The Gospel

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I stand before you preaching today because there were believers not much different that you and I who put a lot of energy and effort into a method that was aimed at giving away the gospel.

The Center Street church gave away rides to church. They had a church bus in the 1970’s, just like many churches. Yes, those buses were a lot of work. Yes, it was difficult to maintain a church bus in the midst of an oil crisis. Yes, there was a too much rigidity to the method of bus ministry and promotion of a one size fits all program. Yes, bus ministry was sometimes sold as the magic bullet that would produce instant church growth.

But thank God that those people in Fayetteville drove that bus down Turner Ave. Thank God that he was working in the hearts of men like Blondie Edwards and Lonnie Farrar. Thank God that Blondie knocked on the door of our house and asked if the kids wanted to come to church. And when my mother asked if she could ride the bus to church too (because she thought my sister would not go without her), thank God that Blondie didn’t wonder if this conformed to the guide book nor did he tell her that he had to ask the elders – thank God he said, “Absolutely!”

Thank God for Colleen Shirley who befriended my mother and made her feel welcome. Thank God for the men who made my father feel welcome. Thank God for people at that congregation who welcomed my unbaptized mother and father into their community. Thank God for Tommy Dockery who preached and conversed with my mom and dad. Thank God that he eventually baptized them into Christ.

There were all sorts of methods at work in that church family. Everything to one-on-one kindness to high powered bus ministry. I don’t think for a second that it was all perfect and I rather suspect that there may have been some people who were annoyed by it. But thank God that those believers all had a mission to give away the Gospel!

I don’t know how many others turned them down. I don’t know how many others slammed a door. I don’t know how frustrating the work might have been. I don’t know if there was criticism or concern within the church. I just know that they offered my family a ride to church and VBS and it made an eternal impact on us and anyone that we’ve been able to help along the way.

I tell you this because I want you to forget for a second that I’m the preacher. I wasn’t born with a label that said “Minister or Evangelist.” I didn’t grow up in a heritage of saintly men of the cloth and god-fearing women who served the church. My forefathers were not church leaders. Rather I grew up in a basically good family that wasn’t particularly religious, and yet we loved each other and we did the best we could for me and we lived our lives like anyone else.

I tell you this because I want you to forget that I am preacher and understand that if it weren’t for the grace of God I probably would live a self-consumed life as a basically good person who had no sense of eternity.

And the difference maker was a group of people who were caught up in God’s mission to give away the gospel. They got intentional about it. They employed the best methods they could come up with and did something to share and give away something that was given freely to them. Have I made this clear?

Intentionality vs Perfection.
We have to be intentional. This isn’t something that we can hold onto and give away to those we deem worthy. Intentional about outreach.

One of the greatest obstacles that we have had is that we see the Gospel as something we have to sell. We don’t. We just give it away.

Method vs Mission – The Church Bus was a method. When it became the mission itself, it made it possible to lose sight of why we invested all the energy and effort into maintaining a bus and picking up children. Keeping sight of mission means that when it became unfeasible to maintain a bus, we could all of us use our own cars to bring people to worship – which in itself is still a form of method.

VBS is a method. It’s a good method. It can change. If it fails or falters, it doesn’t mean that the mission has failed. Even in our failed methods, God can accomplish his mission.

If the mission to make disciples is the polar star, then we are always course correcting according to the mission. Course correcting according to method is missing the point.

[Illustration: Negative Illustration about Method and Mission.]

Note: The lesson here is not that we must support bus ministry. Center Street and West-Ark no longer have bus ministries. That method may not be feasible, but the mission can still be accomplished. The lesson is that we must also keep the mission in focus and let method adapt to fulfill mission. Otherwise mission will be forced into the shape of method and that is not responsible.

Our mission is to give away the gospel. Our mission is God’s mission. All of our energy and effort should be in line with what God is doing. One way to imagine this is to see that our methods and efforts, our resources are sails and ships. God’s mission is the wind that drives all of this.

How can I inspire us to keep the mission in view? How can I inspire us to keep the mission in sight whether it is around the world or across the street? How can I inspire us to keep the mission in view personally and as a church – right here and now in Fort Smith.

Illustration: Funerals

But there is something that stirred me and inspired me during these three funerals. I could say with boldness and confidence in each of these funerals that these three saints are safe in Christ. I could say that because they were united with Christ in his death, then they would be united with him in the resurrection. I didn’t have to lie. I didn’t have to sell it. I just said it. It wasn’t because these three were particularly good – even though they were. It was because these three trusted in Christ. The gospel was given away freely and they took hold of it.

I want us to be more concerned for all those who will pass away without to confidence that Larry, Lewis and Louise had because of Christ.

Let this stir us to be fixed on God’s mission. Let’s give the gospel away to the hands that freely open to receive it.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 June 2009

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