I have the pleasure of serving in many different congregations in my position as a pulpit supply pastor. One thing I notice in everyone of them is the question, how do we move forward? Of course, other questions continue to come up, once we ask that question. Does our congregation have a future? What will the future look like? Is it okay to embrace change? What changes are okay to embrace and what should we avoid?
And inevitably, in some of the congregations I serve, the statement comes out, “we are too old to change now.” “We aren’t going to go door to door doing evangelism. Besides, everyone I know is already a Christian.” From my conversation with Pastor Don, it sounds like this is the realm your congregation is currently living in. He also told me, “They don’t need a hell, fire, and brimstone message; just give them some encouragement.” Allow me to give you some encouragement straight from the apostle Paul.
But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.
Romans 15:14 NET
I promise I will stay away from the hell, fire, and brimstone. I do have a quick question in that regard… By show of hands, how many of you believe that Jesus wasn’t lying and hell actually does exist, and that unbelievers will face judgment after they die? Okay. Believers face a different judgment, but that isn’t today’s message. Whoo, dodge a bullet there, right? It’s okay to chuckle…
If you are like me, you may have a hard time remembering verse references, or what I call its address, but how many of you know what Matthew 28:18-20 says? That is the passage called the Great Commission. Jesus said (and this is my own translation),
All authority under Heaven and on Earth has been given to me, so while you’re going make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded to you. Know that I am with you to the very end of the age.
We typically here this message along with some plea to send money to overseas missionaries, when asked to join a mission trip going to some remote land, or when encouraged to do some sort of door to door evangelism.
As a friend of mine would say, “Okay PJ (Pastor Joe), what’s your point?” The point is, in any congregation, young or old, know matter how many people are sitting in the pews; our focus is on discipleship, not going anywhere specific. The title of my message to you this morning is, “Retirement or Legacy-building?”
I am here today to tell you; they missed the point. The only imperative verb here is “MAKE DISCIPLES”. Can you truly tell me with 100% Godlike certainty judging the heart, every friend, every child, grandchild, great-grandchild, acquaintance, and neighbor you know is a disciple of Christ. We are called to be teaching disciples how to obey Christ. Is everyone you know following Christ to the best of their ability? A better question may be, do you think you are? Discipleship isn’t necessarily about going anywhere, it’s about obeying Jesus’s commands to help others learn to follow him in a closer relationship.
Earlier, Paul told you…
you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.
If you are full of goodness and filled with all knowledge; you are able to instruct one another. You are also able to instruct your friends, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, acquaintances, and neighbors. What are the two things we have been told for generations, maybe starting with your generation, we should never discuss at the dinner table? Religion and politics, right. I am here to tell you one of the most important topics you could possibly discuss is your relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ in the power of his Holy Spirit. Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered together, there I am.
These conversations should be, as another passage says, about spurring one another on to love and good works. They should also be about strategies and tools to continue learning and growing and praying and following Jesus’s example. To be conformed to his image and fulfill his purpose.
At the time of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he is in prison again. He is tired and frustrated and ready to die. He tells us:
My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.
Philippians 1:20-26 NET
You are still alive. Your building is still open. You still have a pastor. Even if your building was closed, and you went and sat in the pews somewhere listening to another pastor because you don’t feel right sitting at home on a Sunday morning. You are still alive, just like Paul, and just like Paul— Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me… it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, so that what you can be proud of may increase because of me in Christ Jesus.
You may be retired. However, as believers, our true retirement from our responsibility to build a legacy of disciples doesn’t come until we are present with the Lord at the great banquet.
As you go out into the world today, brainstorm at least one relationship you can invest in as your legacy of faith. That’s your homework.