Get real is what David thought when he tried on Saul’s armour to fight Goliath; it was too cumbersome, too heavy to fight with. Get Real is what David did when he took off the ill fitting armour, picked up five smooth stones from the brook, and went out to battle Goliath; David got real, and when he did, he was freed to fight with God’s armour, and not human armour.
Get Real was the name and focus for the two day conference Bill, Karen and I went to in Sydney last week. Rev Dr Michael Foss was the key note speaker. He is the senior pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran church in Burnsville, Minnesota. His passion and ministry focus is to redesign the Lutheran church for a new age of mission and ministry.
Get Real is what the Lutheran church needs to do if it is to stop the out flux of members; if we are to stop losing all our young people; if we are to be faithful Jesus’ calling to make disciples of all nations.
To Get Real, Foss argues, means to take off the old armour, the old ideas and ways of doing things, which served us well in the past, but are no longer effective any more. Everyone here would feel the same as he does, we hurt when we see our dear children, previous members, and people in the community rejecting faith in Jesus, no longer coming to church and we are confused and stumped as to what we can do: who is to blame? Us? Is God’s word not effective any more?
No, Foss says, it is the system that is letting us down; its the way we do ministry that needs to change. Its like David trying to fight for God’s people in Saul’s armour; our church is trying to fight for God’s people wearing cumbersome, out of touch and impractical ways of doing ministry. A ministry that no longer connects with the changing world and no longer even connects with those in the pews; that’s why they are leaving. It is a mode of ministry based on membership instead of discipleship.
For the Lutheran church to Get Real in today’s post-modern, post-Christian world, Foss says it needs to move from membership to a discipleship way of thinking; from making ‘members’ who receive ministry, to making disciples who give ministry; to Get Real means to listen to the preacher duck, and learn to fly.
I will close this talk posing some of Pastor Michael’s challenging questions; questions we as a congregation need to face.
The text for this morning’s address is:
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.
7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,
11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’
16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
o Jesus has just sent out 72 disciples to go and tell the good news to the surrounding towns, that the kingdom of God is near. Can you tell me what they were told to bring? Nothing! Even money was not needed. Nothing was taken along to assist with the mission task, Jesus had already given them everything they would need; they were to just go out without a plan, with out and map, without an itinerary.
o mission is not about what we have and what we don’t have.
o I don’t have…our church doesn’t have…its not about what we are to carry…its not about the preparations and the plans; its not about how well we create and run mission programs.
Mission is first of all about who we are. Jesus sends out the 72 with nothing, yet when the disciples come back they say ‘”Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” With nothing but the word and command of Jesus, not even any money, great things were achieved. So great, that Jesus even sees the devil fall like lightning from the sky.
o Jesus is not concerned about what they did; he is not concerned about the route they took, the type of people they saw; the mission strategies and procedures they undertook. Jesus is not interested in programs. Jesus is first and foremost interested in reminding his disciples of who they are.
o ‘do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
o They are children of God. They are forgiven, they are loved by Jesus and they are his disciples; that is who they are. And flowing out of this knowledge is joy. A joy that gave them the courage to go out and tell others.
o We are children of God. We already have every gift. Everything we need. We have forgiveness, grace and eternal life; we have the spirit. In baptism we become a child of God. We are loved by Jesus and we are his disciples; his followers.
o And as a child of God, are we not already fully equipped from the work he has assigned for us? Just as he prepared the 72, Jesus has already prepared us for what ever he calls us to do. He has given us his spirit, his words, his presence as he has promised ‘do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’
o Yet as Lutherans, we still need to have everything planned out and be fully prepared before we attempt any sort of mission. We are afraid to step out on to the mission road without a road map! We are afraid to lose what we have in order to go with nothing. We need to know precisely what to expect and have contingency programs in place, ready for every possible scenario.
o Jesus sends out the 72 without any of this, yet look what happened. Jesus knew they would learn as they go, learn to trust in God; trust his word and his faithfulness.
o Pastor Michael Foss posed this question to us ‘are we in the LCA more worried about what we have, than who we are? As disciples of Jesus, are we prepared to let go of what we have and learn as we go, and learn to trust in God, and develop an authentic Australian expression of Lutheranism? And are we ready once again to rely on the faithfulness of God, as our forefathers did and become disciples of the church and not just members’?
o Put your hand up if know of a time when God was faithful to you? Is God’s faithfulness a once off deal, only valid for that point in your life? Of course not; God is always faithful. Fix your eyes on God’s faithfulness. (how do you row a boat? Turn around and try to look over our shoulder? What happens? When we row a boat, we don’t concentrate on where we are heading we focus our vision on a fixed point on the shore and row away from it)
o We go backwards into the future. As Christians, we fix their eyes on the previous faithfulness of God to go out backwards into the future. We fix our eyes on the cross, and on the open grave; we fix our eyes on the font from which we received new birth and became disciples of Jesus. As long as we fix our eyes on the faithfulness of God, we can go back into the future as disciples with faith that changes lives, that serves beyond the church, that risks everything for the sake of others.
o Think about this:
o We have faith because we stand on the shoulders of those who taught us the faith…do we have broad enough shoulders to carry the next generation?
o Are we able to dream big enough that only the NEXT generation can fulfil it?
o As disciples of Jesus, do we see ourselves as just bricklayers or kingdom builders? Same calling, different vision!