Missional Churches Have the Eyes of Jesus
Matthew 9:35-38 January 13, 2013 –#867 Lake Murray Presbyterian Church – Chapin, SC
It is a treat to be with you this Sunday. Ben Sloan has been such a gracious host to me. And I have heard of Tracie Stewart for years so it is great to see her here. I am really thrilled to meet new friends in a place like this. As Ben said – until last summer I was a preacher but now I am a professor. So – as a professor – let me inform you that at the end of this sermon there will be a pop quiz. So please listen and take notes today so you will be ready for the quiz.
Let me tell you about a curious figure from American church history – DL Moody.
I am quite fond of him for a number of reasons – including that he was odd.
Dwight L. Moody was one of the great revivalistic preachers of the 19th century.
He had a practice of trying to stir up conversation on the streets by wearing a
sandwich board which said on the front, “I am a fool for Christ.” On the
back it read, “Whose fool are you?”
Moody was deeply affected by the great Chicago fire of 1871, and determined after that
to always give people an opportunity to receive Christ on the spot.
(Old Lady Leary lit a lantern in the shed)
Because of his earnest evangelistic passion, some people did not appreciate Moody.
A woman, probably a Presbyterian, said to him, “I don’t like the way you do evangelism.”
Moody replied, “I can understand that, there are some objectionable ways that I do evangelism.
Tell me how you do evangelism.”
To which the woman replied, “Well I don’t do evangelism.”
Moody said, “Then I like my way better.”
There are a whole lot of Presbyterians who have basically said the same thing – we don’t
like the way someone else does evangelism.
To which a DL Moody might ask – “then how do you do evangelism?”
And some of us might have to answer – “Well, we mostly don’t do evangelism.”
Many of us can’t seem to find a way to talk about Jesus that fits – so we just ignore it.
Before we go further, let me tell you how I will use the word, “Evangelism.”
Evangelism – it is that particular task of Christians to communicate the good news
of God’s love to persons so that they may understand the message, place their
trust in Christ, become connected to the people of God, and begin the journey
of discipleship.” (adapted from Ben Johnson, Rethinking Evangelism, 12)
How much of that communication happens in your life – or around your congregation?
In the passage I read, Jesus seems to indicate that we maybe even more is possible if we catch this passion for the lost. Let’s look at the text.
1) The Eyes of Jesus
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed
and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (vs. 36)
Notice those first words – “When he saw the crowds.”
There are several words in the Greek language for seeing. This one is genuine noticing.
Some of us see things, but don’t notice things. After my wife and I have been out in the home of someone she might ask me what I thought of the color of the draperies in the room.
I will often ask – where there drapes in that room? Can you believe that could sit looking right at them and not really see them? Is anyone with me on that?
The first impact of this text is learning to see people – children – those before us.
When we are baptized we are, in effect, being commissioned to see people like Jesus sees them.
2) How Jesus Saw Them
Jesus saw the crowd – and when he saw them he noticed that they were “harassed and helpless” – like sheep without a shepherd – do we have the eyes of Jesus?
Here Jesus uses two verbs describe what he sees about people – harassed and helpless
“Harassed” means to be vexed, troubled, annoyed.
“Helpless” means to be hurled, thrown, cast down, scattered, and dispersed.
Those two words together gave Jesus a picture most people could see – sheep minus their
That would be like an office without management or like a classroom without a teacher.
How do you see our country?
In the US alone one writer believes there are somewhere between 120-150 million functionally
secular people – people who are effectively outside the touch of the church.
Do you realize that only 4 countries in the world have a larger population of unbelieving
people than the US – China, India, Indonesia, and Russia.
I currently live in New England – one of the most unchurched places in the US.
Before Christmas we had our contiguous neighbors over for dinner.
Not one of them is involved with the people of God or attends worship.
I wonder what Chapin, SC is like. Will we see it with the eyes of Jesus?
Every day our culture continues to change – it is not like it was.
Think about this picture.
It was June 4, 1946. The sight was ProspectPark, Brooklyn, NY. 90,000 children were gathered for a parade. The boys were in uncomfortable shoes and bow ties. The little girls had on white gloves and starched pinafores. On the reviewing stand that day was the governor of New York, the mayor of Brooklyn, and a US Supreme Court Justice. What was the occasion of the parade? It had nothing to do with the war. It was the 117th annual Sunday School parade. In Brooklyn, NY – with those dignitaries.
Do we see the culture as Jesus sees it?
Do you see people with those qualities in the crowds of this world?
I see people vexed and scattered and struggling to find the meaning of their lives.
To have a passion for evangelism we need to see people with the eyes of Jesus.
Sometimes we are apt to think that those in the party set are having the time of their lives – yet
look at the movies of this culture, listen to the music, watch the television.
If we had the eyes of Jesus we might just see the yearning of this culture for something more.
I think the popular TV series, LOST, is a fascinating example of the culture.
There are people living in shame – people in hiddenness – people in bondage.
Do you see the sheep without a shepherd?
But Jesus didn’t just see them – he had compassion for them.
3) The Compassion of Jesus
The second thing to notice in this verse is the compassion of Jesus – he hurt for them.
Jesus was neither indifferent to their hurt nor approving of it.
His whole ministry was moving toward people in tremendous compassion for them.
I believe that the greatest motivation for evangelism and mission is compassion.
The motivation is not guilt or compulsion or recruitment – but compassion.
Back to DL Moody – he wept over the lostness of culture.
Living in a Christless present and the possibility of a Christless eternity brought him to
tears as he thought of the lost.
First, see the pressing need of the people around us – then let your compassion awaken.
When the compassion of Jesus grows greater in you than our fears of rejection, we will share.
But you won’t have compassion unless you have the eyes of Jesus to see.
4) The Plentiful Possibilities of Jesus
Beyond the pressing need of these lost sheep, Jesus also saw possibilities.
Here he switches his metaphor from shepherds to farming.
“The harvest is plentiful” (vs. 37)
The more literal translations say that the field is “white unto harvest.”
Jesus saw people not only harassed but also ready to respond to the invitation to believe.
Jesus saw aspects of the Kingdom of God just about to emerge.
The crying need was present, but so was the power of God.
That is how John Wesley saw England.
That is how George Whitfield saw the American colonies.
This is how the missionary Mary Slessor saw the Cameron.
What does South Carolina look like to you? Do you see plentiful possibilities?
There are so many unreachched, dechurched, and underreached people around us.
Until last summer I was living in Colorado.
For 4 decades now people have moved to Colorado to “find themselves” – as if they have
lost themselves and hope to find it on a tree by a stream.
There may be more people in Colorado looking for life than anywhere else.
How would Jesus see the possibilities there?
These possibilities to reach people are what get me out of bed each morning.
Can you see the plentiful possibilities in your area of work or service?
Some people look at the culture and say, “Isn’t it a shame.” Others see possibilities.
The harvest is – plentiful.
5) The Problem – there are not enough harvesters.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (vs. 37)
There are not enough people sharing the good news of Jesus with someone else.
There are not many churches involved in the harvest.
In the US, there are 360,000 congregations – 80% of which are either stagnant or declining.
There are 10,000 plus Presbyterian congregations and 90% are stagnant or declining.
Of the ones that are growing, most are growing by the circulation of the saints.
(see George Hunter, Radical Outreach, p. 185-186, for these numbers)
Somehow, with plentiful possibilities all around us – most churches are not harvesting.
For Presbyterian it may be because the average Presbyterians talk about their faith to
an unbelievers once every 15 years.
We are not exactly a wheat combine.
The plain truth is, we don’t have enough harvesters.
These harvesters do exist in churches but they are rather rare.
I think of a cattleman in OKC who loves to share his faith with business associates.
I think of an orthodontist in Dallas who freely and respectfully shares with patients, even while
they have their mouths open.
Who does that around here?
Paul asks –“how will they hear without someone telling?”
Almost every Presbyterian congregation I’ve ever visited had a mission statement that said their
mission was to share the gospel with the lost, yet so little evangelism is done.
This reality troubled the Danish church critic Soren Kierkegaard, who wrote a parable about it. A man was passing down the street, when he noticed in the window of a shop a sign that read, “Pants Pressed Here.” He paused and looked at his own pants, and they were quite wrinkled. He decided to stop in the shop and get his pants pressed. So he walked up to the counter and began taking off his pants. The clerk was quite shocked. He said, “What are you doing Sir?” The man said, “I want to have my pants pressed.” The clerk replied, “Why would you ask for that?” The man replied, “Well, you are a business that presses pants, and I would like for you to press these pants.” The clerk asked, “Why would you assume that we press pants?” “You have a sign in your window that says you press pants.” “Oh,” said the clerk, “You don’t understand, we do not press pants here, we paint signs here – but we don’t press pants.”
There is a problem – we say we belief in evangelism – it is in most mission statements,
but most churches are not really doing it – we just paint signs.
The usual way people come to belief is when regular Christians are willing to share not
only their story but the story of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
People take a long time to believe – often it is a slow process.
The average time from hearing to belief is 4 years – through an average of 5 witnesses.
But Jesus says the major problem with the whole movement is not enough harvesters.
5) The Plan of Jesus – Pray
Therefore, pray that God will enlist up more people for the harvest (vs. 38)
We do not need to form a committee or involve high pressure recruiting.
He doesn’t ask us to read a book or take a class.
There is a vast need – magnificent harvest – more workers needed. So pray
Where will the passion for the lost be deep enough to move us?
It will need to happen congregation by congregation – pastor by pastor – elder by elder –
member by member.
Are you ready to be one more laborer – are we ready to be a congregation with a passion for the lost? Telling the story of Jesus driven by a passionate heart has a profound effect.
As you remember your baptism – and that you are God’s beloved child – begin to think who else in your life needs to know that truth.
Here is your test
The harvest is – plentiful.
The workers are – few.
Will you pray that God will stir up harvesters in this very place?