Just Ask

A few weeks ago we went with our children to their church, Hillsong.  Many of you know of this mega church, 28 of them in Australia alone, and then that many more all over the world.  They produce a lot of the music we all sing in contemporary worship.  It’s true that they get a lot of flack from the media, but the church here at least seems to have been changing for the better over the years, and I believe that all in all the preaching is sound and relevant.

This particular morning Brian Houston, the “Senior Global Minister” preached a great sermon on seeing ourselves, not as worthy or as unworthy, but as God sees us, namely created for His pleasure as it says in Romans 3:23.

At the end of the sermon, he gave an invitation.  Our Aussie churches here, or at least most of them, don’t do this to a great extent.  Yes, there’s a call to come down if you have something on your heart, but Brian spelled out the invitation, and made sure everyone understood that coming to the front was not just for a chance to “feel good”. He explained the entire plan of salvation, no excuses, no exceptions.  He then asked that the ENTIRE congregation stand and pray with him the sinners prayer, out loud for all to hear. When we finished, he closed up with a invitation to anyone in the room who had just prayed that prayer from the heart for the first time: pick up a Bible on the way out and connect with a counselor.

I was very impressed, and I saw several people taking Bibles and talking to helpful people.  I thought of an old missionary, just after the war, who did the same thing with our pastor, Naoki Noguchi (the one we’ve talked about so much).

Elizabeth was a single missionary living on the island of Kyushu (at the bottom of Japan) in the early 1950’s.  She became quite famous thru her life, similar to our Southern Baptist Offering inspiration, missionary-to-China Lottie Moon.

Elizabeth had an English Bible Class for about 15 teenage boys.  Young Noguchi deemed it advantageous, since Japan had lost the war, to learn English. His friend had discovered the free class, and invited Noguchi along.

He joined the group, and in spite of his initial prejudices, found that he really enjoyed it. He had come to the class determined to hate the teacher as the enemy she had been, but instead made friends with her and everyone else, some of whom were already Christians.

Later, when we wrote the book, “Sacrificed, Given to an Emperor and Saved by God”, he told us that Miss Elizabeth gave an INVITATION to raise their hands to indicate that they wanted to accept Christ as their Savior, explaining exactly what that meant, after every single lesson.

Finally it was down to the point where young Noguchi was the only non-Christian in the room.  He dropped out for a while mostly just out of shame, but then realized that he missed the group, and actually enjoyed the time together, so he came back.

Elizabeth continued to ask the whole class for commitments, even though Noguchi was the only boy who had yet to voice one. Finally one night as they sat around the table, eyes closed and listening to the invitation, Noguchi says that he opened his eyes a crack and was horrified to see that his own hand was in the air! But before he could pull it back down, he listened to his heart and concluded that this was something he really wanted to do. He prayed to accept Christ, was immediately directed to wise counsel from some of the older boys, and within a few years had matured to the very effective pastor that eventually we would come to know.

I guess what I’m saying is simply that we NEED to ask people what they’re going to do about Christ. They deserve the invitation, and we would be remiss in our duty as Christians to refuse it to others. Sometimes we get all PC and culturally sensitive, and yes I admit, sometimes we’re afraid. But that doesn’t change the fact that people need to be asked.

I’m thinking just now of another Australian friend who married a sweet Japanese girl several years ago. He had grown up in a Christian home and professed the faith. She wasn’t a Christian, but they were in love, and he took the traditional Aussie approach to life: “She’ll be right, Mate!”

Some time later, they were visiting in the home of his parents. After dinner, father-in-law called her into the living room and shared the Gospel with her. When hubby walked in, she glared at him with an icy stare. “Why did you never tell me about this?”

Of course he had no acceptable answer, but I’m happy to say that today this young couple are living the dream, surrounded by the love of Christ. All because someone asked.

I know there are places in the world where asking such questions can get you killed. Let’s never stop praying for those who must pay the ultimate price for the questions and the answers. But …. I dare say for most of us reading this blog, the problems do not lie in overt persecution, but in covert fear and timidity. What did the Apostle Paul have to say about that? 2 Timothy 1:7, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.”

Go get em tigers!

Marsha

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