I don't know about you but I was really encouraged and challenged by our time last week-end with Jerry Steingard. And I appreciated his humility as he taught us what He believes the Bible says about the things that will come.
But while I was encouraged and challenged, I was also a little bit scared. Jerry talked about the great and terrible day of the Lord that the prophets Joel and Malachi both talk about in relation to the end times. There are going to be amazing and awesome things happen when the final days of the end times come. But there are also going to be terrible, difficult and painful things that will come.
But it really isn't those terrible things that I am talking about when I say that it made me a little scared. It is actually the great things. Because on the Sunday night, I believe, Jerry talked about revival. He shared about great revivals throughout history, the various ways that God has moved, and the ways that people have responded.
But he also talked about the great revival that will come during the final days. Jerry asked the question "what will we do when we get an influx of people coming to church? What will we do with them?" He sited the example of church attendance after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, church attendance in the U.S. increased 25% across the board. But by December, the numbers were right back where they were before the attacks.
I did my own research on this too and found the following quote from the Barna group which is North America's leading group in researching the intersection of faith and culture. Here is the quote.
Barna also reports that while participation in prayer and Bible study was reported to have increased immediately after the attacks, recent surveys show that these practices have returned to their pre-September 11 levels.
Responding to the disappointment of Christian leaders who have been exposed to these findings, George Barna, who directed the study, explained that, "after the attack, millions of nominally churched or generally irreligious Americans were desperately seeking something that would restore stability and a sense of meaning to life."
"Fortunately, many of them turned to the church. Unfortunately, few of them experienced anything that was sufficiently life changing to capture their attention and their allegiance. They tended to appreciate the moments of comfort they received, but were unaware of anything sufficiently unique or beneficial as to redesign their lifestyle to integrate a deeper level of spiritual involvement."
"Our assessment is that churches succeeded at putting on a friendly face but failed at motivating the vast majority of spiritual explorers to connect with Christ in a more intimate or intense manner."
That is what scares me. Would we be any different? And I think that the problem that frightens me most is that the much of the church today, at least what we consider the Western Church, doesn't know how to make disciples. I also think that problem includes most pastors and church planters. In fact, I heard it from a church planter just the other day. "I don't know how to make disciples"
That's a major problem, isn't it? When Jesus' great commission to the church is to "go into all the world and make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded", it is a big problem that we don't know how to make disciples!
Now don't hear me wrong. I think that there a lot of things that we do well. And when I say we I am talking about both the church in general and Living Water in specific. We have great programs for children and youth. I think that we have done a good job of teaching children about Jesus and what a relationship with Him means. Living Water has an amazing Children's Ministry and VBS and youth programs. I really do think that really good work is being done in discipling children and young people.
We have done a pretty good job of taking care of our own. But where we have struggled, as the church in general and I think Living Water specifically, is in disciple making of young adults and adults and especially of people outside of our own fellowship.
Where do we learn to do this? We live in a world that is becoming more and more unaware of Jesus and biblically illiterate. A generation or two ago, most people at least had some understanding of who Jesus is and what He did for them even if they weren't really following them. That isn't the case today. What hope do we have of reaching a world that has little or no knowledge of Jesus or the Bible.
Well, I think our hope is in the reality that we have a loving God, great teacher in Jesus, and the active and powerful Holy Spirit. We also have hope in the fact that some of the most tremendous times of church growth from people who didn't know God turning to Him, was in a time and place where Jesus was virtually unknown.
The scripture that we read this morning from Matthew 4: 12-22 is from the very beginning of Jesus ministry. There was no such thing as a Christian. Jesus had no followers. He had not yet preached a message. But here we see the beginnings of what would much later be called the church. And it began with an invitation and to learn.
This morning, I want to really key in on something that we don't see very openly here in the Matthew passage. We do see it in the way that Mark records the same events. I want us to look at 3 words here that Jesus spoke in Mark 1: 15.
"The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" That sounds pretty simple but there is a lot more there than what meets the eye at first.
1. The time has come.
Jesus spoke these words in Greek and in the greek there were a number of different words that can be translated as "time" in English.
One of them was the word "chronos" which of course deals with seconds, minutes, hours, days weeks, years etc. It deals with the past the present and the future. We are all here on time because last night we set our chronometers forward by one hour. That's chromos – time.
That is not the word that Jesus used here. The word that Jesus used was "kairos" which refers to an event or an opportunity.
So that is what Jesus meant here. Now is the opportunity. He wasn't saying is the hour in history for you to experience God's Kingdom. I think that was true but that wasn't what he was saying. He was saying Now is your opportunity. Now is the moment. Now is your chance to really learn about God's Kingdom.
Then we see a couple of examples of this type of kairos moment. We see Jesus walking along the Sea of Gallilea and he speaks to Simon, who we will know better as Peter, and his brother Andrew. "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Jesus was inviting them into a kairos moment. He was inviting them to enter into a time of learning.
A kairos moment is when God breaks into your circumstances and invites you to learn something about Him or about yourself through the circumstances. I have been feeling for a number of months, and I felt it even more strongly this past week-end, that Jesus is inviting me and I think us as a church into a kairos moment.
Peter and Andrew had a choice to make. They could either accept the invitation and follow or continue with the lives that they had been living. If Jesus is inviting us into a kairos moment, then we have the same choice? Will we follow? Will we go with Him and learn what he wants to teach us?
The second word that I want us to notice here is the word repent. We are familiar with this word as meaning to turn 180 degrees. That is true but there is even more to it than that. The greek word that Jesus used here was the word "metanoia". Meta means change as in metamorphosis and noia comes from the word mind. So it literally means to change ones mind.
So Jesus is saying "Now is your opportunity to learn about the Kingdom of God and to change your mind 180 degrees from what you have believed about it."
Are we open to having our minds changed? Or do we think that we've got a pretty good handle on God and on what is going on around us in His Kingdom? Are we willing not only to change our minds about our sins but about everything? Jesus wants to give us new understanding. He wants to teach us. And part of that invitation is to repent and to change our minds.
Then the third word is believe. Again, we probably thing we have a pretty good understanding of what that means. The greek word for believe here is the word "pistis" which actually means faith. Believe is the verb form of faith. Put your faith in. Have faith. Believe isn't just about the intellect. It is not just understanding something with our brains. It is to fully accept and to put our full weight on.
During our time with Jerry and Pam and their team last week-end, I said that some things that I have been sensing for a few months had been confirmed. But there was one new idea or word that came to mind and it has stuck with me. The word is re-tool. If you have ever worked in a factory or had a tour of one, you might have heard of this. A machine is usually able to produce a number of different parts. But in order for it to switch from producing one part and start producing a different one, it needs to be re-tooled.
I am sensing that God is inviting us into a kairos moment where we can be re-tooled and made ready for the new thing that he is wanting to do. As we look forward to what God is going to do in the future, God is inviting us to learn from Him and be re-tooled to make disciples.
But I also believe that this new thing, the way forward into ministry in the future, is going to look a lot more like the past. I think God is inviting us into a new discipling relationship with Him so that in it, we can learn to make disciples ourselves. Not through programs or events but through sharing our lives, opening our homes, and inviting people to their own kairos moment.
Not that we are inviting people to follow us and be our disciples. But to follow Jesus and to learn from our example as we learn from him. There is a certain point in the book of Acts where the language of Rabbi and disciple which describes the relationship between Jesus and his disciples stops being used. And it switches when Paul starts going out to the Gentiles who had no knowledge of understanding of that. Paul changes the language to parental language. And, like Jesus did in the Rabbi disciple relationship, he invites them to follow His example. He invites them to imitate him.
And I think that is what discipling is going to look like for us. Inviting people into our homes, our families, our lives and letting them see how we are following Jesus. Come and follow as I follow Jesus. I'll show you what I know and you can learn from it. You can live life with me. Come and learn from my mistakes. You can learn from the good and the bad in my marriage and in the way that I parent or grandparent.
Is anybody frightened by that? I am! Because it comes with it the question of "Is my life worth imitating?" Do I have something in my life that is worth copying?
I believe that more and more we are going to be called in invite people into our homes and into our lives and to follow Jesus with us. The question that will come though, is the same question that Simon and Andrew had to answer. Will we say "yes" to Jesus invitation. As He invites us into a "kairos experience" will we drop what we are doing, repent and follow Him?
I pray that we will.