Last Sunday was a particularly important Sunday for our congregation. In addition to our weekly pattern of godly worship, which is always important, it also contained our long-awaited special service. We’d been working toward “Are You Heaven Bound?” all year, and we’d been promoting it heavily for six weeks. Now, the day has come and gone.
Before we put it completely in the rearview mirror, though, I want to spend some time talking about it. I think there’s much to celebrate about what happened last Sunday, but I also think that there are several things we ought to learn from what happened. Let’s consider, then, the lessons that are available for us after “Are You Heaven Bound?”
Before we start considering how we can grow and improve, though, I think we need to REJOICE. In fact, I think it’s appropriate to apply to this church Paul’s words in Philippians 1:3-7. I’ve believed ever since I came here that this is a hard-working church, and now we’ve seen the fruit. As best as Shawn and I can tell, there were at least 28 visitors to our assembly last Sunday afternoon, and at least 23 of them were not faithful Christians. I think those numbers are low. I think our count is still missing people.
Brethren, that’s wonderful! I don’t think anyone in the leadership here expected a result that was nearly that good. It happened because the people here had a mind to work.
I also want to celebrate all of you who invited somebody who didn’t come. I know that happened a lot. The best numbers I’ve seen suggest that only about 10 percent of those who are invited to a worship service do attend, so on that basis, I suspect that the members here extended nearly 300 invitations. Every one of those invitations represented an act of faith and courage, of going outside your comfort zones for the sake of Jesus. Good for you! It makes me proud to be a part of this congregation along with you.
Finally, I wanted to celebrate our elders. I’m here to tell you, friends, that even though Shawn and I both are committed to evangelism, without the support and encouragement of our shepherds, we could do nothing. It matters so, so much that the elders here are dedicated to the godly goal of saving the lost. We spent months talking about this with them, and they enthusiastically endorsed this effort and did everything they could to make it successful. With such strong leadership, this congregation will continue to thrive for years to come.
Second, we should learn from last week to BE CONFIDENT IN THE LORD. Consider here the story that Paul tells in Philippians 1:12-14. Notice the positive effect that commitment to the Lord’s work can have even in circumstances that were much darker than ours. Paul was imprisoned, but he used his imprisonment to proclaim Jesus even to his jailers, the Roman Praetorian Guard. Because of his fearlessness, the other Christians in Rome were emboldened to proclaim Jesus too.
A few weeks ago, I preached on overcoming fear in evangelism. The devil works hard at keeping us afraid of sharing the gospel, but there are many reasons why we shouldn’t be. Apparently, all of you listened well enough to overcome your fear around 280 times.
Let’s talk about that. How many of you who invited somebody to the service had them try to kill you? How many of you got beat up over it? How many of you had somebody get ugly and start cussing at you because you invited them to church? How many of you had friendships broken up because of that invitation? In fact, how many of you had something bad happen at all?
You see it, friends? The devil is constantly telling us we should be afraid of personal work. He’s constantly warning that all kinds of bad things are going to happen when we bring up Jesus. Well, the devil has been a liar from the beginning, and once again, we have exposed him for the liar he is. Every fearful thought he put into every one of our heads was a lie. There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to inviting people to church, and we have proof.
You know, brethren, I have a rule. Once I catch a man in a lie, he’s going to have to tell me the truth for a good long time before he gets my trust back. The next time we do this—and-there will be a next time—and the devil starts whispering in your ear again about how you should be afraid, don’t trust him. Don’t listen to him. Be bold with the gospel. Be confident in the Lord.
Because this is so, we also should STRIVE SIDE BY SIDE. Paul encourages the Philippians in this in Philippians 1:27-28. Clearly, he wants to see the Philippians shoulder to shoulder, working together for the Lord.
If you’ll excuse me, I want to geek out for a little bit and talk about this in terms of the Civil War. I think all of us have seen pictures of Civil War soldiers standing in lines shooting at each other, and probably most of us have heard comments about how dumb they were for doing that.
Actually, it wasn’t dumb. It was very important. The thing is that in combat, a group of untrained men will bunch up. The courageous soldiers will move toward the front, and the less courageous soldiers will start to edge behind them, so that you’ve got a clump instead of a line.
If you’ve got a clump, only the guys in the very front can shoot. All the soldiers behind them can only stop bullets. However, if you’ve got a line, everybody can see the enemy and shoot at them. A line has firepower; a clump doesn’t.
Brethren, in the army of the Lord, we need lines instead of clumps too. We can’t have only the very bravest Christians involved in the work. We can’t have one member giving out invitations while 20 members are standing behind them doing nothing. An army where only 5 percent of the soldiers are doing anything is an ineffective army. It’s going to be defeated.
Instead, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder. We need everybody involved in fighting for the truth. Maybe you weren’t one of the people who invited somebody to our special service. You were clumping up. That’s too bad. You missed an opportunity.
However, you don’t have to keep missing them. The next time we have a special service, you can get out on the firing line too. You can be disciplined and strive side by side with those who have already joined the fight, and when everybody in the Lord’s army is fighting for Him, we can’t help but triumph.
Fourth, let’s SHINE. Look at what Paul says about this in Philippians 2:14-15. He tells the Philippians that they need to be people who are different, people who stand out from the world around them. When they shine like this, they will inevitably lead others to glorify God.
Brethren, our determination to shine is essential to our success in personal work. After our special service, I tried to talk to as many of our visitors as I could. It was obvious that the great majority of them were there more because of their love for a particular Christian than because of their love for the gospel. I’m not going to name any names, especially because I don’t want to embarrass Genesia, but some of those visitors went on and on about the quality of some of our people here. I think it’s fair to say, friends, that our most successful inviters had success because they shone first.
This is a work that every single Christian can do. Maybe we’re not eloquent. Maybe we don’t know the Bible front to back. However, every single one of us can aspire to be a good, decent person who goes out of their way to love and care for others. Indeed, loving others is at the heart of what God expects from us.
If we fail in this, in addition to failing our Lord, we also will fail at evangelism. I once knew a brother who prided himself on being a shrewd man with money, a hard bargainer. Once, he got a really good deal on a car by going into the dealership and arguing with the salesman for hours until the guy finally gave him what he wanted out of sheer exhaustion. After he was finished, he invited the salesman to church, but the guy laughed in his face. Why? Because he had failed to shine. He stood out for his shrewdness, not for his love.
Finally, we must PRESS ON. Paul famously makes this point in Philippians 3:13-14. Even Paul, with all that he had done for the Lord already, didn’t get to take a vacation. He had to keep working, keep striving for the glory of God.
The same is true for us. We had a successful day last Sunday, but it was only a successful day. We can celebrate it, but we don’t dare rest on our laurels. Our work here is too important for us to stop.
There are many ways in which we ought to press on when it comes to evangelism. Those who invited folks who came need to follow up. You need to keep encouraging them to turn their lives toward Jesus.
If you invited somebody, and they didn’t come, don’t give up on them either! Unless they’ve said, “Please don’t talk to me any more about Jesus,” the next time we’ve got a special service, invite them again. Do everything you can think of to show them what they’re missing. In addition to that, all of us can expand the number of people we’re working on and working with.
On a much larger scale, we have to embrace the idea of pressing on as a church. Shawn and I will both tell you that there are churches out there that are as big as they want to be. The members like knowing everybody they worship with, they don’t like dealing with the challenges that accompany babes in Christ, and so they are much happier not evangelizing than they are evangelizing.
Brethren, may that never be us! The world around us is full of souls that are perishing in darkness. May we always be committed to shining the light of Christ so that they can be saved.