool #5: Roadside Disciple Making (Epiphany 5)

Chris Freeland, Ping Pong Tournament, Flickr

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/674016717

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3n1caVDGys

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with this prayer:

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. 
Help me to realize your worldview.
Lord, I obey. Help my disobedience. 
Clarify my reality. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  help me to stay on the path. 
Thank you for the path, for guidance, for providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. 
May this be true for me! Amen.

HYMN I Love To Tell The Story
Alan Jackson – I Love To Tell The Story (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrCpKa_xOcE

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Oh, How I Love Jesus
Reba McEntire – Oh, How I Love Jesus (Official Lyric Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NShctvNERJk

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Tool #5: Roadside Disciple Making
Text: Matthew 4:19, 22:35-40, 28:18-20, Ephesians 2:10
Series: Daily Christmas Resolutions

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

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HYMN Here I Am, Lord
Here I Am, Lord (Schutte/Hayes) – Choir & Orchestra of St. Lillian
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSODPhE-0ng

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We’ve been talking this entire month about how we can help the spirit and the warm spirituality of Christmas to last all year long. And what I wanted to suggest to you is that we need to make some New Year’s resolutions that would help us to be Christian all year long with the same warmth and love and faith that we have during the Christmas season. So today I want to ask the question, what do you really need in order to have this warm and positive faith?

Let’s look at a couple of extreme situations. We have been facing the reality of how we can be a Church in the midst of a pandemic. And at times, particularly two years ago in March, when we had to shut down and not have services because of COVID, we had to ponder the question:
Can we be the Church without a building?
Can we be the Church without our familiar and comfortable Church activities?

We could go even further.
Can we possibly be a Church without committee meetings?
Can we be a Church, for example, without pastors?
And the answer to that, sincerely, I would say, is it depends. It depends.

Let’s look at an extreme situation. Communist China decided that they would do away with the Church. And so they took over the Church buildings, turned them into community centers. They took out the pews, they took out the hymnals, they took out all the Church decorations and burned them. And in many cases, they turned the Church building into, well, a ping pong parlor. Ping pong is a very, very popular sport in China. And, of course, young people came in droves to play Ping pong in the new community center. And they assumed that if you did away with the building, you’d do away with the Church.

Oh, they also arrested the pastors and took them off to prison, along with all the identifiable Church leaders, because they assumed if we take away the pastors, if we take away the worship services, we will have destroyed the Church.

So here’s the question for us, brothers and sisters, what happened the next day? We can ponder that question for ourselves in the context of the pandemic. We can contemplate that question if we had a similar persecution in the United States where pastors were sent to prison and Church buildings were confiscated, what would you do on Sunday? What would you do on Monday?

Well, let me tell you what happened in Communist China. The Church people came to the ping pong parlors, and they began to play ping pong. The old ladies sat in chairs along the walls and cheered for the young people playing ping pong. They made friends with the people playing ping pong. And what the church in communist China said to us is that one by one, day by day, people continued to become followers of Jesus Christ in an environment without pastors, in an environment without church programs and activities, in an environment without worship.

Because Jesus continued to work through the people.

Here’s another example of the same thing. In Ethiopia, the Anabaptist or Mennonite denomination had a mission work. It was called Mesoriti Christos, which means foundation of Christ. They began in the 1950s, and in 20 years, they had amassed, slowly, 5000 members. When, again, a communist government, a dictatorship, took over, closed the churches, sent the pastors to prison, and began to persecute any visible outward sign of Christianity, just like in China. And again, we have to ask the question, what would happen next Sunday for us if the same thing happened to us? Well, what happened in Ethiopia is people began to talk with each other.

They began to have little meetings in their homes and pray together and talk about the Bible and talk about what it meant. Twenty years later, the persecution ended and they were able to have their very first public worship service. They actually rented a soccer stadium, and 50,000 people came from all over the nation. In other words, in 20 years, without Church buildings, without pastors, without Church worship, without hymn singing, without sermons (how can this be?!!!) the number of people who converted to Christ went from 5,000 to 50,000. How is that possible?

We’ve been under some persecution because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but there are a lot of different ways to look at it. And this is why “it depends.”

Did the Coronavirus pandemic cancel churches, cancel church services? Well, it depends on your viewpoint. I like the church sign in the picture. It says, “Service is canceled. God is making house calls.” Or the cartoon: Satan says, “With COVID-19, I close your churches.” And God replies, “On the contrary, I just opened one in every home.” You see, the whole content of the phrase ‘it depends’ is on whether you and I will continue to be Christian people without all the familiar and comfortable aspects of our Christian religion, whether a virus does it or a Communist government does it.

If they take away the building, would you still be a Christian?
If they take away the pastor and the weekly sermons, would you still practice your faith?
If they took away Sunday school and Bible study, would you still study the Bible?
You see, it depends because, without the church buildings as a place for us to gather, it depends on whether we will choose to live our faith in this world. So let’s think about these things.

Remember what Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered to hear a sermon–” wait, he didn’t say that. “For where two or three are gathered in a church–” wait, he didn’t say that. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And if you would take this literally, what that means is every single conversation that you have, Jesus is present … if it’s a conversation where two people have gathered in his name. Let’s take that literally, brothers and sisters. In the background of the picture is the scene in March when the church was shut down. But you see, here’s what Jesus asked us to do: He said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” Can you do that outside of a church building? “This is the great and first commandment,” Jesus says. If they take away the worship services, we still need to follow this commandment of Jesus.

And the second is, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Can you still do this? If we can still do this, friends, we should still be doing this because on these two commandments depend on the law and the prophets. They are the will of God for your life and my life.

At the end of the book of Matthew, we find these words known as the Great Commission. Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” What does that mean? Jesus says, “I am in charge.” And when you understand that Jesus is in charge, He wants you to know this, GO. Don’t sit. Don’t stay. Don’t relax on your pews and sing hymns and listen to sermons. Jesus says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”

So how are you and I supposed to go and make disciples? All these years, we thought that the pastor makes disciples through sermons. But you can still do what Jesus has asked. and as you go and make disciples, “Baptize them,” Jesus says, and then take a look at verse 20: We need to teach them: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Now, that’s not teaching them the knowledge of Jesus’ Commandments, but to teach them how to obey, to observe everything that Jesus has asked from us.

If we don’t have a church building, if we can’t hold a church service, if we can’t have a sermon and sing hymns, can we still do this? If we can still do it, we can still be the church.

Matthew, chapter 4:19. Jesus said to the first of the disciples, Peter and Andrew, who were fishing by the seashore– and he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” When you think about it, this 19th verse is summarizing every other verse in the Gospel of Matthew. You see, everything Jesus says is about how we can fish for people. Everything Jesus commands us, everything Jesus teaches, is about how we can make disciples. If we can’t have a church building, if we can’t have a church service, can we still do fish for people? Many people would argue that you can’t, but I want to suggest that they’re mistaken.

You see, the kind of fishing the disciples practiced was net fishing. They would go out in their boat. Same thing if they throw the net into the water on the seashore. They would go out in the boat and surround a school of fish with a net and pull it in. In John 13:34, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Christian people, sociological science has proven that when we surround people with nets of Christian love, we draw them in to find Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We can still do this.

The question is, even if we can, will we?

We talked last week about Ephesians 2:10. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” note the next phrase, “which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And I suggested to you that every person you meet as you travel the path between getting up in the morning and going to bed at night, every person you meet is in that path of yours on purpose. There are no coincidences, but God has a purpose for every person you encounter. People are on the way, but they are not in your way. Why?

Jesus is present in every conversation you have with every person all day long, and those conversations have a beautiful possibility of changing people’s lives. How exactly do we do that? Let me give you a very simple suggestion.

When you have a conversation, you want to ask in some friendly way, “How are you?” and you want to listen to the answer. A lot of times people ask you, “How are you?” and they’re really not paying attention to how you answer. But to inquire as to how someone is doing, that is a way to love your neighbor. Not only that, keep in mind if we take the verse literally, anytime you ask that question, how are you? – Jesus can be there.

Sometimes a person will say fine and they mean it. Sometimes a person will say fine and it’s not true. But sooner or later, if you keep showing that you care, a person will literally tell you that it’s been a hard day for them. And then you can show that you love in another way. You can ask the question, “May I pray for you?” I even literally suggest that you use the words, “I go to a church that prays for people who have the same problem you’re having right now.” No matter what it is, no matter how ridiculous it is, “May I pray for you?” That’s a way to show love.

And this offering to pray is actually a turning point because the next time you see this person, whether it’s the next day or the next week, whatever it is, now, when you ask, “How are you?” it’s not just a friendly way to show that you care. It’s now a spiritual question. Because what you’re also asking is, How did God answer our prayer?

If God did answer prayer, if things are better, we say, “Oh, isn’t God wonderful? You see? It’s a spiritual conversation.

But if God did not answer the prayer, if the problem is still there, well, “We will just keep praying. I won’t forget. We’ll just keep praying.

You see, now every time you greet that person, it’s a spiritual conversation, and God uses spiritual conversations to change people’s lives. There’s a pandemic. People have not been able to go to church. They’ve not been able to go to worship. They have not been hearing sermons every week. But has God been a part of your conversations in this way? You could still do this and Jesus Christ would be with you because, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Now let me be honest with you about what people are afraid of. People have this feeling that they have to be an expert on religion. People have this feeling that they have to be an expert on the Bible because, “What if that other person asked me a question and I don’t know the answer?” Friends, that’s not actually a problem at all Because you can shift the responsibility for answers onto your pastor. We are so afraid that someone will ask us a question, and we’ll have to say, “I don’t know”

But here, I think, is the wisest response. When someone asks a question that you can’t answer and perhaps even a question that you know the answer to, here’s a good response. “My pastor loves to answer questions. He’ll go on and on for hours. Can he call you?” Because I want to make you a promise. If you tell me that someone wants to talk to me, I will call them. If you tell me that you have a question about the Bible, about our faith, I promise you, I will talk to you about it. Because when we can’t worship, when we can’t have sermons, when we’re under persecution, whether it’s by a virus or a Communist government, they can’t take our conversations away from us. Bring your questions to me, I love to answer questions!

Here’s the truth. And anyone who’s ever had a garden knows what this is like.
As you go from rising up in the morning to laying down at night, as we’ve said, God has deliberately put people in your path so that you can have conversations with them, because, through those conversations, they can come to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And to be honest, the sociological research is very clear. There are people all around us who are ripe. There are people all around us who are ready to follow Jesus. And if we have a conversation with them, they will follow us home to the faith and into Church as well.

But here’s the reality about fruit. Here’s the reality about your garden. You have to go out in the garden every day and look over every plant because not all of them are ripe at the same time. You need to walk that path from getting up to laying down at night, because not every person in your path is ripe and ready. But someone will be.

Here’s the thing that we have learned over Church history the hard way, over centuries, people who are ready to come to Jesus generally don’t volunteer. Fruit doesn’t volunteer. An ear of corn doesn’t jump off the plant and crawl through the dirt to the farmer’s house. In the same way, a person coming to Jesus comes to Church because you take them by the hand and bring them.

So, friends, we can still do what sermons have really never been able to do, what Church buildings can not do: fill up on their own. But we can do this when we take people by the hand, because in a conversation we’ve learned they have a desire to follow Jesus. We can say, follow him with me. You see, as you go on that path from morning to evening, God puts people in your pathway because he wants to send you to be the missionary that helps them experience the presence of Jesus Christ. God is looking for someone. Will you hear the voice calling you?

Please pray with me. Lord, we know that you want to help people who are struggling, and certainly Lord, we know we are struggling more in this season than we have in decades. Life is getting so stressful and hard, but while we’re thinking about our own stress, Lord, open our eyes to how stress is affecting the hearts of other people who do not have a savior, who do not have a shepherd to lead them through the valley of the shadow of death. Lord, you’re putting people in front of us and giving us an opportunity by having a conversation of faith to help them take a step toward you. Help us, Lord, to be able to hear you when you call us. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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