And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately[a] many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
(Mark 2:4-5 New King James)
Brothers and Sisters, if the census figures released recently by the United States Census Bureau are accurate, there is a stunning failure documented by the Church of Jesus. These statistics are Not exclusively the UM churches, but ALL Christian Churches.
There are 318.86 (2014) million people living in the United States today. Think about that for a moment, three million people! Now, think about this for a minute… with all of those people, why isn’t every church, represented in this room, filled to capacity?
OK, I get it; some of your churches are in rural communities that are not growing. But in this, the age of the automobile, I know there are people who drive 25 miles, one way, to go to their church.
Again, I get it! I know some of you live in places where there are a lot of other churches, besides our beloved Methodist church, to choose from.
There are as many churches today as there are rhythmic verses in a Dr. Seuss book:
- There are churches on the coast;
- There are churches on a boat;
- There are churches up high;
- There are churches nearby;
- There are churches in the hood;
- There are churches in the burbs;
- There are churches made of glass;
- There are churches with steeples from the past;
- There are churches in the fields;
- There are churches in the hills;
Yes my friends, there are literally thousands and thousands of churches across this nation – there is at least one church in every community – of various denominations – from Baptist to Anglican to Church of God in Christ - to Lutheran to Methodist to Pentecostal. However, no matter where they are, in every community, one or two of them are growing.
But, you know what I have noticed in three years in Spoon River? I have noticed that we have a lot a flash and pop big-box churches, and that they have glitz and glamour. These are churches that place all of their effort on the Sunday morning show. But have no benevolence or mission opportunities during the week.
I am finding it’s our Methodist churches that have the food pantry, the clothing bank and after school ministries. When people need help, they head for our flame and cross.
So, again I ask, why aren’t all the churches of Jesus Christ filled today?
Before I even attempt to answer that question, let me interject my belief that God wants our churches to grow! God wants them to grow, not so we will have the numbers needed to pay our bills; and, not so we can compete with the big box churches. God wants our churches to grow, so people will have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ.
All of us should not be so satisfied, and so filled with the Holy Ghost, that we celebrate fewer and fewer people who know Jesus. Our role as the church is to introduce people to Jesus, so the Lord can change the world one heart at a time.
I remember a time when we heard everyone in the church proclaiming, “Keep the main thing, the main thing!” Well, church, when it comes to serving God, it seems we have forgotten the main thing.
In our social page age, rumors have replaced the main thing. If we're not careful, these rumors can hurt us emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise. We must get away from the rumors and get a hold of the Rock. I'm talking about the:
- "Rock of Israel" in 2 Samuel 23:3;
- The great "Rock in a weary land," in Isaiah 32:2
- The "Rock that is higher than I" in Isaiah 61:2
- The "Rock of Salvation" in Psalms 62:2
- The "Spiritual Rock" in 1 Corinthians 10:4
His name is Jesus. The only blessed hope of the world. His words can dispel any rumor and make them flee! The rumor is temporary but His words will last forever!
My brothers and sisters, we have got to stay focused on the main thing. And the MAIN THING is the mission of the Church. We who believe, and follow, the Lord Jesus Christ must make it our priority to recruit, train and equip people to be disciples.
I believe Brothers and sisters that many of our Churches aren’t growing because Jesus has been removed from the EVANGELISM equation. We’ve dropped him from the team!
Evangelism is not a packaged program. Evangelism, is using all of the gifts God has given us, to introduce people to Jesus. But I have discovered that:
- We invite people to church potlucks, but not to JESUS.
- We invite people to come hear the pastor preach, but not to JESUS.
- We invite people to musicals, but not to JESUS.
- We invite people to church weddings, but not to JESUS.
- We invite people to Christian plays, but not to JESUS.
- We invite people to bake sales and fish fry’s, but not to JESUS.
If we are going to change the world, we’re going to have to reestablish a connection that apparently has been severed in evangelism. That is, we proclaim and teach Christ crucified. Not how beautiful the choir and musicians sing and play. Because they are singing and playing to the glory of God.
Here is the issue: on one hand – we have the loving and faithful God, who wants to have relationship with us.
On the other hand we’ve got sinful people who, since the trespass of Adam in the garden, sometimes separate from God’s will. And they are in need of a relationship with the Lord.
These two components – God and us, have been allowed to meet by the provision of God’s only son, JESUS. JESUS is the connector to bring God and people together – and I don’t mean any harm, but it’s not about our buildings, our book of worship or our budgets – it’s all about getting folk to JESUS.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is more than a lifeless organization. It is a living organism, made up of many parts, all of which are to be energized by Christ Himself ---for the purpose of accomplishing God’s work on earth.
The Church (ecclesia
-- The called out ones) consists of individuals from all walks of life, with differing personalities, talents and abilities, united under a number of common goals. Among which are:
- the worship of God,
- growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ,
- fellowship with other saints,
- and the propagation of the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
In essence, the Church does not exist for itself, but for the Lord, and the fulfilling of His purposes.
Our text brings us to this marvelous enterprise. Jesus is preaching and interestingly, it’s not even in a church. He’s preaching in a house, after returning to Capernaum, the base of his ministerial movement. We don’t know whose home this is, we don’t know why He chose this house, we don’t even know if he had been there before, all we know is that JESUS was in the house.
Which emphasizes a point I’m trying to make, JESUS MUST BE IN THE HOUSE!
If we’re going to change the world, Jesus must be in the house. Let me suggest this in two ways:
First, he must be in OUR OWN house and secondly, he must be in the CHURCH house.
When we come into the House of God, the “focus” ought to be on God, not the Preacher, the worship leader, the Choir, the Usher or nor the person who dress is too short. Because, JESUS is the Only One who’s able to bring God into focus. Did not you hear him say: “If you have seen Me, then you’ve seen the Father.” Which simply means, that the only way folk can see God in this House, is for you and I to be a reflection of the Head of this House, who is Jesus, the Christ.
When I come to church I expect to see Jesus, and present Jesus to others.
God is calling us to STEP UP our faith and make sure that Jesus is in the house. I wish I had someone that would help me say this, I WANT JESUS TO BE IN THE HOUSE.
If Jesus is in the house, something special will happen, not every now and then – but every time we come into His presence. Something special will happen:
- Lives will be encouraged;
- People will be healed;
- Families will be repaired;
- Dreams will become reality;
- Dark days will become lighter;
- The Down and Out will become the Up and Coming;
- Bling-Bling won’t mean a Thing-Thing.Jesus cannot be secondary to anything or anyone else in the house:
He’s more important than the Preacher.
He’s more important than the Finance Committee.
He’s more important than any Trustee.
He’s more important than the Church Council.
He’s more important than the richest person in the room.
He’s more important than the founding members of the local church.
He’s more important than our rules or the BOD.
He’s more important than our rites and rituals.
He’s more important than anything in the church.
Friends of God, Jesus will not be relegated to a catchy phrase or an abstract idea. He is alive and living right now. He is not a part of the church – he IS the Church. News Flash! It’s not our Church, it belongs to Him, to Jesus. He is the owner who said,
“Upon this rock, I build MY CHURCH…” If you want to make your church relevant, Jesus must be in the house.
Another point I want to emphasize is that, Jesus Must be the Reason.
JESUS must be the reason we invite or bring people to church. Mark displays an act of love, kindness, hope, evangelism and the purpose of the church in this text.
While Jesus is preaching in this house, the community empties out to go hear him. They fill the house. They try to get as many as they can inside, they open the windows, and they try to jam into a crowded house. May I suggest that they are not there for a potluck – they are there because JESUS is in the house.
Don’t get it twisted, now. The reason churches grow is not because of a store bought evangelism plan. They don’t grow because of the personality of the preacher. They don’t grow because we got a gym at the church or food giveaway.
No, if our church is going to be relevant – Jesus must be the reason for the attraction. Jesus must be the reason we have our facilities, our ministries, our worship, and our budget. It’s all about loving God and our neighbors.
Jesus has got to be the reason we dare invite people into the house!
The mission of the church is found in our text in the actions five men.
- Four of them are in good health.
- Four of them can move about as they will.
- Four of them can come and go as they want.
But the fifth man is sick with the palsy. Whenever the Bible describes someone who is sick with the palsy, it describes a condition of either complete or partial paralysis. It describes a condition that is not normal but abnormal. It describes a condition that is either inherited or transferred through DNA.
When I think about sin – there is a strange correlation between the effects and affects of sin on us and palsy.
- Sin will make us weak.
- Sin will tear us down.
- Sin will make us tired.
- Sin will make us dependent.
- Sin will cause us pain.
- Sin will make us slow.
However, these four men, knowing that Jesus was in the house, wanted to bring this man of the palsy to Jesus because…Wait, before I amplify this, allow me to ask a question of you – when was the last time you carried somebody to Jesus?
When was the last time you brought someone who was spiritually sick and spiritually paralyzed to Jesus?
You see, they brought him to Jesus because.
- Jesus is a way maker.
- Jesus is a healer.
- Jesus is a friend.
- Jesus is all right.
- Jesus is able.
- Jesus is the King.
- Jesus is a doctor in a sickroom.
- Jesus is a lawyer in a courtroom.
Maybe somebody here has been in church for so long; you can’t even remember why you went to church last Sunday. I can tell you why I went…
I went “because…”
- He has been so good to me.
- He has made ways for me.
- He is bread when I’m hungry.
And, believe it or not,
- He can do something, right here, in this convention center, today.
- He can elevate our thinking today.
- He can make us over again.
- He can work it out.
- He will make a way.
Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need. He makes me lie down in the meadows grass and supplies my every need. He restores my failing health and he is the answer to my questions, BECAUSE he is JESUS!
They could have taken this man to the doctor, but they had the great physician in town! They took him to Jesus BECAUSE he could make a way.
But let me make this disclaimer, My brothers and sisters, don’t try to bring anyone to Jesus unless you’re FIRST CONVINCED that He can make a way! Unless, you’ve been convinced that Jesus is worth the trip.
My last point of emphasis is this, JESUS is worth the trip!
This man of the palsy was brought by his friends to a house that was full. They must have examined every possible way of getting in.
There are two portraits of the church in this text. One is the four who brought this man to Jesus. They are a portrait of the church’s mission.
The other portrait is of those who have gathered in the house. They are a portrait of people who are so concerned about what Jesus could do for them; that they overlook someone who has a greater need.
Sadly, the problem was not that the house was full – the problem was that nobody wanted to make room for this man of the palsy.
I’ve come to suggest that if we’re going to grow our churches, we’re going to need to make some room.
- We’re going to need to scoot over, get out of the way, slide over, change pews, get out of our normal seat.
- We’re going to have to slide over our attitudes and make room for those who are different from us, look different, think different, act different, smell different, talk different, wear their clothes different, live different, praise different, drink different, cuss different and are just plain different.
Somebody in the crowd, seeing a need, should have made room for this man of the palsy. We’ve missed the mark of evangelism when we’ve become so entrenched in the way we’ve done things. Church becomes so ritualistic that the pew has become “my pew,” the class has become “my class,” the title has become “my title,” and the church has become “my church.”
The men and the mat they carried the paralyzed man on shows the church working at its best. Each of them had to carry their corner. The mat probably was nothing more than a quilt…..
Friends of God, these men where serious about getting this man to Jesus. After surveying the house and seeing they couldn’t get in through the door, decided to go higher and tear off the roof.
Let me remind us that in those days the roofs were not as protective as the roofs are in our homes. They were often times not slanted, because they didn’t get a lot of rain there – they were mostly flattened and covered by pitch and palm branches, weaved together to provide some protection. But… they were sturdy enough to stand upon because they were held up by the construction of the roof.
These men carried the man with palsy to the roof top. They went over the head of the crowd, tore open a hole in the roof, and dropped the man of the palsy on a mat down through the hole, to get him to Jesus.
I know I’ve got to sit down, but I really feel like preaching.
I’m excited because these men did whatever it took to get the man of the palsy to Jesus. They didn’t make church excuses. They did whatever it took to get somebody to Jesus.
Friends… that’s what evangelism is, doing whatever it takes to get someone to Jesus.
Evangelism is not passive. Evangelism must be aggressive. We’ve got to stop with this idea that evangelism means we drop to the category of passivity.
We’re living in an aggressive world: Drug Dealers are aggressive. Terrorists are aggressive. The world we live in is aggressive. We are going to have to STEP UP.
We may have to do some things that haven’t been seen, or done before by the church. We may have to tear up some things that aren’t useful anymore at the church.
We may have to do whatever it takes to get somebody to Jesus.
Why have they STEPPED UP in such a way?
- We got to believe that the Lord has power.
- We got to believe that just being in the presence of God can make a difference.
- We got to believe that it may mean a sacrifice, but with God, it’s worth it.
- We got to believe that the Lord is able to do what no doctor could possibly do.
My brothers and sisters every believer should have a degree of conviction. We ought to know, that we know, that we know, that God can and will make a way out of no way!
Finally this We need to step up our faith because, in the Gospel of John, in chapter 17, Jesus prayed for us!
Jesus prays that all of us, members of the Cabinet, members of the Clergy and members of the laity, should be witnesses to the resurrection, that we all would teach the world what he has taught us.
He prays that we stay together in a common effort, as a church whose unity and love shows the world the kind of unity and love which come from walking closely with God.
He prays that we would be the kind of disciples who show their faith in Jesus and God by doing the kinds of works Jesus taught us to do.
My friends your Cabinet wants you to know, these prayers aren’t just for apostles - or more to the point – “apostleship isn’t reserved for 12 individuals who died thousands of years ago. We are all called to be apostles, ambassadors, witnesses to the resurrection. Just as God sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us. SO WE ARE ASKING YOU TO STEP UP TO YOUR FAITH!!
Your Cabinet believes the role of leadership is not to make teachers of foot soldiers – not to control the others: it is rather, to guide and to challenge and to empower the other.
We who hold authority in the conference are not above the groups – we are to be the center of it, the norm of it, the movers of it. We ourselves are to mirror its value. Our job is not singly to make appointments, enforce the Discipline and give order. Our job is to live out the ideals. It is an authority far removed from office elitism or pompous hierarchy or high-handed paternal/maternalism. The simple point is that what we do not live, we do not have a right to require!
My sisters and brothers, of the laity and the clergy, together, we are all participants in the function of spiritual leadership – and the book of Acts, Chapter 1, tells us that we are not to intimidate people into submission by fear or guilt.
The function of spiritual leadership, is to sow in our lives the beauty that opens out of those who live spiritual lives to its fullness.
The Cabinet missions is not, simply to get a job done. We are here, to embody why we bother to do the job at all: as holy listeners to the Holy Spirit – who care about the effect of what we do on everybody else.
Illinois Great Rivers Conference, are you with us? It’s time for us to STEP UP! LET’S STEP UP, TOGETHER!