During the fall of 2018 we had a focus on prayer; and as a church we were challenged and blessed by the “Bible in a Year” readings. Emphasizing these spiritual disciplines has been fruitful. We are building a foundation of faith, and certainly these themes still carry over into a new year. We want to grow our culture of prayer, and plan to still create a prayer team and organize a prayer vigil. We want to keep studying and reading God’s Word in personal study and meditation.
But now heading into 2019, we start building on this foundation. We are going to be spending the first couple of months here with a focus on outreach. I want all of us at Park to see ourselves as missionaries—called and sent by Jesus—even if we’re living in Holland and getting a paycheck from something else; or even if we don’t have the gift of evangelism, or are introverts—all believers are still missionaries!
When Jesus gathered his disciples, one of the first things he told them was, “I will make you fishers of men.” During his 3 years of ministry, he trained them and prepared them. Then, after Easter, he tells them, “Now I’m sending you.” And, his last words come in the famous Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The strategy of Jesus is clear: he was making disciples who would make disciples. And, this is still our strategy. Equipping and preparing believers for this work is a vital function of the church today.
So, several sermons in the upcoming year are going to focus on equipping the congregation to be disciple-makers. There are so many Bible texts on this subject, and many important lessons, and we certainly can’t cover everything. But, the hope is to cover some fundamental and practical outreach skills with specific challenges and steps along the way.
To help build on the sermons, the Park congregation will also be working through a book together. After considering a few options, I decided on Philip Yancey’s book “Vanishing Grace: Bringing Good News to a Deeply Divided World”. This book considers, “How can Christians make a positive, grace-filled difference in a world of desperate need?” We have ordered 75 books, which will be given away at church on January 6 and 13. Then, starting on January 14 we will provide recommended readings for each week that correspond with the sermon topics. 75 books are a lot, but still not enough for every family. Those who prefer e-readers or tablets can purchase their own e-book version of the book; or some might consider ordering one of your own (especially if both the husband and wife want their own copy).
I am intentionally moving from a prayer focus first to an outreach focus now, because there is no outreach without prayer. In the “Park Outreach Guidelines” that the outreach team is working on, the first step of outreach is praying for discipleship opportunities. If you have people in your life currently, who need to draw closer to Jesus, start by writing down those names and praying consistently for them. Or, if you are currently lacking discipleship relationships, ask God to show you opportunities and to bring new people into your life. That is where we will get started and build our outreach from there.
We can do this. The disciples were ordinary, unschooled men. They became “disciples-who-made- disciples” because the Holy Spirit gave them the words and the ability. And, Paul then tells the next generation of Christians, “Christ has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” We are Christ’s ambassadors today. We are missionaries.