For the past couple of weeks, billion of people around the world have been thinking about, watching and talking about soccer because the World Cup is on right now. So in honour of the World Cup, I invite you to watch the following video. Now what is the mission of a soccer team? How did the soccer players’ actions impact the mission of the team? These failures are such obvious mess ups that they may be considered funny. But what would you think if I said that most Jesus followers are failing their Master’s mission most of the time?
To find out more about our Master’s Mission, let’s reflect on our second reading from Luke 19:1-10. Jesus is traveling through Jericho. He is on His last journey to Jerusalem and there, because He Loves all people, Jesus will suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. As he walked through town with His followers, a crowd gathered around Him. This was something that often happened when Jesus came into a town in those days.
People were milling all around Him and calling out His name. Some were likely inviting Jesus to their house for a meal and eastern hospitality. In that culture, and still in the Middle East today, showing hospitality to a traveler was very highly valued. And there was no greater sign of friendship than to eat with someone. Jesus could have eaten at many fine and respectable homes, homes where people thought and acted just like He did.
But Jesus was very intentional about going outside of the circle of comfort to the zone of the unknown. Jesus was very intentional about building a relationship with someone who was very different from Him. Up ahead, in a tree was a man who was small in stature but large in reputation, except it was the kind of reputation that people usually don’t want to have. This wee, little man was Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus was a tax collector, the most despised business one could engage in those times. Tax collectors were despised because they cooperated with the Roman occupiers and betrayed and extorted money from their own people, the Jews. A fine, upstanding religious person would never fraternize with a tax collector, and yet Jesus intentionally developed a friendship with Zacchaeus. Jesus looked up into that tree and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5b)
Zacchaeus was probably just as shocked as everyone was there on that day. “Jesus, has called out to me and said, right here in front of everyone, that he must stay at my house today?” he probably said to himself. But Zacchaeus’s shock was soon swept away by joy. This great rabbi wanted to eat with him! Zacchaeus scrambled down the tree, took Jesus by the hand and led Him and His disciples to his home. There Zacchaeus gave instructions to his servants to quickly prepare a feast for his special guests.
We do not know much about what happened at that feast. As the guest of honour, Jesus would have sat beside Zacchaeus. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit beside Jesus for a whole meal and listen to Him share His wisdom with you about God and heaven and life? Think of what it would be like to ask Him a question and then hear Him answer. Something moved inside of Zaccheaus during that meal with Jesus. At some point in the meal, his heart bursting with joy, Zacchaeus stood up and exclaimed to Jesus, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8b). Zacchaeus’s offering to the poor went far beyond a 10% tithe. Zacchaeus was giving 50% to the poor. Zacchaeus’s promise of restitution for ill-gotten gains was far beyond what was required by the religious law. In the Torah, money taken under false pretenses was to be repaid along with 20% extra. Zacchaeus was promising to repay people along with 300% extra. What could prompt such a dramatic change in Zacchaeus? Only Jesus could do something like that.
Jesus confirms that Zacchaeus is now part of God’s family by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9) And then Jesus speaks words which define His purpose, His mission, His reason for being. Jesus said, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Let’s reflect on these words for a few moments. The Son of Man is a nickname that Jesus used when He was referring to Himself. Jesus’ mission is to seek and to save the lost. Do you think that it is important to Jesus that His mission is still carried out in the world today? Are there still people in the world who are lost and who need to be saved? [Yes] How is Jesus going to carry out His mission in the world today? Jesus is going to carry out His mission in the world, in Canada, in the Lower Mainland, in Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and in Walnut Grove, through His body. What is Jesus’ body? You are. Every person who follows Jesus is part of His body. Jesus is going to carry out His mission to seek and save the lost through you.
So how are most Jesus followers failing their Master’s Mission most of the time? Bill Hybels, in the book Just Walk Across the Room writes,
On average, 30 percent of the people who approach me after weekend services at Wilow have one thing on their minds: how to get one of their lost friends or family members found. Whether it’s a dad or an uncle or a neighbor or a boss who is spiritually adrift, countless numbers of Christ-followers throughout the course of a ministry year express their heartfelt concern for someone far from God.
Each time, I offer the same question in response to these good-hearted men and women. And each time, my suggestion is met with their disbelief. “Why don’t you help point them to God?” I ask. Almost to a person, the idea itself seems ludicrous: I could never do that! I just woundmn’t know what to say. That’s really not my gift. Not my personality. I would screw it up. And anyway, that’s what you [professionals] are for!
Not surprisingly, the Bible puts a different spin on things. Simply put, if you are a Christ-follower, then you are called, equipped, and expected to share the gospel. No exceptions! Leighton Ford, former vice-president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, summed it up this way: A church which bottlenecks its specialists to do its witnessing is living in violation of both [Jesus Christ] and the consistent pattern of the early Christians. Evangelism was the task of the whole church, not just the ‘name characters’” (emphasis mine).
Somehow, though, despite the noble desire to get lost peo9ple found, many have abdicated their role in the process altogether. As I have traveled around the world visiting pastors and volunteer leaders, I’ve developed a deep concern for a dangerous trend that is alive and well in many evangelical churches. The long a person attends church, the fewer evangelistic discussion they engage in with family members and friends. Fewer presentations of the life-changing plan of salvation are given, and fewer invitations to events that attractively present the message of Christ are offered mostly because Christ-follower have fewer friends outside the faith to whom to offer them.
We fail our Master’s mission through a lack of meaningful interaction with people who do not follow Jesus. The following chart shows the life cycle of most Christians. The longer we walk with Jesus, the less meaningful interaction we tend to have with people who are far from God, to the point that for most people who have been Christians a long time, nearly all of their network of friends is composed of Christians. We fail our Master’s mission when we stay in our Circle of Comfort instead of venturing out into the Zone of the Unknown. Our Comfort Zone is where we are most comfortable (that is why it is called a “Comfort Zone”) but we will not stretch and grow if we do not leave our Comfort Zone. We fail our Master’s mission when we outrun or ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. So what does it mean to outrun the Spirit? In times past, I have treated my friends like objects instead of people and made them my evangelism “projects.” In doing so, I violated the relationships that I have with them and I have lost friends because of what I have done. We can also ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting and fail to step into the opportunities that He has prepared for us because we are not listening to Him.
The Good News is that Jesus has sought and saved you. Jesus has come looking for you, whether it is through a parent, a grandparent or some other relative. Jesus has reached out to you through a friend, a co-worker, or a church worker like a deacon or a pastor. Jesus has save you by having someone share with you the Gospel message: That though you were lost, that is far from God, and you were headed towards spending an eternity without God, Jesus lived a perfect human life for you and all people, and died a sinner’s death on the cross for you and all people to pay for all of your sins. Jesus then rose from the dead on the third day that followed to defeat death for you and for all people. So through Jesus, you have forgiveness, salvation and eternal life as a totally free gift. And one day, Jesus is going to come back to this world and raise you and all people from the dead. And everyone who looks to Jesus in faith in this life will spend eternity with Him in the next. All of creation will be healed and made whole and we will have new resurrection bodies that will never grow old, never get sick and never die.
Jesus has saved you by sending the Holy Spirit to give you the faith to believe the Gospel message and trust it with your life.
And with Jesus, the Good News just keeps coming. Because Jesus has invited you to join with Him in His mission of seeking and saving the lost. Now when we hear that, most of us think that joining the mission of Jesus is like joining the Armed Forces. We think that we have to leave behind our family, friends, personal interests and personality, take on an identity and persona that is foreign to us and do things that don’t fit with who we are. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus has already given you your own evangelism style and it already fits with who you are and the things that you like to do: Direct, Intellectual, Testimonial, Interpersonal, Invitational, or Serving. Jesus has already placed you in a situation where you have a unique opportunity to impact the lives of others (family, friends, workplace, school, community). Jesus has already given you your own personal set of hobbies, interests and passions that can be used to build relationships with people who do not follow Jesus.
With Jesus, we can be intentional about doing what Bill Hybels calls “Living in 3D.” We can be intentional about Developing friendships with people who do not follow Jesus. We can Discover stories, that is, listen to what people tell us about what is going on in their lives. We can Discern next steps, that is, listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and do what He prompts us to do. With Jesus, we can live the life cycle that He encourages, where we grow in love each year that we walk with Him and we live out that love by using our gifts to serve, focusing on people and spreading grace to others. With Jesus, I can find the Master’s mission in me. Amen.
(shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on June 29, 2014.)
 Bill Hybels, Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 60-61. The charts are also from Walk Across the Room, page 61 & 65.