Editor’s Note: The following article by Pastor Rick originally appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Ministry Today when he served as Guest Editor. Please continue to pray for the Warren family as they grieve the loss of Rick and Kay’s son, Matthew.
The greatest need in the world today is to release the latent energy bottled up in believers who are doing nothing for the Kingdom of God. It’s time for the Church to rise up and be the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ; but it seems like our hands and feet have been amputated, and most of the time we’re just a big mouth. It’s time for the Church to stop being known for what we’re against and start being known for what we stand for: grace, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, and new life in Jesus Christ.
That’s why we began re-thinking our mission strategy at Saddleback. Jesus tells us to “go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15 NCV). “Go” is a key word for believers. You can’t spell “Gospel” without “go.” You can’t spell “Good News” without “go.” You can’t spell “God” without “go.”
Jesus commands us to go, meaning missions is not about sending out professional missionaries, organizations, or aid workers to do the work for us, although we need them and the valuable work they do. Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV). What is a witness? It’s real simple: A witness is somebody who tells his or her story. A witness just says, “This is what I saw. This is what I heard. This is what happened to me.” Nobody else can tell your story. You don’t need any special training to do it. Just tell people what Jesus has done in your life.
Jesus also said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Now what does that mean for us? Jesus was laying out a plan of ever-increasing influence. When he said go to Jerusalem, he was saying start in your own backyard. Start with your family, your friends, your co-workers. “In Jerusalem” means start in your own city and neighborhood.
Then he said you go to Judea and Samaria. Your Judea is the region where you live. For me, that’s Southern California. What state or district, province or prefecture do you live in? That’s your Judea.
Then Jesus said go to Samaria. Samaria means people who live in your area but who are culturally different from you. Do you know anybody like that? Sure you do. They might even live next door to you. Jesus was saying, “Just go to people who are different from you.”
I think it’s important that we have are eschatology correct. PEACE on earth will come when Christ returns to establish His kingdom. When that happens is only known by the Father and will be according to His will not ours.
No question Jesus was a servant and taught his disciples to serve others. The question is, HOW did he serve others? It seems there is some confusion on the subject. Let’s look at the miracles as a whole as Jesus performed many of them. What is the predominant reason (and I stress predominant), Jesus performed miracles? So that people would believe. Did He have compassion for the sick? Of course. Did He hate sin and the consequences of it? Yes. However, his primary concern for the lost was not that they have bread but that they have the bread of life. Eternal life.
There is a very large cloud of error hovering over the social gospel and that is the erroneous operating premise that people will somehow be miraculously convicted of sin and converted into devoted followers of Christ by having witnessed a believer fulfilling a temporal need. The act of witnessing compassion does not save. There are acts of compassion being given right now by the unsaved to the unsaved all over this planet. Being kind to someone does not save. Watching someone be kind does not save. You won’t find Paul saying salvation comes from meeting earthly needs. Paul says salvation comes from hearing, hearing of the Word of God. This is God’s strategy for salvation. When are we going to believe this? Jesus served the woman at the well not by running over asking her if he could help her draw water nor did he offer her extra water so she wouldn’t have to come back the next day. He confronted her with her sin and her need for eternal water.
Jesus was not concerned with finding a cure for leprosy or being “relevant”. He was concerned with whether or not people believed. Did they have faith in Him. We demonstrate God’s love by speaking the truth to the lost in love. We plow, we plant, we fertilize, we water but we do these things with our mouths. We exort, we teach, we train, we admonish, we speak the truth. God alone causes growth, not us.
Christ doesn’t tell Peter if you love me you’ll find a cure for Aids. He tells Peter if you love me you’ll feed my sheep. Feed them what? The bread of life. We have a mandate as Christians to do just that. Speak the truth to every living creature. We need to be focused on the eternal not the fading temporal. If caring for the lost doesn’t start AND end with the gospel message then what everlasting “good” are we really doing?