In the 10th chapter of Romans, Paul has been building this incredible theological argument for what God has done and is doing in Christ Jesus and for how he is the Messiah and the Savior for all who believe. He states what he wants at the outset of chapter 10, he states his goal:
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.
This is what Paul wants – he wants the people of God to realize what God has done for them in Jesus – Jesus is the one they have waited for AND God has opened to the door even for the Gentiles to be grafted into the family of God through the sacrifice of Jesus. In short, Jesus has opened the door of salvation for all people. This is good news for all of us and Paul desperately wants people to know this and respond. Then he asks these rhetorical questions to drive home his point;
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Paul says, “We want people to believe – that’s the goal. But how can they believe if they haven’t heard about Jesus? And how can they hear unless someone tells them? And how will someone tell them unless they are sent? Essentially, he is saying if our goal is for people to believe then we will only accomplish that goal by sending people out to share this good news SO THAT they can believe. Then he closes his logic by quoting Isaiah 52 in a pre-celebration of all those who will go out and share; “As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” Are you catching that? Paul is celebrating the people who will be SENT out to witness and invite. He’s not celebrating the people who respond to the invitation to believe – though we know that’s the ultimate goal and he will celebrate that when it happens. But the response is up to the Lord. The response of the people is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the individuals. Paul celebrates the people who will be sent – he can control that, he can control how many of the disciples the churches send out armed with the gospel and the invitation to follow Christ – that’s what he wants to see, people mobilized with the gospel inviting others to believe in Jesus and receive what only Jesus can offer – salvation and restored relationship with God.
You see, what we have wanted to say in this sermon series is that church is more than what happens when we are here together – church is what we do here and how we live when we are out there. We are the gathered and scattered people of God called to model a different way of living in this world that is rooted in Jesus Christ and to invite others into this different way of life. Leslie Newbigin was a British presbyterian missionary who spent much of his career in India as a missionary. When he returned to England he was shocked to see how far the church had moved from their true calling in Jesus and he began to write and call the church back to a missionary understanding of their life together. Michael Goheen describes Newbigins missionary understanding of the church this way;
The local congregation is the new humankind in this particular place and is called to offer to all people in that place the invitation of Christ to be reconciled to God through him….when the church is scattered about during the week, it is not any less the church. The laity are not fragments scattered about in culture that then become the church when they gather again for worship and fellowship. They are the new humankind, or the body of Christ, in both their scattered and their gathered form.
-Michael Goheen, The Church and Its Vocation
Did you hear it, “called to offer all people the invitation of Christ…” Not to just count worship attendance and giving numbers – called to offer all people the invitation of Christ – called to be the new humankind, the body of Christ.
So, what does this mean for us? Well, it means we are going to measure our effectiveness a little differently. We are going to use a new scorecard to see how we are doing in our faithfulness to God’s call. One of the measures we’ll be looking at this year is whether or not we make prayer a central focus of our ministry. If we demonstrate Kingdom living rooted in prayer, we believe we will see the harvest.
Another measure will be hospitality. We can’t control how many people come to visit our church – but we can control our hospitality when they come. One of the measures we’ll be using this year is our hospitality teams, are we as a church taking seriously the call to evangelize through our hospitality?
Finally, how beautiful are the feet of those who carry good news. We are going to be looking at how well the people of Coker carry the message of Jesus Christ out into the world when we aren’t inside the church walls- but rather outside. We can’t control what you do when you’re not inside the church walls. However, the life you live out there is a reflection on the ministry we have here at Coker. Are you living as those who know their mission from Jesus and live it out in the places that God has you each week?
When we first set out, we did so as a people filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, committed to spiritual disciplines that demonstrated a different way of life that pushed us in the fields and communities to share good news with all who would listen. It’s time for us to recapture this spirit. The people called Methodist were looked at as Jesus freaks by some, but sparked a revival that literally changed the face of England and America. I want that again, and I believe God will do it if we will be the church. Let’s measure ourselves with his scorecard – let’s live as a sent people, ready to share with all the glad tidings of salvation in Jesus.
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