It was almost as if it had never happened. Almost as if it had been a dream, a bad dream, but just a dream.
Everything was exactly the way it had been before. Jesus spoke about the kingdom, they walked everywhere they went and did lunch together. It was hard to believe that a month before they had watched as the Romans had nailed their teacher to a cross and left Him to die, only five weeks had passed since Jesus had been raised from the dead. You would have thought that the events of the Easter weekend would have made some kind of impact on his little band of happy followers but apparently not because it would seem that it was “Business as Usual”. It was almost as if it had never happened
But then after 40 days of miracles, and teaching Jesus has this to say to His followers: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them. With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’
You are witnesses of all these things.
Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.
Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Now just a word of warning, don’t go looking for that particular conversation in your Scriptures cause you won’t find it. At least you won’t find it exactly like that because that is a compilation of the recollections of those who heard Jesus last statement. Just as each of you will walk away from the sermon this morning remembering certain things I said each of those at the ascension of Christ remembered what to them appeared to be the most important parts of Christ’s last class with them. Those fragments by the way are found in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-19, Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:8-9.
It is out of this particular conversation that Matthew gleaned what we call the great commission, now I know that for those of you in sales your idea of a great commission is 25% of the Gross and while that is a great commission it is not the Great Commission. This is in reality the mission statement of the early church. You know what a mission statement is right, it is when you have boiled the purpose of your life or the life of your church down to a concise statement of purpose. At Cornerstone we can tell you that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exist to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit. That is our mission statement. The mission statement of Christianity is this “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.”
That my friends is why Christians are left in the world, to fulfil that mission statement. You see if Cornerstone Wesleyan Church does not reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit, then we have failed to do what we set out to do. Our mission statement does not say that Cornerstone exist to provide Wesleyans with a place to worship in Hammonds Plains, nor does it say that we exist to have this beautiful building or that we exist to do what other churches in the area are already doing or that we exist so that our people can have a pastor call on them when they are feeling in need of company. The reason that we are here, our passion, the all consuming reason we exist is to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit. That is why we are here and if we don’t accomplish that, then we have blown it and might as well turn this building into a furniture store or a car dealership.
I have said that to say this: The greatest measure of our success is how well we fulfil our mission statement. And a mission statement is really just your vision set down on paper. And just a word to the wise here, the vision has to be from God, too often churches use vision in much the same way that a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support then for illumination. A vision or mission statement is not for the express purpose of supporting what we are doing now, instead it is a reflection of what God wants us to be doing and sometimes there is a difference. Our measure of success will be whether or not we are fulfilling our mission statement.
But it’s more then that for you and for us because along with the mission statement that we have for our church is Christianity’s mission statement which was laid down by our Lord, Jesus Christ in His last public address to his followers: “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.” If we are not doing that then we have failed.
1) What It Is
There has to be a reason why the church is here and why the Lord leaves us in the world after we get saved. I mean lets think about it, the world is cold and uncaring, full of pain and grief and heaven has none of that. The old song is right when it say “Heaven is a wonderful place full of glory and grace.” And so isn’t that where we really ought to be? But that isn’t where we are. So, why are we here and not there? Well Jesus offered a couple of suggestions in his teachings when he told the disciples in
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth.” He added to that in the next verse when He said Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world.” And so we are told that we are to be an influence in the world, both preserving it and flavouring it as salt and lighting the way brightening it as light. But there has to be more to it than that. In John 20:21 Jesus, tells His disciples why they are being sent out “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” So we are being sent by Christ in the same way that Christ was sent by the Father, and what was that, To keep people out of hell, right? John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Winning the lost is the bottom line that’s why we are here, that ought to be the mission statement of every Christian and every Christian Church, to reach the lost. The problem though is that the main focus of the church and of Christians is not the lost, it’s the found. You say that’s not true preacher, oh no? Open the cheque book of most evangelical churches and see where the money is spent. Open the calendar of most Wesleyan Churches and see where the time is spent. Is the majority spent on reaching the lost or on making the found more comfortable? Do churches expect their pastors to spend the majority of his time and effort on the sinners or on the saints? It’s easy to say we have a commitment to winning the lost but our beliefs are confirmed by our actions not by our words. In other words my friends, talk is cheap.
Sometimes I get the impressions that most Wesleyan’s don’t really believe the Bible. I mean we are supposed to, the discipline tells us that we believe the Bible, our preachers tell us we believe the Bible from the pulpit, and when we compare ourselves to the liberal churches we tell other people that we believe the Bible, but personally I think that we are lying.
Has anybody seen the movie “Schindler’s List”? The plot is about a German industrialist during the Second World War who saved a pile of Jews from the concentration camps and certain death. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save them then they were destined for the gas chambers. His mission was to save Jews from a certain death.
20 or so years ago when Air Florida flight 90 flew into a bridge and crashed into the Potomac River a man named Arland Williams jumped into the February chilled waters and saved five people from drowning. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save them then there were destined to drown. His mission was to save people from drowning.
2000 years ago Jesus Christ came to this earth, lived 33 years, took the sins of the world upon himself and died on a cross. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save the world then they were destined for hell fire. His mission was to save the world
Today most Christians are concerned with themselves and most churches are concerned with keeping Christians happy. And do you know why? Because they are not convinced that the people of the world are destined for hell. You say that’s pretty harsh isn’t it preacher. No if I wanted to be pretty harsh then I would say that Christians are convinced that those people are going to hell and that they just don’t care and that would make them monsters.
2) Where It Happens
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Basically that means “here there and everywhere. Too often we qualify the word missions by adding either foreign or home to the beginning of it. But the church only has one mission and that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.
We have an obligation to reach people where ever there are people. Jerusalem was where there were at, that’s Hammonds Plains, the HRM, in all Judea meant in their entire country, Samaria was the place next to Judea where the people were a bit different but a bit the same, maybe that is another province or across the line in Maine and of course to the ends of the earth covers everyone else. That means that we have an obligation to reach our next door neighbour, to reach the guy across the street, to reach the lady on the other side of town, to reach Jim Oullette in Saint John New Brunswick, Stuart Thomas in Grand Manan New Brunswick and John Kennedy in Brisbane Australia.
And it needs to be intentional. It won’t just happen. If you don’t plan a way for it to happen then don’t count on it happening.
At Cornerstone reaching the lost is a priority, not just in Hammonds Plains which is our Jerusalem, but also in our Judea, our Samaria and to the very ends of the earth.
One thing that we did when Cornerstone was in the planning stages was to list our core values. Those are the principles that our church was founded on, there are seven and we live and die by those seven core values, they are non negotiable and they are what Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is all about, if you like our core values you’ll like us, if you don’t like our core values then perhaps you’d feel more comfortable in another church. Three of the seven core values are
1) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to the reaching of pre-Christians through relational evangelism. Evangelism is and will remain a priority.
Every dollar spent, every staff person hired, every program instituted will have to answer the question how will this reach the lost. That is our Jerusalem
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to reaching the lost and will make tithing our general offering to world and home missions a priority. We are already Supporting Kerry and Carol Allison in the Ukraine, Carl and Mya in Haiti, Robin White in Japan as well as supporting the work in both Suriname and Ghana. As well as Darren and Janel Clark with their new church in Charlottetown. That is our Samaria and the very ends of the earth
6) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to planting additional churches. We have assisted in planting one new church here in the HRM and one in Charlottetown and some day we are going to take an active role in starting a new church in the Elmsdale Enfield area. That is our Judea
The vision has to be bigger then these four walls, it has to be bigger then Hammonds Plains and it has to be bigger then Nova Scotia or the Canada. And it has to be bigger than home missions or foreign missions, what it needs to be is a vision to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.
3) Who Is Supposed To Be Doing It? If we were to look at who was there on the day of the ascension we would discover the eleven remaining apostles, but the great commission had to have been for the entire movement at that time, it wasn’t enough for those eleven to be committed to evangelism without the rest of the group being committed as well.
The great commission is meant to be a mission statement for all of Christendom. It doesn’t matter what Christians call themselves, whether it be Wesleyan, Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever they have a common mission and that is, that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded. For Christianity to survive, Christianity has to be committed to the mission of winning the lost. When we stop making disciples and baptizing people then at that point the Church will begin to die, and will die within one generation.
But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of Christianity; it needs to be a burning passion for the Wesleyan Church. Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our denomination will become just another empty shell in the ecclesiastical wastelands of our country.
But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of the Wesleyan Church it needs to be for this church right here. Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our church will become just a social club, we’ll be like the Lions or the Rotary Club. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Lions or the Rotary club it’s just that they are not the body of Christ and we are, or at least that’s what we are supposed to be.
But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for this Church it has to be for you. Without the desire to win souls what do you become? What does it say about you as a person if you aren’t willing to put yourself out just a little bit to ensure that someone that you care about doesn’t end up in hell? You see everything boils down to our responsibility. If we aren’t committed to the mission, then our local church won’t be and if the local churches aren’t committed to the mission than the denomination won’t be. And if the denominations aren’t committed to the mission than Christendom won’t be. Maybe we need to adopt the adage of salespeople who say “If it’s going to be it’s up to me”
The problem is that even though most Wesleyan Churches are sound evangelically they are sound asleep evangelistically. And I’m here today to say, “That ain’t the way it’s supposed to be!” Our main purpose for being here is very simply to depopulate hell. Somehow we need to get a grasp of the reality of hell fire and realize that those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are destined for a Christless eternity and will be tormented forever. Do you believe that, do you believe that people today, people we know and people we don’t know will suffer for eternity because we didn’t do anything to prevent it. There are times that I think most Christians take Mark Twain’s position on heaven and hell when he said, “I don’t want to express an opinion. You see, I have friends in both places.” but we have to express an opinion because that is part of the deal of being a Christian.
It would be so much easier to convince people of the value of evangelism if the Bible said that the only way that you would get into heaven is if you brought somebody with you, but it doesn’t. However listen to the words of Christ in John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
You want to be loved by God and by Jesus? Sure you do. Well here’s the ticket all you have to do is to obey Christ’s commands and one of those is Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
If that was a command of Christ and we don’t do it then John 14:21 says that means that we don’t love him, and only those who love Christ are loved by the Father and only those who are loved by the Father are going to get in.
There is a story told about when Calvin Coolidge
was Vice President of the United States. One day the Vice President was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go “straight to hell.” The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Cal looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. “I’ve been looking through the rule book,” he said. “You don’t have to go.” Friends we need to be in the business of telling people that we have checked the rule book and they don’t have to go.”
4) How Are We Supposed To Be Doing It? The power of the Holy Spirit is the means, the method is not defined. Deng Xiaoping said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.” When we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives neat things happen. The Bible tells us in: Mark 16:17-18 (Jesus Said) These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
Now some people get really caught up in those particular things, but they are simply indications of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who minister. It is a promise of enablement and protection. When Kerry and Carol minister in Ukraine they speak in a new tongue because their mother tongue is English. When Medical missionaries minister in a hospital in Sierra Leone and Haiti aren’t they placing their hands on sick people to heal them? I don’t think that you ever have to worry about me picking up snakes, but I was convinced that the drinking deadly poison was a direct reference to Australian Coffee.
Sometimes we get so caught up in how we should do it that we never do it. What should the church look like, what should the church sound like, what songs should we sing, should we have pews or chairs. Let me share with you my new favourite quote Thomas Jefferson said “In matters of style swim with the current in matters of principle stand like a rock.”
Do you remember when Nike used the phrase “Just Do It.”? I would like that to be my message to the church, “Just Do it” Listen again to the promise of Christ in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
There are two things that happen when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, two evidences of his presence. 1) We receive power 2) We will tell people about Jesus. If our lives do not exhibit power and we are not witnesses than it would appear to be very obvious that the Holy Spirit has never come upon you.
As far as evangelism on a personal level that is all of our responsibility, you can no more shirk that than you can walk past a drowning man and not throw him a rope. But on a broader spectrum there are those who God has called to reach people where you can’t. Let’s face it, realistically we can’t all move to Newfoundland to plant a church, you can’t move to the Ukraine to help Kerry and Carol Allison to minister to street kids or to Haiti to help Carl and Maya in the Work there. But that doesn’t remove the obligation that God has placed on you to reach the lost in those places, it simply changes how you can do that.
Instead of going to the Ukraine, or going to Haiti or going to Newfoundland you help Kerry and Carol, Carl and Maya and Darren and Janel to go. Even though you can’t be there your prayers can be there. You may not be able to say, “Here am I send me” but you can say, “Here I am, let me help send others.
Let’s not forget our mission statement “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.”