HOMECOMING SERMON August 16, 2020
OUR MISSION – MAKING DISCIPLES
On this 143rd Anniversary of Friendship Baptist Church we are going to look at what has been our mission through the years and what remains our mission into the future. Our mission is the same that Jesus gave his disciples in The Great Commission.
John Bunyan wrote the allegory “Pilgrims Progress” while he was a prisoner in Bedford Jail. Because of his faithful witness he was silenced by being incarcerated. While locked away, the Holy Spirit was active in his mind and he wrote about the things that are Christian learns as he or she goes through spiritual growth and becomes a disciple of Christ. This book has been and encouragement to Christians in their pursuit of the Holy.
One of the great joys that I’ve had as a pastor is to see people grow from new believers into strong disciples. This is what Jesus commanded the church to do – to make disciples and teach them to obey his teachings. There are three levels of spiritual growth in a disciple’s life.
THE FIRST STAGE – BECOMING A CONVERT “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
How a church treats new people who become a part of the fellowship determines their progress as a spiritual pilgrim. John Bisango, who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas found that their church was having a problem making disciples. They were adding about 1200 new members a year. But they discovered that they were losing about 1000 members each year. They did an exit poll of 500 people who left the church to try to determine why they left. There were 300 responses returned and what they said was very interesting. John thought that they did not like his preaching. The Minister of Music thought the people did not like the music. The Minister of Education thought they did not like the educational ministry. The Minister of Youth thought they did not like the youth ministry. The Minister to Children thought the people did not think their children were being properly taught. Each of the staff felt responsible for the large numbers of people leaving the church.
However, 93% said they love the preaching, music, Sunday School, and the youth and children’s ministries. In response to the question, “Why did you leave First Baptist Church?” They said, “We left because we could not find a meaningful friendship.” When people join a church they want good preaching, good music, good educational ministry, and good teachings for their children and youth. But they also want somebody like them that they can identify with as soulmates and friends. They must feel accepted, loved, and nourished by the members of the church. They must feel included and welcomed. It has been found that 40% of new members will become in active in 18 months unless the church takes intentional steps to involve them.
The Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, completed a 7000 seat sanctuary at a cost of $30 million dollars. They found they were adding about 550 new members a year, and 53% of them became inactive in 12 months. When they began to analyze why this was happening, they found the same thing that the Houston church did. They found that people were coming to them looking for honest relationships and sometimes were getting a plastic response.
Both of these churches change their approach to Discipleship Development. When these needs were presented to the congregation, they determined to do something about it. New members were assigned to someone near their age and sex to care for them and mentor them through their involvement in two their church life. After two years, the two churches mentioned above found that this one-on-one care of their congregation only 3% were leaving the church. They called it “The Barnabas Ministry of Encouragement.” This is the reason why churches have developed the Deacon Family Care Ministry.
Look at the ministry of Jesus. Some of it was one on one. Some of it was one on some. Some of it was one on many. To develop as a disciple, a Christian needs all of these ministries.
When you go to the Atlanta Airport and board a plane to fly across country you know that the pilots have had ground school, flight school, simulator training, and many hours in the particular plane that your boarding. They also have a copilot. Once when I was flying to Korea on a preaching mission the flight attendant ask over the intercom, “Is anyone a board that is had flight training?” No one answered, so I said, “I have flown a 737 on the flight simulator.” She said, “Good, I will tell the Captain.” I thought “Oh no please don’t! All I have to offer is prayer! I could imagine one of those airplane movies where the flight crew is disabled, and a complete novice tries to land the plane.” But that is just how some people feel when they come into the church. They wonder “How will I navigate through this new experience – for it is really a life and death experience for my spiritual life.”
Studies show that the written training materials that a church gives to new members makes an impact of about 15% and relationships affect spiritual growth about 85%.
We have a wonderful custom that when a person presents himself or herself for membership, we extend to them the hand of Christian Fellowship. When they are making a profession of faith in Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, we rejoice with them with excitement. By this process we welcome them into the membership of the church and plan for their baptism. But there is much that needs to be done to truly make a person feel that he or she is a vital part of the congregation.
George Bullard has written an excellent paper on the subject of Congregational Inclusion. He defines inclusion as “The spiritual and relational processes by which persons or brought to faith in God through Jesus Christ, become involved in a local New Testament congregation, are assimilated into the Fellowship life in care ministry of the congregation, have opportunities for spiritual growth and leadership development, and or mentored to use their gifts and skills through Kingdom involvement.”
In order for a person to feel accepted by congregation, he or she must feel loved and appreciated by the members. They must be able to look upon the congregation as “My Church Family.” They since the expectation of the congregation toward them to be present when the body meets. They build a core network of about 15 people that they look forward to seeing each Sunday at church. They find one or several that they want to do things with during the week. They participate in the decision-making process of the church and feel like their opinion is important and heard. The person then wants to contribute to the ongoing mission of the church and truly feels a part of something that is eternal.
THE SECOND STAGE – BECOMING A STUDENT-LEARNER – “teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you”
the Christian life is to be used not just for our own well-being and enjoyment, but for others and for the glory of Christ. The expectation of the Lord is that every person can do something to serve. We find that we grow faster in grace when we are involved in service to other. Some churches find that the grow their members and their membership by involving them in local mission ministries of the community. This keeps members from mediocrity and involves them in something noble in the Kingdom. A church that has a high percentage of its members involved in the local church and in local missions is a healthy church. A congregation where 20% gives a high percentage of the budget and does all the work is not a healthy church.
The teaching ministry of the church is vital to discipleship. The Sunday School has been our main teaching organization apart from the pulpit. We have built our churches mainly through our Sunday Schools.
THE THIRD STAGE – BECOMING A SERVANT LEADER
Many people who join the church will go on to become leaders and teachers. Christianity is a faith of the people and it grows were the lead if it just becomes a faith of the clergy who are expected to do all of the work, it will soon die. The role of the minister is to equip the people so that they can do the work and move the kingdom forward. In this way they multiply their ministry many times over.
There are those who will have special spiritual gifts of leadership and are willing to use their gifts – if they are asked to do so.
I would like to tell you about Dick Baker. I have mentioned him in a previous sermon, but I want to tell you how he developed as a Christian servant.
Dick was a young man who sat in the balcony Sunday morning at First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Virginia. He was a High School teacher in the Norfolk School system. He was shy, but very winsome. For several months, he came and listened. I could not tell if I was making any headway with him and all. He was not a professing Christian.
One Sunday morning, I saw him in his usual pew in the balcony. The sun was streaming through the stained glass window as if to focus on him. The sermon that morning, as he reminded me later, was “The Big Effects of Little Sins.” It would not have mattered what the sermon was about because it was his time to meet God. During the invitation he was holding a hymnbook and when he decided to respond he slam the book close so loudly that it was heard above the singing and the organ. He walked down from the balcony into the vestibule, open the door of the Sanctuary, and walked down the Isle to the front and said to me, “I want to give my life to Christ.
Dick meant what he said. He gave his all soon he was baptized. I watched him grow and he was faithful at the services and became involved in the life of the church in time he became a Sunday school teacher. As the years passed, he became the Sunday School Director. Then he was asked to be a Deacon. In time, he became Chairman of the Deacons.
Then Dick felt that God was calling him to change from teaching school to a church related vocation. He resigned his position and went to our Southeastern Seminary at week forest, North Carolina to prepare to become a Minister of Education. When he finished seminary, the First Baptist Church of Norfolk invited him to join the staff as Minister of Adults. He held this position for over 20 years.
Dick became a convert, a learner, a servant, and a leader. He gives a strong witness as a man who was discipled by his church.
Kurt Kaiser, wrote a youth musical called “Pass It On.”
“It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it – you spread his love to everyone, you want to pass it on.
What a wondrous time is spring – when all the trees are budding, the birds began to sing, the flowers start their blooming. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it – you want to sing, it’s fresh like spring, you want to pass it on.
I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I found – you can depend on Him, it matters not where you’re bound. I’ll shout it from the mountaintop, I want my world to know – the Lord of love has come to me, I want to pass it on.”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!