In 1999, my family was sent to Port St. Lucie, Florida to start a new United Methodist Church. I had dreamed of starting a new church, and had spent the previous year planning. Though I didn’t know a single person in Port St. Lucie, I had ten acres of vacant land and a vision for the kind of church I wanted to start and lead.
Since we were starting from scratch, I knew that I needed to be very clear about what kind of church we were going to be. My dream was to be a church for people that didn’t think they were welcome in church. And, our vision statement was “To love the people of Port St. Lucie into a relationship with Jesus.” Love would be out motive and our method. We would not guilt people, coerce people, impress people, or scare people into a relationship with Jesus. We would love them.
One way that we lived that out was through small acts of loving service. Before I had any members, I recruited local youth groups to help me do free car washes. When people tried to pay, I would hand them a card and tell them that their car wash was a free gift – just like God’s love is a free gift.
I had a cooler on wheels, and I would walk from business to business giving away free Cokes, using the same card and line – this is a free gift, just like God’s love is a free gift.
My favorite involved $1 bills. On random Sundays, I would ask the congregation for $1 bills. We would then tape our card to the back, which said, “This is a free gift – just like God’s love. Please let us know if we can tell you more.” We would then meet at the Mall, and sneakily leave dollar bills lying on benches, or on the back of toilets, or on tables in the Food Court. Then we would watch to see who picked them up. You would be amazed how many people read the card, and then passed it around to show their family and friends.
On my last day at that church, as I was saying goodbye, a young woman, named Angelique, handed me a dollar bill with our card taped on the back. She told me that dollar saved her marriage. She was at work one Sunday, working the make-up counter at the department store. She was doing something, and had her back to the counter. When she turned around, the dollar was sitting there. She and her husband, Anthony, were about to get a divorce, but, because of that dollar, decided to hold on a little longer and give church a chance. They were in church the next Sunday.
I looked on Facebook this week. They are still married.
Today is the fourth sermon in a series called “We Love First,” which is a reminder that our first priority has to be to love God, love our neighbor, and love each other. Thus far, we have talked about how love motivates us to grow as Christians and how love motivates us to serve as Christians. Today, I want to talk about how love motivates us to share the Good News of Jesus with others.
After his death and resurrection, as Jesus was ascending to heaven, he gave his followers a “Great Commission,” “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So, in addition to the Great Commandment – to Love and God and neighbor – we have been given very clear direction to go and tell the world about Jesus. We call this evangelism – which simply means to share the “Good News.”
Pope Francis writes, “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.”
The work of evangelism has never been greater in this country. Church attendance and participation in the United States is at an all-time low. Fewer and fewer Americans profess faith specifically in Jesus Christ. Less than 17% of the population attends church on any given weekend. There is obviously less and less influence of the Church on culture.
Every person in this room can think of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors that do not go to church, and by all evidence, do not seem to know Jesus. That ought to break our hearts! If we love Jesus and we love our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, how can we not share Jesus with them?
I typically take Mondays off. I tend to sit around in my bathrobe for a while, eating breakfast, reading, thinking. Last Monday, as I sat there in my bathrobe, there was a knock at my door. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They wanted a few minutes to talk to me – in my bathrobe. I said no. They wanted me to share some literature with me. I said no.
I think one of the reasons we don’t share our faith in Jesus more is because of fear. One fear might be that people will associate us with pushy door-to-door evangelists. Another fear might be upsetting or offending someone. Another fear might be a lack of biblical knowledge. Another fear might be a question you don’t know how to answer. Another fear might be rooted in a lack of personal spiritual security.
While those fears are legitimate, I want to suggest that sharing your faith is as easy as talking about your favorite movie or restaurant. When we love someone or something, we tend to talk about it.
I have a pastor friend who has heard me preach several times. She once told me that I had talked about how much I love my wife in every sermon that she had heard me preach. I love my wife, so I love talking about my love for her.
This week, I took our new ministry intern, Olivia, to lunch to my favorite Indian restaurant. I love Indian food, and I love this particular restaurant, so I wanted to share it.
I own at least 25 different Harley Davidson shirts. That doesn’t even include hats, sweaters, jackets, and other miscellaneous biker apparel. I only have to walk in the room, and not even say a word, and you already know that I love Harleys.
That’s what we do. When we love something, we tend to share it.
Interesting, Paul uses the image of the image of clothing as an illustration for the Christian life, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)
Paul names a number of Christ-like virtues – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness – that we are to embody, as though they are clothes we can put on. But, over all of it, he says, “put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
He then says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another… And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
In other words, sharing Jesus ought to be as easy as getting dressed. Everything we do – everything we say – ought to point to Jesus in some way.
Jen Hatmaker writes, “If people around me aren’t moved by my Christ or my church, then I must be doing a miserable job of representing them both.”
Easy ways to share…
Let me suggest four very simple ways to share Jesus with others…
- Invite: Invite someone to church or a church event. I am here today because my cousins invited me to go to church camp with them. I became a United Methodist because a family friend invited my family to go to a Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
- Social Media: I know not all of us use Social Media. But, for those of us who do, use it to share that you are at church, or about a church event, or a Scripture verse, or share about something you are reading. I am amazed how many of my non-church going friends “like” the Christian things I post.
- Talk about church: In casual, non-threatening conversations, mention church. When someone asks about your weekend, mention that you went to church. Mention something you heard in your small group or in one of my sermons over lunch. Talk about all of the cool service things we do. Talk about how much your kids love the children’s ministry or youth group.
- Pray & prepare: Fourth, I would encourage you to actively pray for some people in your life, and, specifically, that they would initiate a conversation that would allow you to share about your relationship with Jesus. Just keep praying until that happens.
Notice – I didn’t say anything about approaching strangers. I didn’t say anything about being confrontational or argumentative. Look for easy ways to share and to invite. It ought to be as easy and natural as talking about something you read on Facebook, or heard on the radio, or talking about your kids or your grandkids. If we love Jesus, and if we love the people we want to share with, it ought to be easy. Because that is what love does. Love shares.
But, I need to remind us, as a congregation, that reaching out, beyond our four walls, to make Jesus known to this community and the world is not an option. It’s why we exist.
Pope Francis writes, “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend, to those who have quit or are indifferent.”
Everything we do is ultimately about sharing Jesus with the world. Every children’s program, every youth event, every worship service, every outreach, every mission, everything we do must be for the purpose of making Jesus known. Otherwise, why do it? We can do a lot of things – fun things, generous things, impressive things – but if they don’t explicitly share Jesus, and lead people to know him, why are we doing them?
We ultimately exist for two reasons. To love God and to share Jesus. That’s it. It’s that simple.