Sunday 7 June 2020 Message Supplement: “Great Commitment”

Today’s message from Matthew 28: 16-20 reveals the ongoing importance of Jesus’ earthly farewell.

Before he departed, Jesus wanted to instill guidance about what his followers were supposed to be doing after his imminent departure.  Those who had gathered for Jesus’ parting words were told to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19a).  This magnificent statement is also known as the Great Commission, which is the message of love and redemption that all Christians and churches are supposed to be proclaiming.

Then as now, Jesus provides a timeless message of transformative love.  Our wonderful purpose involves proclaiming God’s message upon the earth so that all life can be enhanced.  It all sounds so simple, but Christians disagree about how best to spread the word (they often can’t even agree on what version of the word to spread!).  Rather than do nothing in the face of uncertainties, you can confidently move forward and assist people with a redemption of total life renewal, the type that leads to holistic wellbeing (health in body, mind and spirit).

Almost two-thousand years after Jesus, followers continue wondering how best to accomplish the great commission of spreading God’s message.  Culture isn’t nearly as receptive to a traditional religious message as it was decades ago.  There’s also dwindling numbers of faith-based workers as time and circumstances take their toll.  A duly skeptical and questioning public asks churches to prove their value-add by demonstrating if attending church is worth the time.  More than ever, the church must adapt by making faith-based services interesting, relevant, and able to help meet peoples’ needs.  Unlike how it was in the past, the church must now earn peoples’ trust and respect.

Friends, I’ll be the first to admit that we face profound challenges.  But also know this: God is with us and doing our part unleashes promises and possibilities.  We can choose to rally ourselves, take risks, and use our time, talent, and treasure to forge a brighter future.  The reason for all this is that we, like those ancient disciples, are supposed to proclaim God’s love and truth.  We must do what we can to revitalize our faith and strengthen our church as we help people grow stronger from the inside/out.

Enhancing the church starts with you and with me being all that God is calling us to be.  People who choose to do nothing have chosen to die; denial and resistance are fatal attitudes for any organization.  As a spiritual leader it is my duty to highlight dangers and offer solutions.  It’s obvious to people who are awake and aware that there’s a serious problem with the future of American Christianity.  Are you ready to change how you think, feel and act?  Are you ready to embrace new people who need a renewed church?  None of this is easy, but with God’s help we’ll reach the world with a message of hope (especially needed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic).

Look around and notice how your congregation has changed over decades.  The throngs of kids and young families once present are not as numerous as they once were.  Our church is still healthy in many ways, and there are creatively effective ministries that help fulfill Jesus’ great commission.  We must remain agile and ready to do whatever it takes.  Churches like ours will survive and thrive as we respond positively and make any and all changes to better serve an increasingly distant and even skeptical public.

Rising to the many challenges requires everything we have—and more!  Thankfully, God will provide what we need if we are determined to do our part.  It is tempting to just coast into oblivion and try to keep everyone smiling as things wind down.  Not on my watch!  Choose life and do what’s required to pass your beloved church down to future generations.  We are here at St. John to help one another overcome obstacles, including those internal barriers that resist change.  What are you willing and able to accomplish toward the health of your church?

It is far better to be criticized for trying to do too much than be praised for sliding down the numbing path of indifference.  Join with me as we embrace the enlivening power of God’s Spirit.  We can have fun as we adopt new strategies and techniques for reaching people.  We have a wonderful church that has much going for it.  What is restraining you from being all that God is calling you to become?

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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