Nowadays anyone can call themselves a Christian if they profess to believe in God. But are they Apostles for Christ – messengers of the gospel and ambassadors making disciples of others? I overheard the following conversation between two fellow co-workers discussing Christian ministries. “Have you ever thought about serving outside the church?” said one. “You know – I’m not sure about totally going outside of the church, though the idea is appealing” replied the other. They went on to describe how their circle of acquaintances and family were in the church and that was their target area of ministry.
Although I recognize the need for people to minister inside the church and while I do not want to doubt the sincerity of any person who serves God. I did wonder how much of those remarks were based on the ministerial needs of the church or of the individual needs of the person having a familiar group of people around them.
The call to go totally outside of the church is not an idea, it’s a commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world…and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:17)
How many of us have become comfortable Christians? Professing Christ and serving busily in roles which serve other comfortable Christians. Do we hide behind the comfort and security of the church, hoping that the drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, mentally ill, and any other non-conforming group will stay safely outside of the church? After all, we don’t want anyone coming in lowering the church standards or making us feel uncomfortable, do we?
Why are we unwilling to sacrifice the creature comforts of the church walls to seek the lost in the community?
“They’re a crazy drug mob…What if they have AIDS?…Maybe they’ll ruin our church! Or take my favorite seat…They’ll bleed our budgets dry!… They’re a bad example for our children!”
Though these comments are not always expressed verbally, it is often clear in the way we treat our visiting brothers and sisters, and it becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at our church to receive the message that God quite clearly told us to preach to all the nations.
Where would we be if Jesus had said:- “You know, I’m not sure about going down there, they’re dangerous, crazy and they just don’t get it…they could even kill me! Why would I want to bring those sinners up here anyway? They’ll bring our standards down, they may even try to sit on my throne! I’m going to stay here in Heaven and hang with my angels…”
Thankfully He didn’t!
We need to remember that the majority of Jesus’ ministry was outside of the synagogue with the apparent ‘unsavory’ characters of His time. Furthermore, it was Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up His heavenly home, throne, family, angels, and His Father and suffered incredible discomfort – to save us.
Jesus did not call us only to believe in Him as a Christian, but also to follow His example as an Apostle, a messenger and ambassador. Following Christ’s example in sharing the gospel requires some discomfort and potentially a ministry outside of the church with God and the gospel being our only partners. What better lesson could we teach our children about love and overcoming fears, than to serve God in the community sharing the gospel with others? The nervous unease of inexperience and meeting different people as we seek to move outside of our comfort zone is positive growth. The confidence in our abilities and acceptance of others as God’s children usually becomes more assured as we allow God to equip us as He promised.
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 4 – 6). Has the time come for you to take the next step from being a comfortable Christian towards being an Apostle for Christ?