5.31.15: Reach!

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Reflection / Notes / Summary


  • My first sermon at New Hope UMC. This was our sister church in downtown Dayton for many years.
  • New Hope was foundational in my spiritual growth, I still hold a special place in my heart for the people there.
  • Xenia Ave is an impoverished area, but the people are awesome, the church is growing, and I miss it a lot.
  • At New Hope, I really started to come into my own and get comfortable with preaching.
  • The New Orleans story went over exceptionally well. I think food always does, though.

Summary: This sermon was specifically about the third word in the mission statement of New Home Church: Share/Build/Reach. Share the good news, build radical Christ followers, reach the world. The sermon includes practical advice on how to implement the “reach” mentality into everyday life. It was very close to the time of the “Christian Action” sermon and some parts of the story are repeated in both sermons. This sermon could be summed up by saying: When it comes to reaching the world, start internally, move to family, then to community, then to the world. We don’t have to jump on a plane to Haiti if there are folks hurting in your own community, but don’t ignore those outside of your community either.

Sermon: Reach!

Good morning, Church. If you haven’t noticed, Pastor Jeff isn’t here today. When he asked if I would like to share a little bit with you guys, I sort of just assumed he wanted me up here because if I shaved my head, I’d probably look enough like him that nobody would even notice he was gone…sorry Jeff, couldn’t shave my head. I thought about it…I’ve did it before, but every time I do a little less grows back…

Before I get started, let me give you a little introduction, I know a lot of you but I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting all of you. The name is Denny, not quite *Pastor Denny* yet, but working on it. I know a lot of you have seen me around, and I’ve met a lot of you guys…I’ve been helping out with the evening worship since last summer and it’s been such a blessing to be able to grow with both Medway and New Hope. I’ve had the opportunity to be at a couple of morning services, but I’m usually up north at the Medway campus on Sunday mornings.

So, a few months ago I went to New Orleans for a work trip. I work for an equipment rental company, I buy construction equipment and supplies for a living…so we went to trade show…they show you all the new equipment, all the stuff coming out in the next year, and it was pretty cool to see that…but (and I think I share something with Jeff here) the thing I was most excited about? New Orleans fine dining. Let me tell you, I’m not a drinker, I’m not a partier, so hanging out on Bourbon Street doesn’t really do anything for me…at all. In fact, if you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you’ll know this is true….Bourbon street is actually *really* nasty. But…in New Orleans there are some seriously awesome restaurants. So, during our three day trip, when we had a little spare time, we’d go out to see the city and find some good places to eat.

There were two places that really stood out to me. The only night there we didn’t have something we ‘had’ to do, we went to this little restaurant called ‘R’evolution’ That’s right. R apostrophe evolution. Let me tell you, this place was way above my pay grade. My usual idea of fancy is ordering off of the ‘Cantina’ menu at Taco Bell. So, we go in this place, we get seated, and they pull up this little stool at the end of our table. We’re just a bunch of good ol’ boys from Ohio, so one of the guys asks “What’s the stool for?” and the waiter says, “Oh, for your personal effects, sir, like an iPad or a laptop case, anything you desire.”

Now, I wish I was making this up…seriously, there was a stool *nicer than any piece of furniture in my house* that this place for purses and laptops! This place was unreal. Anyways, at this place, we ordered our food and they just kept bringing out extra stuff to go with it…stuff that wasn’t even on the menu that the chef was just cooking. Then, at the end, they bring out this crazy little jewelry box full of handmade chocolates. It was hands down the best meal I think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in my life. A few weeks ago, Jeff talked about the Cheesecake factory and how he almost had a coronary when the bill was $65. I didn’t pay for this meal, someone took us out to eat, but I’ll just say that it was more than I make in a week…for four people. That’s the kind of place this was.

Now, fast forward to two mornings later. I was determined to go to this little breakfast place, Café Du Monde, recommended by a guy from Medway that I’m sure a lot of you know. I had no idea what to expect, but I just knew it would be awesome. So, the other two guys with us won’t wake up early enough to go (our days at the convention center started at 8:00AM), but I talk my buddy, the service manager, into getting a cab and going there. We go in, and the place has a menu taped to the side of the napkin holder. That’s it. A dirty piece of paper scotch taped to the side of a rusty old napkin holder. This place was known for two things…and those two things were all they made. Beignets (which I’ll explain in a minute), and coffee. So, does anyone know what a beignet is? Well, how many of you like funnel cakes? How many of you would feel like a horrible person eating funnel cake for breakfast? Well, you can thank me later, I found a loophole. Beignets are cheap little breakfast funnel cakes. Two people had a combined six donuts and two cups of coffee and it was like eight bucks.

What do both of those places have in common? Well, we never would have tried them if someone we knew and trusted didn’t say “If you go to New Orleans, you HAVE to try these things…” Someone with a passion for *food* pulled us aside and said, “I DON’T WANT YOU TO GO THROUGH LIFE WITHOUT EXPERIENCING THESE TWO THINGS.” I’m here to tell you the same thing. If you go through life and miss the boat on reaching the WORLD for Christ, then you missed it. You missed r’evolution. You missed Café Du Monde. You missed funnel cakes for breakfast. Don’t go through life without trying funnel cakes for breakfast!

Church, before we get into the teaching today I ask that we take a minute to pray.

Dear heavenly father, Lord God I pray that you would get me out of the way here today, that you would let the Holy Spirit lead the teaching, and that this would be a word that would land on your people’s hearts. Lord, God, I thank you for everything that you do in us and through us, and I thank you so much for the gift you gave us through the Cross. It’s in your son’s holy name we pray. Amen.

So, in this series we’re talking about the mission of our church. Share, Build, Reach.

Share: Share the Good News of God’s Love with all people.

Build:  Build radical followers of Jesus Christ

Reach: Reach the world for Christ

Here’s a little fact for you: In 2010, there were 2.2 Billion Christians in the world. Is that a lot of people? Oh yeah it is. Here’s the problem though…. that’s still only 1 in 3 people. That means if this entire room were packed, only the first three rows in here would be filled with people who know Jesus as their personal savior…that means we have a lot of work to do.

So, that’s where the church comes in…and when I say the church, I don’t mean ‘this building where people meet to worship Jesus,’ I mean ‘everybody,’ you and me. Simple as that. It isn’t just the job of the pastor, it isn’t just the job of the guy or girl going on a mission trip, it’s EVERYBODY’S job. Now, when I say that phrase “reach the world” what does that mean to you?

(Pick up globe – point to Ohio). If you can’t see it, I’m pointing to Ohio right now.  I’ve got pretty big fingers so I can pretty much guarantee I’m smooshing New Hope church on this globe. Is this part of the world? What about here? Honestly, it doesn’t matter where I point on this globe, it’s part of the world. That’s what’s so beautiful church… when we talk about reaching the world, we talk about reaching “people who don’t know Jesus” no matter where they are at, whether they’re in Haiti, Iraq, a block away from this church right here, or even inside these walls.’

Why do we have to work so hard to reach the world? Well, for one, we’re called by God to do exactly that. We are supposed to. It’s that simple. If you have your Bibles, I ask that we open up to Matthew 28:16-20. A little backstory, this is “The Great Commission.” Jesus’ disciples meet him and he gives them this command, “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.” So, this command is given to the disciples and it holds true to us today. There are a few things we can learn from this passage about what we need to do to reach the world for Jesus.

The first thing that sticks out to me is this…in verse 20, Jesus says “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” which, to me, means something very important that you may not catch. The first key point is this: YOU REACH THE WORLD BY WORKING ON YOUR OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FIRST. Church, if we’re trying to teach people how to obey God but we’re not doing what he says, then it’s basically just lip service. I’m sure everybody here has had somebody in their lives that’s been guilty of that famous line “DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT I DO?” We HAVE to try as hard as we can to get this right. Now, I don’t mean you need to be a bible scholar, or be able to recite the whole book of Deuteronomy on command, or anything like that. To be honest, I’m lucky to remember my own name half the time……but, we have to be making an actual effort to live for God. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that I do some pretty bone-headed things on a pretty regular basis. But…I do know where my heart lies and man, I want..so hard…to get it right. God doesn’t expect perfection from us, but when it comes to reaching the world, we really have to take this seriously. How else do I put it: other people’s lives depend on it. Let me ask you this. You go to the YMCA to hang out at the pool and you’re not a very good swimmer. Would you want a lifeguard out there that didn’t know how to swim either? Now, where can you get some “swimming lessons?” A good place to start is written right in your bulletin and you see it every week:





5.) TITHE (GIVE) 10% TO GOD!         

So, you’ve had the swimming lessons and you’re ready to jump in the pool, what’s next? Well, the next part of the Great Commission that sticks out to me is in verse 19. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations.” The keyword here isn’t “go” though, it’s “make disciples.” How does making disciples help us reach the world? Well, YOU REACH THE WORLD BY BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Who were the twelve disciples, when it comes down to it? They were a rag-tag group of folks, really. You had some fishermen, missionaries, a tax collector, and the list goes on and on…guess what? That group of people was used to change the WORLD. But…how did Jesus train them? It wasn’t by walking up to them, yelling “believe in me,” or handing them a pamphlet and walking away. Jesus took the time to invest in his disciples. He took them everywhere he went, he poured into them, he loved them, and he trained them. When he was done, he told his disciples to go out and make disciples. That means that each of them needed to go out and train others the way that Jesus trained them. This was only done through building relationships.

I mentioned a little bit ago that, for work, my full time job is “purchasing.” For those of you that don’t know…that means I’m a professional customer. Since I’m a professional customer, you know what that means? Everybody wants to sell me something. If you think being a telemarketer would be horrible, imagine being a guy whose entire job is to be on the other end of the telemarketer’s phone call…but in person…for eleven hours a day…and you can’t hang up…Yep. That’s my job. I’ve only been doing it for about two years, but here’s what I’ve already learned. Even in business, you know who I buy things from? I buy from the people that take the time that get to know me. I’ll spend half an hour with a sales rep that comes in, asks about my family, asks how things at church are going, and genuinely shows interest in me as a person. The people I spend time and money with? It’s always a two way street. They care about and invest in me, and I care about and invest in them. They’re the people who have *earned* my business and my trust. You know who I don’t buy things from? The guy with the suit and slicked back hair that walks in my office, throws a bunch of brochures on my desk and tells me that what he’s selling is better than what I’m buying. Excuse me, why is yours better? Hey purchasing guy, don’t question me, I know more than you, I’m better than you, I’m wiser than you, I’ve been doing this since before you were born. How about you just buy what I’m selling? Here’s the problem, church…doesn’t that sound a lot like the way that some people share Jesus?

You know, Jesus gives us two main “GREATS” in the New Testament. The great commission and the great commandment. A while before Jesus gives us the great commission, Jesus gives us this, the greatest commandment. In your Bibles, this is Matthew 22:36-40. One of the Pharisees, (explain Pharisees) tries to trip Jesus up and he asks Jesus this question, hoping that Jesus would stumble, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” to which Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Church, YOU REACH THE WORLD BY LOVING GOD’S PEOPLE THE WAY THAT GOD LOVES YOU! It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out in the Kitchen here at New Hope, you’re passing out food down the road, or you’re building houses in Haiti, the best way to show people that God loves them, is for YOU to love them. When Jesus says love your neighbor, you know who your neighbor is, don’t you? Here’s a little test for you to know if a person is your neighbor or not.

Is the person alive or has that person been alive at any point in history?

Is the person in question NOT you?

If you’ve answered yes to both of these questions, congratulations, it’s your NEIGHBOR.

Let me tell you a little story about how I found out what it means to love my neighbor. I started going to Medway Church around Easter of 2010. After about six months, God started laying something on my heart. He knew I needed to do something to kick start my faith. Well, I prayed and prayed and God made it pretty clear I was supposed to go out of the country. Let me tell you a little something about me. I don’t *do* “out of the country.” Then, even though I pushed back, God made it crystal clear I was supposed to go out of the country, to Haiti. Let me tell you a little something else about me. I don’t *do* “out of the country.” And I definitely don’t *do* Haiti. After fighting against this tooth and nail, I finally caved in and said “OK, God. I’ll go. If this is what you really want for me, I don’t understand it, but you have a track record of being smarter than me.”

Now, let me tell you something you may not know about me. I don’t “fit in” in Haiti. Let’s just say this: if my luggage didn’t make it off of the plane at the same time as me, I’m about 1500 miles from the nearest shirt my size. “Fish out of water” doesn’t even begin to describe me in Haiti….but, God told me to go and I learned that God gets us to grow the most when He pulls us out of our comfort zones.

So, let me sum up all of my pre-trip jitters: I’m a pasty white guy that towers over pretty much everybody in Haiti horizontally and vertically, I hate flying with a passion, I’m shy to the point I wouldn’t even pray in public, I don’t speak the language they speak in Haiti, I’m totally out of shape when we’re doing construction projects in 90 degree heat, I hate flying with a passion, and did I mention that I hate flying with a passion? Side note: Haiti’s an island. Can’t exactly drive there.

So, I got on that plane with a group of about six of us, and we took our church’s first mission trip to Haiti. That trip turned out to be the single best thing that could have ever happened in my life. It was the first time in my life that I had the opportunity to get my hands dirty and really try to live out our calling of “REACHING THE WORLD FOR JESUS.” And you know what? I didn’t reach the world using the gift packages we had made for the people in Haiti. I didn’t reach the world by passing out pamphlets about Jesus. I didn’t reach the world by giving people ANYTHING, and I definitely didn’t reach the world by preaching the best sermon to ever grace the people of Haiti. In fact, I had a ten minute devotion and I was so nervous I barely finished.

But…god gave me the opportunity to reach the world by digging in, getting my hands dirty and showing people who didn’t know Jesus how much Jesus loves them and by showing people the joy that Jesus can bring to your life. I remember one morning, we’re all sitting out at these picnic tables at the mission house and one of the live-in leaders looked at me and said “you have no idea what a great witness you are for Jesus.” And I looked at him a little funny, thinking to myself “this guy is off of his rocker.” but then he said something that’s stuck with me to this day “You know, you’ve been here almost a week and I don’t think I’ve ever once seen you without a smile on your face…even when you’ve been out there with a shovel in 90 degree heat. You really have no idea what a powerful witness that is.”

So, during our trip one of our biggest projects while we were there was building a house. Sure, the building project itself was awesome, but that was just a small part of it. The day we dedicated the house is a day I will NEVER forget, for the rest of my life, the man whose family was getting the house was breaking down in tears, tears of joy, and you know what he said? He didn’t say that “he didn’t believe in Jesus until God provided him a house”…even though he was basically homeless until the day his house was complete. He told our group that he never understood the Gospel of Jesus until he saw how much we LOVED a complete stranger. A sacrificial love. Church, that’s how we reach the world for Christ. We love God’s people, no matter where they are, no matter what situation they’re in…it doesn’t matter if they’re better off or worse off than us, we love them where they are and we love them until it hurts. We take the time to invest in other people out there, we build relationships, and we show them we care. Once all that’s done, and we think there’s nothing left for us to give them…we pour into them even more. Remember church, God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross so that we could be set free. We OWE it to Him to give everything we have to show both people in the world that don’t know Him, and our brothers and sister in Christ, that same, radical love. Now, I’m going to ask the band to come back up to play one song as we close, I’m just going to leave you with this thought. The world’s as big or as small as you make it…whether your part of the world is in Dayton or somewhere a thousand miles away. Where are you called to go to be a world-changer?