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The Man With the Plan

 

Everyone has a mission statement nowadays. Even fast food places. Years ago, I found this corporate mission statement on the McDonald’s website: We’re not just a hamburger company serving people; we’re a people company serving hamburgers. Kinda chokes you up, doesn’t it? The mission statement, not the hamburgers.

The church has a mission statement, too. It doesn’t come from a committee or consultant, but straight from the lips of Jesus:

 You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)

Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, like all the Gospels, ends with the story of the empty tomb. The first chapter of Acts happens right before the Ascension, when the Risen Christ goes up into heaven. In between Jesus gives his final instructions to the disciples. He shows Himself to be “The Man With the Plan.” In this plan, Jesus outlines the POWER for missions, the PLACE of missions and the PURPOSE of missions.

A DYNAMITE GOD

First of all, the Man with the Plan said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The disciples thought that Jesus would use political or military power to establish His kingship. Even after His resurrection, they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were thinking of an earthly monarchy, but Jesus was referring to spiritual power. You can build a government, business or even a church by exercising earthly power, but you can only build the Kingdom of God through spiritual power. The New Testament word for “power” is dunamis, which gave us the English words for dynamo and dynamite.

Think about a dynamo: it generates power. When we flip a switch, we are not creating the power; we are simply accessing it. Think about dynamite: it blows things up. The Holy Spirit is the power source for the church, and time and time again the Spirit blows up our human, worldly methods until we are driven back to the power of God.

One of the things I do in my ministry is perform magic tricks. I find that illusions hook kids and kids-at-heart so I can put across a message. I have a trick Bible that bursts into fire whenever I open it. A good magician is never supposed to tell you how he does his tricks, but I’m not a good magician. So I can tell you that my Fire Bible operates on 2 AAA batteries. That’s all I can tell you or the magic police will arrest me. One day I was telling the story of Moses and the burning bush. I dramatically flung open the Bible, expecting fire to shoot up—and nothing happened.

To my horror I saw that I was missing a battery. I’m sure that lone little battery was straining to kick-start that fire, but it was no good. It needed its partner.

We can do the mission of Jesus by ourselves and end up without so much a spark. Or we can connect with the Holy Spirit and start a God-fire that cannot be quenched –a fire that is meant to spread into every cold, dark corner of the world.

DON’T MISS A SPOT

Secondly, the Man with the Plan gave the place for missions. Start in Jerusalem, move to Judea and Samaria, and finally the ends of the earth. Don’t miss a spot. Now you can see why the disciples needed Spirit-power to accomplish this colossal task.

It’s summer mission time. Youth and adults all over the country are being sent by their churches to build wheelchair ramps, paint houses, clean yards and hold Vacation Bible Schools in impoverished neighborhoods. Some are taking overseas mission trips in obedience to the Great Commission. You know, it’s much easier to stay in an air-conditioned building than endure the hot sun in your overalls. You won’t break a sweat writing a check to some faraway missions’ agency and thinking the job is done. However,  Jesus didn’t tell us to support missions as much as he told us to be missionaries ourselves. Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, says that “Christians shouldn’t be looking for a church that meets their needs, but rather trying to find a church that meets the needs of the world.”

You will be my witnesses,” Jesus said. Notice the progression: start first in Jerusalem. That’s where they were standing when Jesus gave the orders. Jerusalem missionaries see opportunities right where they are—with their family, the convenience store clerk, their coworker in the next cubicle, the neighbor across the fence. Someone once said, “Once you have found someone who does not know Jesus Christ, you have found a mission field.”

Next, Jesus says take the mission into Judea and Samaria. The Judeans rejected the ministry of Jesus. The Samaritans were half-breed Jews who lived on the “wrong side of the tracks.” That tells me the church has been called to the tough places, the forgotten places, the unglamorous places. The famous evangelist Billy Sunday said that the Lord had called him to preach in the guttermost ends of the earth. Jesus said to minister to the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned—“the least of these.”

Last summer I went to jail. I sure did. I went to the Estes Men’s Unit in Venus, TX to serve on a Kairos weekend. I was surrounded by criminals with tattoos all over their bodies, men who had been charged with crimes ranging from burglary to hard drug use. Being a middle-class, suburban kind of guy whose greatest infraction has been going 10 miles over the speed limit, it was an unsettling experience at first. But as the weekend progressed, I sensed God’s Spirit in that place, breaking down barriers, melting hearts. By Sunday afternoon, we saw lots of tears and incredible testimonies from the inmates. On my way home that night, I thought if the church isn’t in the neglected places like prison, then it’s simply not being the church.

Lastly, Jesus said to go the ends of the earth. Most of us here will never become fulltime missionaries in another country. But I’d encourage you to take at least one mission trip in your lifetime. You’re never too young—my daughter was 9 when she took her first mission trip. You’re never too old—a woman in her 70s has been on several mission trips with me to Mexico.

I’ve been going to Mexico since 1996 and have been forever changed. One February several years ago, One Man Show Ministries took 12 people to the orphanages of Colima, Mexico. We traveled hard roads, worked like dogs, and got Montezuma’s Revenge. It was a great trip! You know why? Because every mission trip I take gives me a burden. It’s the same burden that God has—that all should come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS MY LORD?

Lastly, the Man with the Plan gave us the purpose of missions. It’s simple. “You will be my witnesses.” A witness is someone who has seen something. “You shall be witnesses unto me,” Jesus said. Have you seen Jesus my Lord?

As an evangelist, my mission field is the local church. Now I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but there are people in the pews who aren’t sure about Jesus. Many summers ago, I talked to a man, a loyal church member, after a revival. He came up to me in tears and told me the heartbreaking story of his father recently committing suicide. He said, “This is the first time I’ve cried since the funeral.” After a while I asked him about his relationship to God. “What do you think about Jesus Christ?” I asked. Silence. “I’m not sure about Jesus,” he finally said. Note: don’t ever tell a preacher you’re not sure about Jesus unless you’re ready to sit for a spell! But it was a great opportunity. I shared my testimony and God’s role in all my struggles.

Did I “seal the deal?” Did I get him “saved on the spot?” No. I planted a seed, someone else will water and the Holy Spirit will give the growth–to God be the glory! Jesus simply said to be “my witnesses.” Tell someone in need about the Savior you have seen.

Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” and in Romans 10:14, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”

The world needs to hear about Jesus; the world needs to see Jesus through us, the church. That is our purpose. That is our mission.

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