Last time we talked about how “Small Things Done With Great Love Still Change the World.” And I introduced a term that I think describes how Jesus lived his life. Treating every conversation, question, and encounter as a divine appointment. Anybody remember that word? Good, outreach. Jesus lived a life of ordinary outreach. And then I described how together on First Serve Sabbath we’re going to experiment with that word by giving away Kindness 2 Go bags once a month. This morning, I’d like to add the other oar to our rowboat. And that’s extra-ordinary invitations. If “Small Things Done With Great Love Still Change the World”, then doesn’t it just make sense that “Big Things Done With Great Love Will Still Change the World” too? So we’re going to talk about what some of those big things might be.
But before we do, let me tell you about my Kindness 2 Go encounter from last week. On Wednesday, Jackie and I decided to go to IHOP for breakfast one day. We’re trying to figure out some decisions we have make about fixing and selling our home in Canton and about what kind of job Jackie wants to secure here in Toledo. The Bible says you have not because you ask not so we don’t want to be guilty of that. And I’ve found that these kinds of decisions always go better with real maple syrup and pancakes am I right or am I right? Growing up, sometimes my mom, like any good Norwegian, would make us waffles and pancakes for supper. Which compared to pizza on Saturday night, is not only cheaper but much healthier! Which is what you may have if you come over to our house on a Saturday night.
Anyways, knowing we were headed into the International Mission Field of Pancakes, we decided to bring our Kindness 2 Go bag with us hoping we could give it away to someone inside. So we sat down in there and ordered our pancakes. It was nice sitting nowhere near any boxes still unpacked. We settled on a handyman to begin fixing up our house in Canton. And decided to keep praying about the right job for Jackie in Toledo. And before you know it, the check arrived.
But before we finished our pancakes and our waitress left, I think her name was Amber, I picked up the Kindness to Go bag that had been sitting on our table the entire time and said to her, “Amber, this is our Kindness 2 Go bag. We’d like to give this you to brighten your day.” She looked a little startled, but immediately broke into a big smile. Bigger than any she had given us when we sat down or after she delivered our pancakes. She said, “Really? That’s sweet. That DOES brighten my day. Thanks!” Jackie, as way of explanation, added “We just moved to the area. My husband is the pastor of the Toledo First Adventist church down the road. He’s got everybody in church giving these bags away. It’s fun. We hope you like it.” She confirmed some location details of our church and before she left, smiled real big, thanked us again and said “It’s good to know there are still some good people left in the world.”
Isn’t that amazing? We’re good people to her! Definitely not perfect, but good. I’ll take that any day how about you? And it was so easy and fun too. If I were interviewing myself: These are the questions I’d be answering. Number one, who did you give your Kindness 2 Go bag to? Answer: I gave it to Amber, our waitress at the IHOP. Why did I choose her? I didn’t. She came to me. Isn’t that right? She entered into my sphere of influence. Well, what did you say? I told her we wanted to give this to her to brighten her day. And what was her response? Well, I told you what she said. But what she also learned, whether she realized it or not, is that she has value to Jesus. And that there’s an Adventist church down the road that believes that with all their hearts. Cathie Heath has another Kindness 2 Go story. I’ve invited her up to tell us about that. Thank you for that.
Jesus made extra-ordinary invitations. . .
So ordinary outreach is about telling the truth about other people’s value. That God loves them like crazy. And that’s how Jesus lived His life. But that’s just part of it. The other part is Jesus made extra-ordinary invitations so He could tell the truth about God. Mark 1:16–18 says, “16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘17Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ 18At once they left their nets and followed him.” In the NIV, the word “Follow” occurs 65 times in the New Testament. In the KJV, it occurs 51 times. But you get the point. The invitation to Follow Jesus is made a bunch of times. So making extra-ordinary invitations was a big part of how Jesus lived His life. So it occurs to me that if we’re going to be about our Father’s business, as Jesus was by the age of 12 [cf.Luke 2:42] we’re gonna be doing ordinary outreach and we’re gonna find ways to combine that with extra-ordinary invitations.
We can’t settle for doing one without the other. If you’re rowing a boat with only 1 oar, you’re never going to really get anywhere are you? You’re just going to be spinning in circles. Yes, Jesus went to parties with tax collectors and prostitutes and drunkards and gluttons and thieves. He extended grace and kindness in numerous small ways impressing upon those in His sphere of influence the truth of their value. But the other thing Jesus wasn’t ashamed to do was to make the extra-ordinary invitation so He could tell the truth about God. He’d begin by saying, “Follow Me.”
. . . and that is public evangelism
And rightly understood friends, THAT is what public evangelism is all about. Public evangelism is really just another way of making extra-ordinary invitations. Telling the truth about a God who loves His missing children like crazy. And wants them to have a life worth living! And the Seventh-day Adventist Church has some wonderful truths about the Way and The Truth and the Life does it not? For example, as Adventist Christians, we get to talk about the benefits of resting and spending an entire day on a date with the King of the Universe. Who couldn’t use some quality time with Jesus? Who doesn’t need to rest in the 24/7 world we live in? We also get to remind people that Jesus is coming soon and that now is the day of salvation. Something not altogether clear these days. We get to relieve people of the sincere but mistaken burden that God burns the wicked in hell for eternity. Talk about telling the truth! I couldn’t love a God who did that! Not even my worst enemy, not Hitler, not even the devil himself deserves to burn forever. Maybe that crazy guy in charge of Iran, who says there was no Holocaust would beg to differ, but certainly none of the sincere seekers and followers of Jesus I know.
So I’m not ashamed to say to the unchurched or to any of my already Christian neighbors and friends that, “Yeah, we Adventists have some special things to say. Some truths about THE Truth that make life worth living. Not just throughout eternity, but in the here and now.” And I’m convinced if we say them in winsome ways, these truths can change the world! Maybe that’s what we should put on our brochures. “One weekend could change your life.” Because it can. For whatever reasons, God has raised us up to understand some truths about God nobody else is talking about. And because He did, I have to assume that He meant for us to share them don’t you? And when we do, the Bible reminds us that Big Things Done With Great Love Still Change the World.
Acts 2:40-41 [NIV] says it this way. “40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 4:4 [NIV] “4But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” Acts 21:20 [NIV] “20When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed.’” Many of these thousands of followers came from extra-ordinary invitations stemming from the foolishness of preaching. 1 Corinthians 1:21 [NIV] says it this way. “21Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.”
Just because as a church we have pretty much ignored ordinary outreach doesn’t mean it’s not Biblical. And just because as a church we have pretty much abused public evangelism, majoring in minors while scaring people in the kingdom of heaven, that doesn’t mean the foolishness of preaching isn’t Biblical either. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:15 to pay attention to the prophecies of Daniel. Why? Because they prove that God is in control and that He’s up to something big. That He’s not doing nothing in heaven right now. Jesus mingled with men, desired their good, did ordinary outreach. But simultaneously He bid them “Follow Me.” And after they did, He told them to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey ALL I have commanded.” The ALL in that verse is why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist. Don’t get me wrong, I like other Christians. But I’m not ashamed to say I’m not like other Christians. And neither was Jesus.
Why? Because Jesus made some seriously extra-ordinary invitations. If you’re not convinced, listen to this one from Jesus in Luke 14:25-27 [NIV]. It says, “25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
I’d say Jesus’ cost of discipleship is way up there wouldn’t you? Even extra-ordinary. But at the same time, let’s not limit the Big Things Done With Great Love to the foolishness of preaching. There are some other things and ideas and methods that we can put money into that just might work too. One of mine is to do a gas buy down. Where we purchase a certain amount of gasoline from the local BP station down the road and then sell their gas at their station for 50 cents off per gallon telling people that Jesus Fills Their Tank. You think selling cheaper fuel in this crazy world wouldn’t dramatically change our corner of it? You better believe it! If we had a few Pathfinders there, we’d have plenty of opportunities to respond to questions about which church we go to and what we’re doing. Talk about getting a bang for your buck! What if for every $1 we spent on ordinary outreach, we put another $1 into extra-ordinary invitations? If we did, our rowboat would have 2 oars. One for continuous ordinary outreach plus another for higher cost extra-ordinary invitations. Which I believe would yield lives worth living what do you say?
In closing, I’d like to share two extra-ordinary invitation ideas we could try. One will be on the screen in just a moment brought to you by our friends at the Aldergrove SDA Church in Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada. The other will be a handout at the door of an article I really liked in the October 2006 Ministry Magazine by Dave Livermore describing how I’d like to do public evangelism in the 21 st century. Just watch this DVD and on your way out of worship this morning grab the handout. [See DVD]
No doubt, small things done with great love still change the world. But big things done with great love still change the world too. That’s pretty much all I wanted to say today. Be sure to pick up the handout on your way from worship and post your responses to the article on my blog. Or drop me an email. The info you need to do so is on the back of the bulletin.
Let’s pray, “Dear Jesus, this new year, give us the wisdom we lack and the courage we need to extend the extra-ordinary invitation you first offered us. Amen.”