As we look to 2016, I want to challenge every Christians to be “Highways and ByWays Preacher”; not pulpiteers, but proclaimers.
The other morning I was scrolling through Facebook and ran across a post where someone has shared a sermon that the person posting raved about being an incredible message on salvation and how to be saved. I listened to about 5 minutes, but was distracted. I was distracted by the environment in which he was preaching and the style of his message. He was in a very “formal” setting and his style was classical preaching similar to what I was taught in seminary. There is no criticism in what I am observing, but it proved distracting to me.
I could not help but wonder how many of the world’s truly lost were hearing the message. I could not help but wonder if the message was not more of a congratulatory pat on the back of the elect that had filled the pews of the church for most of the year. As I thought about and reflected on whether we as the church have continued to reverse the Great Commission from “Go and Tell” to “Come and Hear”, the parable of Luke 14 came to mind. In vss. 12 – 24, Jesus shares a parable of a Great Banquet to which many had been invited. Then the time comes for the banquet and he sends his servants to gather the invited guests.
What God Says
First he sends the servant to go and invite the invited guests to come. Do you remember how they replied? I’ve bought land, can’t come; I’ve bought oxen, can’t come; I’ve gotten married, can’t come. Excuses, excuses, excuses. The owner was livid! So he sends the servant out to invite the blind, the maimed, the poor, and the lame. After this, do you remember? There was still a lot of room. So, once again, he sends the servant. This time, these beautiful words are spoken– “Go out into the highways and the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Again as I listened to this opening to a sermon on salvation on FB this morning, I heard the preacher note that he was addressing “Dear Congregation” (his words). He noted the year of them listening and the working of God. There is nothing wrong with any of this. But I could not help but think of the highways and hedges. How much of our focus on preaching in the church is aimed at the stirring up of the saints? How much of our focus on preaching the Gospel and calling people to salvation is aimed at the invited guests who are either already seated at the table, or who are full of excuses not to come?
As we prepare to face 2016, could we not, should we not go into the highways and hedges to invite the lost to the banquet (not to the church)? While I believe it is important that we help people become a part of the church, I think it far more important that we introduce them to Christ, and then let the Holy Spirit living in them bring them to church. As 2016 unfolds, let us be the church Jesus commissioned to go to all people groups and make disciples.