Dare to Care

DARE TO CARE

Attending church was something nearly everyone used to do on a regular basis. All businesses were closed so owners and employees could attend church. Families had weekly routines that prepared everyone for going to church on Sunday (i.e. Saturday night baths). At one time, it was the main social activity in a rural community. Even unbelievers attended church for fellowship and to catch up on the local news.

Now, many people no longer attend a church. Why? Some reasons may be:

1. The Internet provides a social network and news updates. People communicate online and on the telephone from the privacy of their homes without preparing for church.

2. While online or watching TV, they see the Church mocked in the media and only scandals are reported in the news. Wealthy TV evangelists give the impression that Christians are either greedy hypocrites or easily fooled.

3. In our colleges and universities, God is openly mocked by professors. God is considered a figment of man’s imagination. The Bible is considered a fairy tale book filled with myths. No opposing view is allowed in class if you want to pass the course.

4. Or if God is a consideration, then He is either dead or impotent, unjust, the cause of wars, inhumane, cruel, outdated, and totally irrelevant to today’s society.

The spirit of the anti-Christ is at work. Christ is scourged from academia, government, and men’s thoughts. If you persist in believing in God, you are deplorably backward.

This is what we are up against and why many people don’t attend church. But one of the reasons people don’t attend church is us. Yes, us! They don’t believe we care about them. Oh, we may say we care. We may pray for their salvation. We may have outreaches and ministries. But do we really care? Some of us are doing well in this area and I hope to encourage you to continue. Most of us could do better, so today I’m presenting us with a DARE TO CARE.

In the 70’s, there was a popular song that declared, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love…”. The world needs still needs love, but not a superficial love, not a conditional love, and not a temporary love that uses a person. The world needs the unconditional, permanent love of God, and as God’s ambassadors, we are the only ones who can show it to them!

However, people outside of the church don’t understand us. To them, we seem to be “kill-joys”, “do-gooders”, and superstitious. They don’t want to live by our rules. They are suspicious of our outreaches. They think we want something from them. At best, they think we can’t possibly relate to them, let alone love them, because they think we don’t have the problems they have. Therefore, they reject us and they figure we would reject them, too. They would rather fellowship with people who openly have similar problems and behaviors.

Some don’t attend church because they believe their sins are too great for God to forgive. They don’t understand the Gospel and they don’t know how much God has forgiven us in the Church.

Some are embarrassed that they don’t have money to give, so they stay away.

Others don’t come here because they are different from us. When they pass by, they notice we have a different culture, skin color, or they don’t speak English well.

Again, if they want to gather with a bunch of people they don’t know well and be accepted, they choose to go to a club or a bar where everyone is like them and openly sinful.

So you see, with the current social situation, it will take more than a church sign to invite people to attend our church. However, we don’t need an evangelistic program to get them here. A program does not show people how much we love them. A program looks at people as a number, and people don’t like being used to make a program successful.

People, regardless of who they are, are looking for a purpose for their life. They are looking for reality. They are looking for a relationship. They are looking for love. Actually, they are looking for Jesus, but they don’t realize that.

Remember, they don’t even think He is alive. They think He is another religion equal to all other religions. They are not looking for a religion. They have already formulated their own religion where they are the god of their lives, making their own rules.

With all these obstacles, it is a great temptation to mind our own business and remain cloistered in this building. This is why we must dare to care about the people outside who are in our sphere of influence. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are to be like Jesus so they can get to know Him. God wants to make His appeal to mankind through us. We are to lift up and present Jesus so He can be seen by the world.

Jesus said in John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”

Many churches are lifting up their church building, their children’s program, their entertainment activities, their food pantry, their addiction recovery program, their rock band with dancing and light shows, their country music old-time Gospel revivals, etc.

I’m not saying these programs and activities are wrong. They have potential for good and for evil, depending if Jesus is lifted up or not. The same can be said about our youth shooting teams. These things attract people, but if they do not fulfill Christ’s commission to the Church, they are busy distractions that make us feel good, but fail to accomplish what Jesus told us to do. Everything we do must be evaluated by His command and structured so that it accomplishes His will. Do you remember what that is?

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Making disciples takes a lot of time, effort, perseverance, and love. Paul stayed years in one place, preaching, eating, and fellowshipping with the people, working among them, sharing their lives, all with the purpose of lifting up Jesus, making disciples of Christ, and teaching them to obey everything He commanded.

Paul did not use a program, or an activity, or a gimmick to attract people to a church. He just got involved in people’s lives, whether they were in a synagogue, washing clothes at the river, or in the market place. He lifted up Jesus as he told them the good news about Christ. As a result, God added to the Church those who believed and were saved.

1 Corinthians 1:21-25 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Faith comes to a person by hearing the Word of God. There is preaching in every church in town. Why should anyone come here when there are bigger, newer, multi-program churches in town? What can distinguish our church and attract them to attend our services?

Again, we must look at the Scriptures for our answers and examples—not man’s church growth programs. Paul was the most successful church planter in the Bible. What did he do? In addition to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and teaching His commands, Paul actively dared to care for the people. It did not matter who they were, Jew, Greek, Roman, slave or free.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-13 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

Relating to people this way is a labor of love. It requires continually giving ourselves to God by caring about people and being involved in their lives. What we do preaches louder than what we say. No one doubts a mother’s love and gentleness. No one doubts a father’s love and encouragement. Neither will they doubt the genuine love of God in our lives. The fruit of the Holy Spirit will lift up Jesus and draw others to Him.

Making disciples and caring for people requires prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, because this labor of love can be discouraging at times. There will be trials, disappointments, rejections, and persecutions. It requires weeping with those who are weeping and rejoicing with those who are rejoicing. It means getting our “hands dirty” as we lift people out of the “mire” they have gotten into. It means washing people with the water of the Word—not the psychology of man. It means we have to know what the Word says and demonstrate it.

Therefore, after Jesus gave the apostles the Great Commission, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit before they attempted to make any disciples.

Acts 1:4-8 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

After the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, they had power and grace to share the Gospel and be like Jesus instead of cowering believers. They spoke openly and boldly about Jesus. As a result, those who heard the Gospel in their own language believed the message and God added 3000 souls to His Church that day.

Likewise, without the Holy Spirit, we are cowering believers, afraid to talk about Jesus and fearful of what others may think about us. If Jesus doesn’t abide in us or if we don’t know Him well enough to tell others about Him, then we don’t have the grace and power to be His witness and lift up Christ. At best, we will be making disciples of ourselves or of our religion. But with the Holy Spirit, we have power and grace to lift up Jesus and make disciples of Christ.

Therefore, when people see us, do they see Jesus, or do they just see religious folks? They will not see Jesus unless we are filled with Jesus, His Holy Spirit. They will not see Jesus unless we die to ourselves daily, pick up our cross, and are following Jesus—doing and saying what Jesus would say and do. And they will not hear the Gospel unless we are sharing it through our words and actions.

Many folks have heard some preaching, but they haven’t seen the reality of what is preached. We must show them the reality, but we cannot if we don’t care. And, we won’t care, if we are not filled with the Holy Spirit, because it is the Spirit that gives us the love of God. The love of God will motivate us to reach out to people, getting to know them, sharing our lives with them, so they come to know Jesus, who abides in us.

So, the first thing we must do is repent of our lack of love for God and others. Yes, we must repent of our disobedience to Christ because we have failed to fulfill His commandment and His purpose for our lives, which is to go and make disciples.

We have spent too much time living for ourselves and being unconcerned about others who are going to Hell. We have relied on a preacher or some church program to attract people to Jesus. We have not devoted ourselves to knowing Christ and lifting Him up with everything we do and say. In other words, we have not truly cared.

Therefore, we must devote our lives to knowing Jesus and abiding in Him. We must make sure He is abiding in us by being filled with the Holy Spirit every day. Only then can we care about people, lift up Jesus, and draw them to Jesus and His Church. That means, we must die to ourselves daily and ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit so we have the power to be His witness.

Why do I keep repeating this? Because many of us don’t do it. And because Jesus said it was essential—that from Him we can do nothing. In our own power, we will fail. In our own power, we cannot love with the love it takes to love the “unlovely” and ungodly. In our own power, we do not have the ability to care what happens to people. Besides, we cannot share with others, something we don’t possess ourselves.

Third, be salt and light in this world. Live so much like Jesus that unbelievers will ask about the light they see in your life. Make others thirsty for the Holy Spirit they see in you.

Romans 12:9-16 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

This is what a caring Christian does. Does it describe you?

Caring means developing meaningful relationships with people before inviting them to church. They must see that you care, not that you just want them to come to church. Go places with them, invite them into your home, share your faith with them, so eventually they will feel comfortable coming to church with you.

If you have been doing these things and the person is still not interested in Jesus, then form some new relationships. There are many lonely, hurting people who need the love of Jesus. If each of us will lift up Jesus to just one new person by truly caring for them, then there might be twice as many people here next year than there are here today.

The question was “Why would they come to this old, small church building?” They will come because you dared to care about them and they feel loved by you and loved by God. Because here, they feel the presence of Holy Spirit, who convicts, corrects, and encourages them. Here they are loved, fed the Word of God in the teaching and preaching, and their soul is satisfied.

So, I have given you a dare—a dare to care—as an encouragement to go and make disciples. You can decide to do nothing differently than you are now doing, or you can accept the dare to care in order to fulfill the commission Jesus gave us. Should you accept this mission, you will need to be fervent in prayer and filled with the Holy Spirit.

If you are feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit about your disobedience, your lack of love, your failure to care, your selfish living, make that right with God today by coming to Him for the grace to repent and to be filled with His Spirit.

Perhaps you feel powerless, tired, and too burdened with your own cares to care about others. Maybe you despise the ungodly and don’t want to associate with them. In both cases, confess to God how you feel and ask Him to change you and fill you with His Holy Spirit so that you have His power and grace to love and care about others.

However, you cannot accept this dare to care if you haven’t dedicated your life to Jesus through repentance and followed Him in baptism, because you have no power to be His witness. You are still walking in death. Death and Hell are all you have to look forward to.

But you can change that today, by coming to Jesus for the salvation He has purchased for you. Repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus by following Him in baptism. Your sins will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you love, joy, peace, and power today.