I want to share some of the work we do with Pulpit Resource, to encourage your labors in proclaiming the gospel each week. Pulpit Resource offers weekly reflections on the lectionary readings, focusing on a primary text through short exegesis, additional resources, and a longer proclamation piece to share with you. If you would like to subscribe to this resource, you can do so through Ministry Matters.
As the Fourth Sunday in Lent nears, may you find encouragement in the preaching office in these reflections below:
As your pastor, I’ve got to examine myself and ask in what ways I allow myself to become bogged down in caring for those who are already in the faith, rather than worrying about how we can make our church more welcoming and inviting to those who are not yet here. We have got to be able to point to someone in our midst who was attracted to Christ through the words and deeds of this congregation. The test of our fidelity is John 3:16. If we can’t see instances of “the world” encroaching upon our little fellowship here, then that suggests that we have denied ourselves the joy of being part of the missio Dei, God’s constant mission into the world in Jesus Christ.
I expect that the newest members of our congregation will be more helpful in attracting others to the gospel than any of us long-time, established Christians. New members of our congregation are more likely to be newer, younger members of the community and are more likely to be making new friends whom they can invite to visit us. I’ve got to do a better job of finding out why people join our church, what attracts them, and then to lead the church in playing to our strengths and strengthening our outward reach. Anybody who joins our church signs up to be a witness, a missionary, joining in Christ’s work on the world.
There are people with whom you work, people whom you sit next to in class, or who you run into every day at the factory or in your club meetings, people who are confused into thinking that Christ died for the church, that Jesus Christ is our patron rather than our leader into the world. They need Jesus! They need us!
Any congregation, even one so loving as ours, that is merely a warm-hearted group that is not actively, daringly following Christ across cultural, racial, ideological, and national boundaries (mission) is not faithful. Our congregation is God’s loving self-presentation to the world. The world has got to be able to look at us and see some of the truth of who God is as presented in John 3:16. It’s not enough for us to believe that “God so loved the world,” we’ve got to show it, enact that belief in our words and work as participants in God’s mission.