“We Have a … Christ-Centered Mission”

Colossians 4:2-6


            In a small, little quaint town, nestled back in the heart of Germany, there once lived a skilled clockmaker named Hans. Hans was very well known throughout the region for his precision and dedication to his craft.

            One day, a visitor from a distant land was passing through the region. He stopped at Hans’ workshop and marveled at the beautiful timepieces displayed throughout his workshop. Struck by the intricate workings of the clocks, the visitor asked Hans “If you don’t mind me asking, what is the secret to your success?”.

            Hans smiled and replied … “Every clock I create is centered around one thing … the movement of the gears is harmonized to the beat of the pendulum. Without this central focus, all would be chaos and lost.”

            I want you to notice two things about this little story. When the gears of the clock are not harmonized to the beat, to the swinging of the pendulum … the clock doesn’t work like it should. Without the clock working, time can’t be told. Without time being told, communication breaks down, people are late, and all chaos breaks out. However, … when the movement of the gears is harmonized, when they are in sync with the beat of the pendulum … the clock flourishes. With the clock flourishing, communication is clear, people are on time, and order is in place.

            What will it be for us? What will it be for our church? Our mission? … Paul helps us this morning as we jump back into the book of Colossians and our series “Christ at the Center.” Today and next Sunday we will be looking at the final chapter, chapter four. This morning, we center our attention on verses two through six.

            Paul starts us off saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (4:2-4). Any great move of God … it always beings with prayer. The Bible is full of examples. Moses prayed before he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Samson prayed before he brought the house down and defeated the Philistines. David prayed before he slayed Goliath. Nehemiah prayed before he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus prayed before He went to the cross. And Paul repeatedly prayed for his churches.

            So what makes us think that we will have any impact on the world apart from prayer? We need to pray! Just as I know that Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so, we need to pray because the Bible tells me so. 1 Thessalonians 5 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (5:16-18). Philippians 4 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (4:6-7). Luke 18, before Jesus tells the people the parable of the persistent widow says that the parable is about how we “should always pray and not give up” (18:1). God wants us to pray.

            And so we need to pray for truth and love. We need to pray because mission is based upon truth and love. If we don’t have the truth, we have no mission. If we don’t have love, we have no mission. But if we believe that truth is in Jesus and we love the people around us like He tells us to love them, then we are compelled to get involved in His mission. Mission begins with fervent prayer. “Oh God, give us truth and love!

            Paul says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” (Col. 4:5). All the studies show that about 85% of people who trust Christ to save them do so because of a friend or relative. About 85% of people trust Christ to save them because of somebody they know. Mission begins with fervent prayer. But it continues with godly wisdom with outsiders.

            And we all know outsiders. We all know someone, so mission isn’t something extraordinary we do somewhere else. You and I don’t need to go to another country, to Haiti or Mexico or Africa to be in mission. Some people think that to be in mission, they need to drop everything. But just the opposite is usually the case. Our everyday life is the mission field God has given us. Ever see those signs leaving some church’s parking lots saying, “You’re now entering the mission field”? Everyday life is a mission field. People need Jesus! And we need godly wisdom to make the most of every opportunity with people on the outside. Pray for the wisdom to know when to invite them to worship. Pray for wisdom to know when to speak of Christ. Pray for wisdom to know what questions to ask.

            In the sinking of the Titanic, out of the twenty lifeboats, how many went back? One. Lifeboat number fourteen. Those other lifeboats, they weren’t lifeboats. They were safe-boats. We don’t want to be a safe-boat church. We are called to be lifeboats for people who are drowning in guilt and shame and emptiness and loneliness … and facing a Christ-less eternity.

            Mission begins with fervent prayer, continues with godly wisdom with outsiders, and it culminates in compassionate conversation. Paul says, “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6). Notice Paul didn’t say, “Let your conversations be always full of contempt, seasoned with sarcasm, so that you may belittle everyone.” Nor did Paul say, “Let your conversation be always full of hostility, seasoned with bitterness, so that you may provoke everyone.” No, Paul says that we need to be speaking with kindness, grace, and wisdom. And especially with those who may not share the same views as us.

            The way to speak full of grace, seasoned with salt is to be attentive to people’s needs. Listen first … and then speak. There was a six-month study done with a group of sales-people, all whom sold the same thing. One interesting difference was noted between the upper 10% and the bottom 10%. Those in the lower group talked for an average of 33 minutes per presentation. Those in the upper group talked an average of only 12 minutes per presentation. The rest of the time they listened. Before I speak with grace, I must listen with love.

            There are four different levels of listening. The first level is distracted listening. Somebody is talking, but I’m thinking about something else. This is something that never happens during sermons … right????

            The second level of listening is defensive listening, which is quick to react and slow to consider the other person’s point of view. I’m not really listening to you, I’m thinking about why you’re wrong and how I can make you see why you’re wrong. This seems to be the opposite of what James says. James says that “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

            The third level of listening is listening to fix. I’m listening, but with the goal of fixing something, solving a problem or moving the process forward.

            To speak with grace, we need to go to the highest level of listening: listening to connect with what’s really inside people. It’s listening without any agenda except to understand. It’s resisting the urge to defend or explain ourselves. Then, and only then, will we know how to answer people’s need with the Gospel.

            Herman and Mary rode along in their shiny new car. Mary said, “You know, Herman, if it weren’t for my money, this new car wouldn’t be here.” Herman said nothing. As they pulled into the driveway and admired their new home, Mary said, “You know, Herman, if it weren’t for my money, this new home wouldn’t be here.” Herman said nothing. As they walked through their new home, Mary said, “You know Herman, if it weren’t for my money, none of this furniture would be here.” Herman said nothing. After a couple of minutes, Herman finally spoke. He said, “You know Mary, if it weren’t for your money … I wouldn’t be here!” Herman knew why he was here … do you?

            We’re here to begin with fervent prayer, continue with godly wisdom. And this culminates in compassionate communication. At the center of this is Christ. Every action and word of ours is synchronized, in rhythm with the heartbeat of our Savior. As we journey forth, may we bring the good news of Christ’s love and redemption to those around us, making every moment count for His eternal purposes. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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