Apathy or Opa?

“Nobody cares. It’s all about them.” That’s how a career missionary friend recently evaluated the American church. He contends that apathy toward outreach is epidemic. Consumed with our own needs and wants, we don’t care enough to take Christ across the room. By the way, he’s quite an optimist!

My friend is spot on that the average follower is not a fisher of men. Whether he is correct or incorrect about apathy, as a trainer of others, motivation is critical to you.  Think for a minute. What techniques does the average church use to move people toward outreach? Sermons, training sessions, skits, statistics, prayer, challenges to develop a burden, a sense of obligation, and calls for recommitment and obedience. How’s that working for us?

So what do we do? There’s one prime motivator I find that always works, over time. Jesus used it when he trained his disciples to fish for men. Mark records that Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” He did not focus them on relating with the lost, apologetics, discovering outreach styles or overcoming fear. These are helpful and even necessary but they are not what Jesus concentrated on. Rather, Jesus’ focus was Jesus – “Come follow me.”

The disciple’s core curriculum was Christ’s person. All else was peripheral to his greatness, goodness and authority. They could not help but speak of the One whom they embraced as Prophet, King, Creator, God, Savior, provider, teacher and Promised One. They spoke of the gentle healer who would open deaf ears, illumine blind eyes, embrace outcast lepers, snuggle children, party with prostitutes and drunks, correct religious fundamentalists and control evil spirits and the elements with a word. Jesus overwhelmed them with grace and truth, compassion and acceptance, humility and authority, belief over behavior and relationship rather than religion.

The gospels are about whom? Jesus! The great commission begins with worship of Jesus, posits the authority of Jesus and ends with the abiding presence of Jesus. Read the letters of James, Peter and John. Decades later, Jesus was still their heartbeat. Review the sermons in Acts – he is the theme of each. Remember the Antioch church? Why did the lost community nickname them “little Christs?” Simple. Christ was their center.

The bottom line: to motivate others to live evangelistically, elevate Jesus Christ. Make Christ, not commitment, the issue. Lift up Jesus rather than the lost billions. Jesus himself said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If we want others to bear witness to Christ, they must be full of Christ.

Let’s plant and water the wonder of the Savior in those we train. As we do, let’s model. Let’s pray. Let’s acknowledge responsibility. But let’s do it all with Jesus at the heart. Eventually, speaking of Jesus will be natural.

My wife and I recently attended Grandparents Day at our granddaughter’s school. After the program, we retired to the gym for refreshments. After she ate a cookie, my seven year old grandbaby took me by the hand and said, “Opa, I want you to meet my friends.” She then led me all over the gym and introduced me to each of her classmates and even a substitute teacher. She wanted them to know who was important to her. When our hearts are full of Jesus we do the same. So, as a trainer of tellers, make Him your chief topic.

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About Rick Oglesby

Rick has worked as a church planter, pastor, missionary, Bible College President and teacher. He currently pastors in Wellington, Alabama.

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One Response to Apathy or Opa?

  1. EKohl says:

    You are right about following Christ, but Christ never made shades of grey black or white like we tend to do. Take the statement made by your friend who is a career missionary.

    “No body cares, it is all about them.”

    This is an interesting view of the American church since most of the funding for career missionaries comes from the American churches. Our church supports well over 50 missionaries. We host them when they come home on furlough and we pray for them while they are on the field. Why would we do this if we only cared about ourselves.

    Let’s look at current American culture. We are taught you have to be trained to do anything but the most menial work. Our whole educational system teaches specialization. That is a cultural mind set that has to be overcome. Let’s look at American church culture. Vocational ministers and missionaries are given preeminence over the people they are serving. This is directly related to our view of specialization. Most Christians have been taught you cannot serve until you have been trained. Look at our example. Christ took 3 years to train the Apostles. The Apostles trained the next gereration. The “Follow Me” command was an invitation to be trained by the ultimate Rabbi and the Apostles took it.

    Just because people have to be retrained to come out of the cultural mindset they have does not mean they do not care. I would like to ad that career misionaries like to take advantage of their special status to raise funds while they are here in the States and then they go on to crticize the American churches when they get back to the field. What ever to Some plant, some water, but God give the increase?