Luke 10:1-11; 16-20
Let me tell you a story. It’s kind of a terrible story, but it involves two young Mormon missionaries who were going door to door. They knocked on the door of one woman who was not at all happy to see them.
The woman told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear their message and slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close and, in fact, almost magically bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it and slammed the door again with the same amazing result – the door bounced back open.
Convinced that one of the young men was sticking his foot in the door, she reared back to give it a third slam. But before she could act, one of them stopped her and politely said, “Ma'am, before you do that again, you really should move your cat.”
I told you it was a terrible story. Especially if you’re a cat lover. If you’re not a cat lover, well…
When it comes to evangelism, there are a couple of religious groups that have a reputation for going door to door. I haven’t seen any at my door lately. Maybe that’s because I’m usually not home during the day. Or maybe it’s because my house is marked. You know, “Don’t go to that guy at 9406 Pine Breeze.” Because those times that I have had them at my door, I like to engage them in conversation. For one thing, I figure if they’re talking to me – they’re not bothering my neighbors. And the second thing I like to do is to ask them hard questions about what they believe – you know – I kinda like to put them on the spot – and point out where I disagree with what they have to say. I know, that’s probably not very nice of me, but there are just a few things that these door to door evangelists teach that we, as Lutherans, just do not agree with.
But the one thing that I do admire about these groups – even though I don’t agree with their message – is that they are not afraid to be out there – knocking on doors – telling others about what it is that they believe.
And that’s what’s happening in our Gospel lesson today. Jesus is sending out 70 disciples to proclaim the Good News message of the Kingdom of God. In other words – Jesus is sending them out to do the work of evangelism. Village to village. Door to door.
By the way – the Good News message is the same today as it was when these 70 were sent out. Telling that message is simply a way of telling others what God is up to. Do you know what God is up to? God is in the business of transforming lives. God is in the business of bringing people into a right relationship with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.
Our motto – sometimes we call it our mission statement – but our motto here is “Love God. Love your neighbor. Nothing else matters.” And if you were here two weeks ago, you’ll recall that I have started calling this motto, “The Jesus Creed.” And the wonderful thing about the Jesus Creed is that it has the power to transform lives. When we put the Jesus Creed into action – loving God – loving our neighbor – we cannot but be transformed in our very nature – right down to the very core of who we are.
That’s the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ. So this Good News message of Jesus – this Good News message of the Kingdom of God is something that we cannot keep to ourselves. Whoever it is that first told you about Jesus – and everyone from that moment until right now who shared that Good News with you – they did not keep that Good News to themselves.
It’s too late for me to thank some of the many folks who shared the Good News with me. You know, sometimes we just don’t think to do that. But I thank God for them. And some day I hope to meet them again. And tell them thank you. I’m sure there are people that you can thank. And if it’s too late, well, you can thank God for those people who told you about Jesus – and who helped you to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
You see, the whole purpose in sharing the Good News – in whatever ways we share that Good News – is to bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes it’s inviting and welcoming that person who has wandered away back into the church. Sometimes it’s welcoming someone who has never heard – or never believed – the Good News message that we proclaim. But in all cases, it’s bringing people – sometimes restoring people – to the table of God through forgiveness and healing.
Some of the time our evangelism is directed at children – and families with young children. I like to tell parents of infants and young children that we are partners with them in bringing the Good News of Jesus to their children.
And I am just wondering – who our youngest baby or child is here today? How old is your baby? May I hold him/her? This little baby is on a journey. And we are on this same journey with him/her and his/her parents. And it is an awesome journey!
For all of us who are parents – there is – something exciting about watching these kiddos grow. From crawling to standing to walking to running. Getting into mischief. Learning what life is all about through trial and error. The same thing can be said about disciples of Jesus Christ. First we crawl, then we stand, then we walk, and then we run. Sometimes we get into a little mischief. But it’s a process – learning what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ through trial and error.
I have had the great privilege of watching many of you grow and change and develop over the past 25 years. I’ve watched you grow from toddlers to college graduates to getting married and having children of your own. Some of you are turning 40 this year. Why – you were only teenagers when I first met you.
And it has been a joy to watch you grow and mature – and to develop in your walk with Jesus – and in connection with this church. All because of – not just me – but many someone’s who were not afraid to share with you all along the way – the Good News message of Jesus Christ.
It is our call – it is our responsibility – to share the Good News. With whoever is willing to listen. Wherever those opportunities might take place.
Jesus sent the 70 out – village to village – door to door. Now I want to suggest that door to door evangelism probably doesn’t work so well anymore. There are times when Lutherans will use that method – usually in a new church start in a community where there is little or no Lutheran presence. But I’m really not so sure that that method is encouraged all that much anymore.
And that might just be the reason why evangelism is not a popular word among us Lutherans, precisely because it conjures up visions of going door to door. But here’s the thing. We are a worshipping community. We are a fellowship. We enjoy and look forward to being with each other. Again – I believe that God’s people want to be where God’s people are. But we are more than just a worshipping community that gathers in this place a couple of times on the weekend. We are also an equipping and sending community.
I like what Michael Green says about this. Michael is an Anglican Church leader and an evangelist. Listen to what he has to say. “God’s church exists not for itself but for the benefit of those who are not yet members…. [and] the church which lives for itself will be sure to die by itself.” We are a church for others.
And we are evangelical. Evangelical is in our name. What is this church’s full name? Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. We are a part of the ELCA – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
We are a worshipping community to be sure. But we are an equipping and sending community. We don’t exist for ourselves as much as we exist for others. And since door knocking is probably not the best method to use these days, it’s safe to ask, “Well then, how do we take the Good News message of Jesus to the street? What works?” Glad you asked.
When asked how it is that this church has grown over the years, my response is always, “invitation and reputation.” Many – I’d say most people – are here because someone invited them – or told them about us.
I would like to say that invitation works best. One way for that to work is through friendship. Inviting people you already know – and who don’t already have a church home. Or who are looking for a church home. Or – are simply waiting to be asked – to be invited. And don’t give up. Even though you’ve invited someone 99 times – maybe the 100th time will be the one that works. SO friendship works. Showing someone that you care – that you genuinely care. That works too!
And then there’s the internet. Some people find us on the internet. That’s why we always try to keep our website up to date and attractive. More and more people are finding us first because of our website.
But let me also say that a growing area where evangelism works is through social media. Do you like what you’ve heard – what you’ve experienced here today? Now that’s a dangerous question for any preacher to ask – but if you like what you’ve heard here today or on any previous weekend – invite your un-churched friends to take a listen. These weekly messages from Pastor Becca and me are on our website by late Sunday – or sometime on Monday at the latest. Check it out! Invite your unchurched friends to take a listen. Or maybe you might want to listen a second time. Maybe because you fell asleep the first time – I don’t know.
If you’re on Facebook – why not tell folks about us? You can do that right now if you’d like. Tell them where you are – and make a comment. Go on. I dare you! How many times do you see posts on Facebook of your friends letting you know when they’re out at their favorite restaurant – or fitness center or emergency care center? I’ve even seen posts of people in the hospital. So why not church? Why not now? Or – you can wait until after the service is over.
You know, a lot of us have the same Facebook friends. Can you imagine if they got 50 of us here this weekend telling them what we’ve heard and experienced here in this place? We have this great tool that lets us share our faith – not just to share where you are right now – but why. What you’ve heard – what you believe – and to whom you belong. To let people know you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. Go on! I dare you!
The tools – tools like Facebook – that we use to get the word out have changed. But the message has not changed. “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” The Jesus Creed calls us to love God and love our neighbor. That’s who we are. That’s what we do.
Caring. Inviting. Loving that friend – that neighbor – that stranger – into the Kingdom. Being a church for others – by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. By being both an inviting and welcoming congregation. That’s taking the Good News of Jesus to the street.