“Come and See” OR “Go and Tell”?

go and tell

When Jesus came to the world, He radically transformed everything.  Pre-Jesus, the Hebrew people had been given structures for how to interact with God.  They were the chosen people, they had a central house of worship where God’s presence literally resided, and priests who served Him there.  The temple was ornate.  The kings were wealthy and wise.  King Solomon was the wealthiest and wisest ruler in history, and people (like the Queen of Sheba) came to see his wealth and hear his wisdom.  Outsiders were welcome to come and to incorporate themselves into Jewish tradition and faith, but it was a “Come and See” religion.

Jesus fulfilled the traditions and laws of the first covenant by being the only person to ever perfectly and completely obey the Law and then offered Himself as the final and perfect sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe.  With the completion of the Law everything changed.  God no longer maintains His presence in a temple.  There is no centralized city where the devout can more intimately meet Him.  God is no longer declaring Himself through an earthly kingdom and reign, but is establishing His eternal kingdom through the hearts of the devout worldwide.  It will take its fullest form in completion only on the New Earth.

Jesus transformed the faith from, “Come and See” to “Go and Tell”.  It used to be,

Come and see the works of God,
Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.

 – Ps 66.5

But now it is,

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 – Matt 28.19-20

In general, Churches will affirm that they understand this mandate and structure that Jesus set up.  Most people will be able to name a handful of missionaries that they support, most churches will have a missions team, missions fund, and endeavor to be a part of the “kingdom work”.  But Jesus told us that you can test someone’s heart by examining their checkbook.  You can see what a Church considers important by a quick glance at their budget.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 – Matt 6.19-21

I grew up in a church of several hundred people in Philadelphia, PA.  The church owned a building that was built in 1914 and modified throughout the years to keep up with growth, but the church as a whole had a conviction for the great commission:  to go and tell.  Professors from the Philadelphia Bible College were members, board members from a variety of missions organizations were members, and the church was thriving and alive.  The heart of the Church was “Go and Tell”.  So they paid two staff and 70% of the budget went to missions.  People were being called to the field.  The biggest week and event of the church life was missions week when missionaries from around the world came to inform and encourage the church of what was happening around the world.  Every member had a book full of missionaries’ prayer cards to lift up before God, and there were so many that every calendar date had three to four missionary families for which to pray.  Children were discipled.  The community was being reached.  Disciples were being made.  People were going and telling.

To be clear, this church was not perfect.  But their treasure was Jesus and obeying the great commission, and they put their money where their mouth was.

What is the treasure of your church?  What percentage of your budget is designated to feeding the poor, supporting missionaries and reaching the lost?  And what percentage of your budget is spent on making your church cool, hip, and well staffed?  The Barna Group research company ironically informs us that Millenials, those born from the mid 1980’s to early 2000’s – those for whom we are trying to make the church cool and appealing – by 67% would describe their ideal church as classic.  Only 33% would describe their ideal church as trendy.  77% chose a sanctuary and desired ornate stain-glassed windows with pulpits that were overtly Christian.  Trendy, non-traditional rooms leave the unchurched unsure of what the space is.  Most shockingly, 78% of Millenials said that they prefer a quiet and reverent church, not a loud church.

The sad reality here, however, is the fact that we are researching how to modify our churches to draw people in.  Our society is well-entertained and the church cannot (and most assuredly should not) try to compete.  Our music will not be as good as a concert.  Our preaching will not be as engaging or entertaining as a TV show or comedian.  But that is not the goal.  Our goal should be to worship God.  The church is a place to worship God, a house of prayer, a place to learn and grow and to be held accountable.  It is not a place to draw in and wow the lost.  We are commanded to go and tell, not to bring them in to see.

So how are you doing personally?  Are you going and telling?  Does your checkbook show your treasure to be making disciples of all nations?  How is your small group doing?  How is your church doing?  Let’s transform our perspectives and take the world by storm.  There are 6,552 unreached people groups (clusters of people who are unique in language and culture who are less than 2% Christian) around the world.  If just one mega church in the United States was mobilzed, we could have a missionary amongst every. single. one.  If just one family from only 6,552 churches in the United States was mobilized, we could have missionaries in every. single. one.  There are more than 50,000 Southern Baptist Churches alone.  How many churches does that mean there are of every denomination?  We must learn to go and tell.  Come and see is no more, Jesus has given us a calling.  Let’s be obedient.  Let us treasure that which God treasures.

Does Jesus Want Me To Be Poor?

poverty

We’ve all heard the popular teaching of Joel Osteen and the promises of the Health and Wealth Gospel.  Preachers on TV are promising us that God wants us to be happy, healthy and rich.  The level of faith that we have directly parallels our financial and personal success.  The Prayer of Jabez, after all, is an example of praying for our own personal prosperity and God blessed him and called him righteous, right?

The opposite extreme sprinkled throughout evangelicalism today looks at the Church in large.  They consider the Persecuted Church, they examine revivals, history, and the overall nature of the Church to say that no, Jesus is not concerned with making us rich, but that He wants us to give to the poor and to live a simple life.  Ultimately they become various levels of ascetics.

So.  Does Jesus want us to be rich?  Or does Jesus want us to be poor?

We are called to be stewards.  

“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

– Luke 12.47-48

This passage is extremely familiar.  Surprisingly, however, it is speaking about actions and not finances.  It is a principle that applies over and onto finances, but God is concerned about our hearts.  Jesus Himself said that all of the Law was summed up in these two: love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22.37-39).  If we love God above all else, then our talents, our time and our finances will be spent to His glory and honor.  If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we help meet their needs, we put them above ourselves and glorify God with our time, energy and finances.

Paul makes the very clear assessment of our abilities (which again, applies to finances):

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

– 1 Cor 4.7

But most fundamentally we all know that,

“The Earth is the Lord’s and everything it contains.”

– 1 Cor 10.26

It all belongs to God.  Everything.  Including money.  So whatever you have – gifts, talents, finances, freedom, slavery, jobs, family – it is all God’s.  And He has allowed us to use it for a season.  We are stewards of His belongings.

For my ascetic friends, I would like to point out the fact that many of our forefathers were among the richest men who ever lived.  Solomon was worth, in today’s dollar, approximately 100 billion dollars.  That is substantially more than Bill Gates’ worth.  David, Abraham, Joseph, Jacob and many others were granted physical and financial wealth in the roles that God gave them.

For my rich friends, I would like to point out the fact that the very humility exemplified by the creator of the universe was to leave the throne of glory and come to Earth, living without even a place to lay his head.  He kept minimal possessions and when He sent the disciples out to serve Him, they were to rely on the hospitality of others for their sustenance.

Our responsibility is stewardship of what God has given us.  When we consider our finances, let’s ask this simple question, “Is God glorified in this?”  When you stand before God on judgment day, will you be ashamed of how you spent your money?  Or your time?  Will you be proud of the toys, the clothes, the house, the comforts that you bought?  Or will you know that you gave sacrificially to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and put one another’s needs above your own?  Will you look back and find that your finances served God or you?

I used to wrestle with giving money to beggars.  I always wondered for what they would use the money.  But one day I realized that God would hold him accountable for how he used the help that he received.  He would only hold me accountable for my willingness to help.  I am confident that I will not stand before Him and He say, “You should not have given that money to that beggar.  You should have bought a new shirt with it instead.”  Now, if God has given you the mind and ability to help the homeless establish themselves in jobs and fight addictions such that they are able to feed themselves, and all you do is throw a twenty in their cup, there might be something to answer for.  But that is between you and God.

Jesus was comfortable with a woman pouring out extremely expensive perfume on his feet.  There are times for extravagance in the worship of Almighty God.  Jesus does not say that to follow Him we must be poor.  In fact, He says that we are to care for the poor.  So we must be stable enough to be able to give in order to care for the poor.

It’s about our heart.  We must be satisfied in God alone, and consider His provisions as tools to serve and glorify Him.

“…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

– Phil 4.11-13