One of the first struggles many of us have in ministry is trying to figure out how to get people to stick. How do we get people to get connected and stay connected to the church? This is a question of assimilation.
Assimilation is an important idea for any church. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of assimilation is “the process of becoming similar to something”, and “the absorption and integration of people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture.”
In the context of our churches it refers to making people a part of the life of your church. Assimilation refers to a process that happens with the people who attend your church.
To achieve the goal of fully assimilating people into the church, you have to be able to identify when it happens. So, how do you know if someone is assimilating into your church? Here are some questions that we can ask about those we are trying to assimilate to see where they are in the process.
Worship Service– How often do they attend? Is there a pattern?
Sunday School/Groups– How often do they attend? Is there a pattern?
Relationships– Are they becoming friends with people in the church or group? Do they spend time with people before, after, or outside of the services and programs?
Participation– Do they participate during class or group time? Are they engaged when they come?
Service– Do they serve in a ministry of the church?
Invitation– Do they invite others to your group or church?
Spiritual Growth– Do they exhibit life change resulting from the ministry they receive? Have they made decisions regarding salvation, baptism, discipleship, serving and forsaking sin in their lives?
What are some of the ways you measure assimilation at your church that I may not have named? What are some ways that you help to encourage new people in each of these categories?
Neighborhood Missions Trip- Invest
Text: Luke 16:1-13
• It’s fall. Can you feel it in the air? The weather really did turn some this week.
• With this season comes one of my favorite things: Pies!
• How many of you love pies? Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Buttermilk Pie.
• Today I want to teach you something about pie, and what it has to do with being a missionary. Tension:
• You see over the past couple of weeks pastor has been challenging us in this area of our personal evangelism.
• We are doing a campaign as a church called “Neighborhood Missions Trip”.
• We want you to begin to see your neighborhood as a mission field, and yourself as a missionary.
• Pastor Frazier has made these two statement that embody the mission of our church:
Missions is not about geography. Missions is about people. – Pastor Frazier
Every person is either a mission field, or should be a missionary. – Pastor Frazier
• With this emphasis we are asking every person to take three actions as a neighborhood missionary.
• Identify, Invest, and Invite.
• Over the past two weeks Pastor has been challenging us to identify people in our neighborhoods who need Christ.
We learned that the United States is the 4th largest mission field in the world by population.
We learned that Stark County has 190,000 people that claim no church affiliation.
• Today I want to talk to you about that second action- investing. What does it look like to invest in the lives of our neighbors? – especially people who need Christ?
• And as I thought about that particular question, it lead me to a parable of Jesus found in Luke 16.
• Jesus sometimes taught very unexpectedly.
• This particular text teaches us something very important about investing in the lives of people.
• But it teaches us from a very bad example.
Luke 16:1-13 (KJV)
1 And he said also unto his disciples,
• The audience here is the disciples.
• The speaker is Jesus.
There was a certain rich man, which had a steward;
• 1st character- Rich man. A person who had more than he needs.
• As we see later in the story, this is a man that was most likely an absentee land owner.
• He lived some distance away from his land and that necessitated the need for the second character here.
• He had a lot of money. He had a lot of influence. He had a lot of responsibility.
• Because of this he had this second and main character…
• A steward.
• A person hired by the rich man to take care of his personal affairs in regards to the business of the land that was owned.
• By virtue of the amounts that are listed later on, this was a large responsibility for a large conglomerate of farms.
• He would have overseen the internal and external operations of the farms, the finances, the accounts that his rich boss had, and more.
• It was a position of some economic and social status.
• But look at what happened….
and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
• Steward was accused of mismanagement of the owner’s goods.
• The word got back to the rich man that he had “wasted” his good.
• The word here is – dee-as-kor-pid’-zo- disperse, scatter (abroad), strew, waste.
• We don’t know if the accusation was completely true, but we have some idea that there may have been some merit to it based on the steward’s response.
2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
• The Steward gets called in by his boss. The boss informs him that he’s heard the accusation and its time to open the books and give an accounting.
• What is at stake? “For thou mayest be no longer steward.”
• In the words of Donald Trump- “Your fired.”
• If you were accused of this kind of mismanagement and you were guiltless, you would quickly go and get the books, print out the reports and the bank statements to prove your innocence and fight for your job.
• This is not what this steward does. Look at his response. We get to see what he thinks.
3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
• I need a plan!! And I need it fast.
• If I were to put this story into a modern setting, I imagine the boss leaving the office to give the man time to print out the reports. I’ll be back later.
• The steward leans back in his chair, not knowing what to do. He needs a plan!
• “I can’t do manual labor! I’m a white collar guy. I don’t want to get my hands dirty.”
• I’m certainly not one of those cardboard holding beggars at the end of an exit ramp!”
• He asks this question regarding His own future- “What shall I do?”
• What do I do? What resources are available to me that I can leverage for the future?
• And then he has a “Eureka” moment!
4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
• I’m going to use the last little bit of influence that I have in my official capacity as steward to leverage it for a better job.
• Specifically, I want to make people connect with me, and “receive me into their houses.”
• Take note of this phrase as it is key to understanding the passage.
• He specifically says that he is planning this entire response so that later after he is fired “they may receive me into their houses.”
• I need to be “in” with people of means so that I can be set up for an even better job and future.
• So he executes the plan…
5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
• How much do you owe? – Weird question right? If he was a good steward, he wouldn’t have to ask!
• You want your accountant to know to the penny!
6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
• Anyway, he cuts a deal. Pay us now, and I’ll only charge you half.
• “Quickly”- Swindlers always want to do things quickly. He was a “fast talker”.
• So he is giving the debtor a deal, and of course it doesn’t cost him anything. He’s going to lose his job anyway.
• You can almost hear him saying, “Now remember your good friend when I come by next week. You owe me one.”
• In fact, this was an honor culture that emphasized reciprocation.
• If I honored you publicly, then the expectation was that you would do the same for me.
• If I did you a favor, the expectation is that you would pay me back.
• This steward is banking on the fact that these people would feel obligated to take care of him, and specifically the peer pressure to take care of him because he is “taking care” of so many of his masters debtors.
7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
• Apparently this particular method was used multiple times.
• Although in the story he didn’t give everyone the same percentage deal. The first guy got half off, and this guy only gets 20%.
• But remember, the stewards stated goal is: “that they would receive me into their houses.”
• The nature of the text and of the parable is that this man did this with more than just these two. He repeated this process with all of his master’s debtors.
• And so, he has taken a very bad consequence- losing his job because he got caught- and made it into a circumstance in which he has job offers and means for his future lined up.
• He can take his pick of the offers because of his shrewd tactics.
• It really cost him almost nothing.
• It wasn’t even his money, and yet now all of these people of means owe him back.
• Now before you read on, know that this is where the parable gets a little tricky.
• You would expect that Jesus would not want to use anyone of this kind of character as an example of someone to imitate.
• And the truth is that He doesn’t want us to completely imitate him, but he does want to point out something interesting.
• Notice the reaction of “the lord”- specifically the boss of this steward.
8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely:
• What was the reaction? “Commendation”. He commended him.
• Look at the description- the unjust steward. This is where we get the title of the man in Jesus’ story. He was unjust. He was not right. He did wrong, and yet he was commended.
• According to Jesus, the boss commended the unjust steward because of the strategic move that the man made.
• You can imagine the Lord of this man saying to him,
“Where has this ingenuity and strategic thinking been all along?
You took your “two week notice” and set yourself up for the rest of your life.
You did this with my money and my influence to set up your future.
Why hadn’t you done this in the first place? I never would have wanted to fire you!”
• Then Jesus made this particular statement about the man’s shrewd actions:
for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
• The whole reason for the parable is to bring up this phrase.
• Jesus sees something in the mindset of this man that he wants us to have.
• To be clear, he is not wanting us to be dishonest. But he does want us to be shrewd.
• If we’re going to be people who are effective as missionaries in our own neighborhoods, then we must invest in people.
• Jesus wants to point out the mindset of this man to have us to adopt it.
• But instead of being wise in worldly, unjust matters, he wants to be wise- he wants us to be shrewd.
We can invest shrewdly by adopting three mindsets.
Mindset #1- Be strategic. V. 1-9
• The idea here is that the unjust steward is so focused and relentless on getting what he wanted that he made strategically shrewd moves that helped further his future.
• Jesus is essentially saying, this man who does this evil business is so much more shrewd and wise in his dealings than the way people who follow Christ are in our dealings.
• You know what Jesus is talking about because you’ve seen it.
• You’ve seen people go in and make shrewd business deals, maybe even shady deals to make money and come out smelling like roses.
• People spend so much of their time figuring out ways to make money. They are good at it.
• Notice that “the lord”- the man’s boss who is also corrupt- commends the steward. Jesus does not.
• What Jesus does point out is this. Lost, unregenerate people think more strategically and wisely about how to deal with their temporary lives than what believers and followers of Christ do about eternal matters.
• This unjust steward leveraged his small, waning influence to make a big difference in his future.
• Jesus says that we ought to leverage our influence in a similarly strategic way, but for something much more eternal and important.
• Why do I say that? Because of the correlation that he makes in verse 9.
9 And I say unto you,
• “And I say unto you”- here is his big point.
• Who is he speaking to?
Children of light- v8
…make to yourselves friends…
• “Make to yourselves friends”-
• Gain relationships.
• Grow in influence.
• Grow in impact.
of the mammon of unrighteousness;
• “of the mammon of unrighteousness”-
• The words here “Of the”- ek tou- “out of the mammon” or “from the mammon”, or “using the mammon”
• Mammon is a word for money or wealth.
• He’s not saying become friends with the temporary wealth itself.
• He is saying make friends using temporary wealth.
• Leverage what is temporary for making friends…Why?
that, when ye fail,
• “fail”- eklipo – die
they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
• “they”- who is they? The friends!!!!!!! The friends you made using the temporary wealth- the money!
• What are they going to do because of the influence you leveraged?
• “receive you into everlasting habitiations”
• You see everyone that knows Christ will go to heaven, but not everyone will have the same welcoming committee.
• This man, the unjust steward, had just a short amount of time, and access to someone else’s resources, and he used it to set up a more than comfortable life for himself for his immediate future.
• What Jesus is saying here is this: You and I have a short amount of time on this earth, and everything we have is really something God’s. We should take our limited time on this earth, and the resources we have to invest, not to make the next 5, 10, 20, 40 years to be comfortable for us, but that eternity would be changed in the lives of people all around us.
• So that brings me to the pie. You thought I’d never get to the pie.
• Pies don’t cost that much.
• How much does it cost to make a pie?
• For the cost of some eggs, some sugar, some vanilla, some ….. and an hour or two you can make a pie.
• Pies are temporary.
• At my house pies are very temporary.
• I don’t know very many people who don’t like pie.
• Who wants a pie? (Give the pies to someone!)
• But here’s the illustration:
• Could it be conceivable that someone could make a pie and use the pie to give as a gift to either introduce themselves to a neighbor, or to invest in the relationship of a neighbor? Do you think that God could use that introduction to lead to a conversation where a person hears about Christ?
• Could it be conceivable that a stay-at-home mom could befriend another mom on her street and invite her over for some pie and that setting leads to gospel conversations?
• You see, your temporary pie, your temporary time on earth, your temporary mammon can be leveraged, if you are shrewd, to make an eternal difference in the life of people.
• And think about it- How much more do you own than what it takes to make a pie!!!!!!
• We have homes!
• We have yards!
• We have cars!
• We have phones!
• We have internet connected computers in our pockets.
• If it is conceivable that we can use a pie to reach someone, what about all of the other wealth we have?
• How many times in the gospels is Jesus eating in people’s homes?
• In the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus
• Think about the early church:
Acts 2:44-47 (44) And all that believed were together, and had all things common; (45) And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,(47) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
• What if our entire church took on the mindset of a missionary, and just for a couple months passionately leveraged their wealth for the sake of eternity? I believe it would look like the early church which grew at a daily rate!
Mindset #2- Be faithful. (v.10-12).
10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
• This is exactly how it life works.
• Many people who are poor give like the widow in the Bible gave all she had.
• Many who have much don’t give anything.
• The amount isn’t the issue. What is the issue? Faithfulness.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
• This is a basic understanding of our eternal reward: How we steward our lives here effects our reward there.
• Notice here that he connects faithfulness with our wealth to investing our wealth for eternal things.
• If you only use your wealth for things that don’t matter in eternity then you are not faithfully stewarding what God has given you.
Luke 12:33-34- (33) Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. (34) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
The only way to be a faithful steward of our resources is to have an eternal perspective.
Mindset #3- Be focused. V.13
13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
• What you are focused on tells about who you are serving.
• If you are focused only on this life, only on the temporary, then you are serving a master that is not God.
• If you are focused on eternity, and on what God values, then you are serving God.
• Jesus says here, “you can not serve God and mammon”.
• By implication though with the context the truth is this: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon, but you can serve God with mammon.”
When we focus on God and eternity we will invest wisely.
• You can take your temporary wealth and use it to invest in eternity.
• You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead!
• Let me tell you about something that has recently happened in our church-
• Story of Anthony and Deanna…
Edith- Block Party
• When it comes to our neighborhood, is it strategic to live near people and never meet them or speak to them?
• When it comes to our neighborhood, is it faithful to live near people and never invest in that relationship, knowing that they are eternal?
• When it comes to our neighbors, are we showing that we are focused on God as our master if we don’t share Christ with these eternal people?
• As believers we should be shrewd!
• Your house, Your car, Your stuff— None of it will not be in heaven, but your neighbors should be. How are you investing?
I’d like to tell you a story. Here is a 3 minute read.
We had just moved into our first house as a married couple. We had just started our first job in ministry, and it was our first time having friends over for dinner. I was excited to grill out for everyone and so I went out and got a charcoal grill to cook on for the meal.
I had never really grilled up until this point, and so I thought it would be easy light the fire. In my mind I thought I would throw a match on the charcoal and it would just light up easily.
I remember trying to light the charcoal for the grill and having the hardest time getting it to ignite. It would just not light up. I ended up using lighter fluid and a hair dryer to get the flame going and we had dinner later than I wanted. Also, I ruined my wife’s hair dryer. (Sorry again, Megan.)
After some effort and time the fire was ignited, but we ate later than expected. Starting a fire was more difficult than I thought it was going to be.
Sometimes in ministry I’ve felt the same thing in trying to lead people. Fire is such a great metaphor for passion, energy, and momentum. We try and try to stoke the fires of passion around evangelism and ministry and often it seems like there is so much that keeps the flame from igniting in the hearts of our people.
But there have been times in ministry where I have seen God light a fire in someones heart. When he does the results are amazing.
Passion is needed because apathy is so typical. For our churches to be effective, we need a passion for the lost that is a burning flame.
But how can we influence people to be passionate about evangelism and ministry?
I want to suggest three elements that are crucial to igniting a passion in your ministry.
Passion is ignited by personal conviction.
Do you have a conviction about your own personal evangelistic ministry? Do you understand the example you are for good or bad in terms of personal evangelism? Do you own the stewardship God has given to you of leading your class to reach people?
To be effective in evangelism as a leader you must have a conviction that the lost must be reached and that you must be personally involved in reaching them.
Passion is ignited by personal prayer.
Personal evangelism and disciple making are spiritual endeavors. Reaching, teaching, and ministering are the categories of great commission ministry that the Holy Spirit does through us.
Nothing of any eternal consequence has ever been done without prayer.If we as leaders are not on our knees pleading to God that our class catch a vision for evangelism then it is unlikely to happen.
Passion is ignited by personal example.
Example is most effective if it is seen. We must do good. We must be seen doing good.
This means we must manage the tension between a desire to influence others with a right example and the desire to be seen of men to be admired. Providing an example is critical. Being prideful can destroy the spiritual work God wants to do. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us through this effectively.
This past Wednesday my friend Tristyn Dibell was able to lead a lady named Kathy to Christ. Her kids came to camp. Trent and Tristyn have been intentionally following up on her and her kids. They showed love to Kathy and shared the gospel with her and she received Christ! Isn’t that amazing?
Here is the bottom line: We can not expect people to be more passionate and involved than we are. Passionless leaders who go through the motions don’t inspire passion in their followers.
Go participate. Get a story. Use the story to inspire others.
Examine your convictions. Pray for yourself and your people. Exemplify great commission ministry to those who follow you.