On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week at CCP it's our ‘SIV week’. This is when we focus on how we can Serve, Invest and Invite our community. Therefore, our devotionals will pay particular attention to how we may apply this text in our evangelism.
I’m sure that we’ve all had the experience of being really annoyed with someone in the church. If you haven’t felt this, it’s just a matter of time! Relationships will always be strained on occasion. On top of this, the devil is at work to bring divisions among us.
Today we will see that ungodly judging will destroy the health of the church rendering her impotent to reach our community. Jesus taught,
“‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Ungodly judging is also about condemning other Christians. It’s the bitter attitude that can even condemn our brothers and sisters to hell. It’s an attitude of those that are shortsighted, failing to see their own ongoing failure and God’s ongoing mercy toward them in Christ.
A church that has this kind of works-based culture creates hypocrisy. Like the Pharisees they can become like ‘white-washed tombs’, looking good but hiding all of the usual failings most people have. In such a judgmental community, people fail to confess their sin because of fear of rejection. People are slow to say sorry and are easily offended and hold grudges - for years sometimes! Being an unmerciful critic in the church is common and is a trap that we can all fall into. Many Christians leave churches over trivial issues. Many of us are haughty and easily offended (See Proverbs 6:16-19).
The devil loves it when we judge our brothers and sisters harshly. He loves it when we slander each other online. He loves it because he loves accusatory and unmerciful behaviour. He loves it because it stops if from actually doing Jesus’ mission to reach our communities for Jesus.
The opposite of bad judgement is to judge things as God sees them. Jesus speaks of ‘the measure you use...’ This is about how we judge our brothers and sisters. How do we measure them? This is how Peter judged God’s people,
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
What a high view he had of God’s people! What a positive view. The church is not perfect. She has ‘planks and specks’, but she is beautiful in Christ. If we will be a community that agrees with God regarding the church, we will be the sort of church that non-believers need.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - SIV-WEEK - SALT AND LIGHT
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
This is the first SIV-Week study. SIV stands for Serve, Invest and Invite. This is a simple way of thinking about reaching our community for Jesus.
The importance of our mission was brought home to me recently when I read a story from John MacArthur,
“Some years ago, a magazine carried a series of pictures that graphically depicted a tragic story. The first picture was of a vast wheat field in western Kansas. The second showed a distressed mother sitting in a farmhouse in the centre of a wheat field. The accompanying story explained that, when she was not looking, her four-year-old son had wandered away from the house and into the field. The mother and father looked and looked all day, but the little fellow was too short to see, or be seen, over the wheat. The third picture showed dozens of friends and neighbours who had heard of the boy’s plight and had joined hands the next morning to make a long human chain as they walked through the field searching. The final picture was of the heartbroken father holding his lifeless son who had been found too late and died of exposure. The caption underneath read: “O GOD, IF ONLY WE HAD JOINED HANDS SOONER”
If only we had joined hands sooner! Only if we pray and work together will we be a church that reaches our community for Jesus. If we live individualistic lives with church as an add-on, we will have very little impact. Jesus is calling us to ‘go and make disciples’ together.
I) LET’S RECAP OUR VISION AT CCP
We have a vision at CCP of “Bringing people to Jesus”. A key text that has helped to shape this,
‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”’ (John 7:37-38)
This invitation is to us and to the whole world who don’t yet know Jesus. How do we bring people to Jesus? At CCP we focus on three different relationships:
Our goal to help to bring ‘myself’ to Jesus: We encourage the church to 'come to Jesus daily' by setting aside quality time each day in prayer and worship out of the Bible, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit (20 minutes, using the ‘coming to Jesus daily’ blog is a good start).
ii) One another
Our goal to help bring ‘one another’ to Jesus: We ask that every member be devoted to building an amazing Community Group (Meeting weekly is a good start).
iii) My Community (The focus of SIV)
Our goal to help us to bring our ‘community’ Jesus: In our Community Groups, we regularly share and pray about how we are going to 'Serve, Invest and Invite'. To aid this, we will have a monthly SIV Week in our Community Groups.
Before we move on, it’s really important to remember that the our mission to those outside of the church is empowered by our personal (myself) relationship with Jesus, and the encouragement of others (one another). Effective, fruitful evangelism has healthy roots in Jesus and His community. We cannot expect the fruit without the roots!
II) SALT AND LIGHT
Please read Matthew 5:13-16
Christians are salt and light. This is our identity. Many Christians have lost this vision for their lives and have lost saltiness and their light has grown dim. Our church needs to regain this if we are to see lives transformed in the ways that we are not seeing now.
Salt, in the first century, a day without refrigeration, was used to preserve food. It was also used to add flavour to food. It was also added to certain sacrifices in worship.
When we think of Light, we are to think of various forms of flame torches and candles rather than modern electric torches.
These two metaphors of salt and light speak of the good influence which Christians are to exert in the community.
A great way to Influence those around us is through being a SIV church.
III) THE THREE ELEMENTS OF SIV
Let’s think in more detail about the three elements of SIV.
i) Serving - real needs
People who see our love in action - our ‘good deeds’- will be much more open to our message. Serving our community can be helping individuals or being involved in a community project, a club etc. For example, one could serve young people and their parents through involvement in the church youth work or by being a governor in a school. It’s small things like cleaning the microwave at work. It’s big things like running Serendipity Cafe.
Discuss: How do we become salt and light as we serve others? How are you or could you serve your community? Is there anything that we could do together as a Community Group?
ii) Investing - in friendships
Invest in friends through faithfulness
Investment is about time and faithfulness. It’s going to the club faithfully. It’s phoning the friend regularly. It’s sacrificing for the good of others. Many Christians speak of love and wanting to reach the ‘lost’ but are not prepared to make time for people!
Invest in friends by taking an interest
There’s too much that could be said here about evangelism skills. However, the simple skill of being interested in your friends and expressing this by asking questions is too often overlooked. Why will anyone listen to your message if you won’t hear theirs?
Invest in friends through prayer
Rico Tice, in his book, Honest evangelism, points to the need for long term investment relationally, but also in prayer,
‘Research suggests that when people put their faith in Christ, on average it’s taken two years from the point when they came into meaningful contact with a Christian who witnessed to them—and that time period is growing. Witnessing is a long-term commitment to invest in a relationship, to pray tirelessly, and to speak the gospel over and over again, patiently and persistently. It is a journey of gospel conversations. It really does take effort.’