On the first full weekend of January 2017, we made a change to our Sunday morning service schedule and went from 2 Sunday morning services to 3. The new times are 8:45, 10, & 11:30am (we continue to worship on Saturday nights at 6pm). When I announced this new schedule I told you (my Mount Pleasant family) that we were doing this to make room for more. In the past, especially at certain times or seasons of the year, we have run out of room in our Worship Center. I wish I could say that it was constant but, sadly, there are times of the year when “other things” keep many of our folks from church. But I wasn’t content to allow any kind of “growth” barrier to be in place, even if it was just certain times a year. Now we’re 8 weeks into our new schedule and, while there have been some “bumps” and we don’t have everything completely ironed out, things have gone well. I will tell you, however, that adding an extra service was just the first step, because now that we’ve made room for more, we need to reach out for more.
In the church we call this “evangelism.” The Bible describes it as “making disciples” or “sharing the gospel” which is a word that means “good news.” The bottom line is when we reach out to others, they can have the opportunity to experience the new and better life that Jesus offers. But the truth is, very few Christians ever embrace this responsibility. There are many reasons why, from fear to intimidation to “I don’t really care about unbelievers.” But reaching out to someone who is unchurched (been out of church for a long time) or unsaved, does not have to be a complicated thing.
I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. Philip had been involved in a very successful ministry in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8). But one day, God directed him to go to a desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. When he did, he encountered an Ethiopian man who was the classic definition of a seeker because he had been to Jerusalem to worship and was now sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah (a prophetic passage about Jesus). Notice the steps Philip took to lead this man to faith in Christ. First, he approached the man and asked a simple question. Acts 8:30, Do you understand what you are reading? Second, he listened to his response. Acts 8:31, 34, “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Third, Philip told the man about Jesus. Acts 8:35, Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Fourth, when Philip was finished talking about Jesus, he didn't try to force a response, he let the Ethiopian man choose for himself how he would respond. Acts 8:36, As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And that’s what happened (Acts 8:38).
Without question, the most important lesson we learn from Philip is that he was sensitive to the leading of God. And the result was an encounter with a man who was just waiting for someone to tell him about Jesus. There are millions of “seekers” in the world today, and thousands right here in our community and on the South side of Indianapolis. What we need now are more Christians like Philip, who will be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit to reach out to those seekers. It can be an invitation to church, it can be a simple question that leads to a spiritual conversation or it can be you telling someone the difference that faith in Jesus has made in your life. It doesn’t have to be fearful or intimidating. The key is communication, not confrontation.
Our efforts to make room for more will look pretty foolish if we don’t reach out for more. Will you join me in praying that Mount Pleasant can reach more unchurched and unsaved people in our community? Will you be sensitive to the leading of God and follow the example of Philip? Not everyone I have ever shared the good news of Jesus with, has become a Christian, but many have. Life is too short to spend all of our time pursuing temporary things. Let’s embrace eternity by reaching out for more.