This has been a powerful Assembly. We have heard a fresh word from God through each sermon and with anointed worship giving God the highest praise. We have experienced freedom in the Spirit and many have experienced salvation and cleansing and many were baptized in the Holy Ghost and they will leave this assembly a different person than when they came. Now, we have come to the closing session and you are expecting to hear a challenge from me as your leader concerning the days ahead. I can tell you today it is my intention and I believe the intention of our leadership team from around the world to continue to promote and push forward with the core values that have been already established which are prayer, harvest, and leadership development. In addition to that, I want to present to you today a new, an old, a revolutionary, a Biblical, a mind-boggling idea for building the Church, for reaching the harvest. This plan has been tried and has proven that it will work. It is simple and anyone can do it: model Jesus and put Jesus Christ first!
The Scriptures cry out that at the top, at the center, in the front, and underneath everything is Christ. He is not second choice, He is our only choice. He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” The most exciting journey that we could ever embark on as we leave this Assembly is to seek to keep adjusting and readjusting to Christ and His ‘firstness.’ Before we do anything else, we must learn Christ. The New Testament does not start in Acts. Until you go back and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, then listen to Jesus’ teaching, modeling, mentoring, and disciplining, you won’t know how to act.
It is not that we are not busy working for the Lord. We may be working more than we ever worked before, preaching more, visiting more but the question is, what are we accomplishing? After Christ’s ascension, there was a period of some 10 days that the new church Jesus had established came together, not one person was healed, not one sermon was preached, and not one lesson was taught. They had something else to do, and that was to wait on God until they were empowered from on high and had His direction. The Book of Acts has 28 chapters, but only 27 are “action” chapters. First, there is one chapter of dead stop! And without that waiting and seeking Him, there would have been no Pentecost, no ministry, and no Book of Acts. There are seasons when the people of God must stop and seek deliberately to put Him first, to give Him our time and attention, to seek His mind and His empowering before we proceed with other activities.
We talk about desiring to see the Church return to the Book of Acts with the outpouring of Pentecost, but I believe we must go further than that and return and revive the ministry demonstrated in the life of Jesus in the Gospel accounts and seek to become like Him if we are to fulfill our commission today. Jesus did not just say to people, “I love you,” but He sacrificed Himself upon the cross to show that love. He did not just say to the people in need, “I’m concerned about you,” but He looked for ways to minister to their needs. He broke with tradition, He was criticized and falsely accused, but He said “It is not the whole that need the physician, but they who are sick. It is not the ninety and nine, but the one that is lost and I am come to do the will of Him that sent me.” In Luke 4:18, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” And that is what He did. Do we have any greater mission than this? Is there anything more important in our ministry than this?
Jesus did not wait for people to come to the Temple so He could minister to them but He went to the people and met them at the level of their needs. Some of the people would have never come to the Temple, and even if they had, they would not have been accepted by the Temple crowd nor would they have been allowed in the Holy Place. But Jesus came to save the lost; He came to break down the walls of partition. Is our mission not the same today?
Jesus’ ministry on earth was different than that of the Pharisees, the rabbis, and the priests of that time. He ministered to individuals, to small groups, to multitudes on the mountainside, by the seashore, in the Temple, and wherever needs were to be found. He loved people and the startling fact is that He said the church was to be like Him.
I want to point out some principles that Jesus taught and practiced which I believe are vital for us in our approach to the harvest. Jesus believed in the principal of investing. We practice the principal of preservation trying to preserve, maintaining what we have, and we have done a good job of that. Our stewardship of souls has been called into question by God, and we are called to repent. In Matthew 25, we have what we know as the Kingdom parables. They tell us about the kingdom of God. Verse 14 says, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like. . . ” You could say the “King is like” because the Kingdom is an extension of the King. Then it talks about a man traveling into a far country; but before he left, he called his servants and delivered his goods to them.
He made an investment; to one, he gave five talents, to another, two, to another, one, and you know the story. Two of these were profitable investments and one was bad. There is always risk involved when you invest in something. Jesus, the most profitable servant in the history of the world, took one life—His own—and invested it all. He believed and operated on the principle that “Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and dies it abideth alone, but if it dies it will bring forth much fruit.” Seed in the ground is an investment. Jesus Christ invested His life, He risked it all.
He took a handful of men and poured Himself into them. He taught them by example. He discipled them. He invested in them the propagation of the Gospel. If they did not get it out to the world, it would not have gotten out. He risked the whole Gospel on fishermen, tax collectors, and common men whom other people would not have given a second look.
If they will be what they ought to be and if they do what they ought to do, they will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? What a risk! Jesus said to His little flock, I’m going to release control to you and I’m going to give my authority to you so that my kingdom can grow. I want to say right here if Jesus Christ could risk everything in people like you and me, then I should be willing to risk investing in someone else.
Many churches are not growing today simply because leadership is not willing to release control. Let me make it clear: When the Lord releases control to you, it means you are more accountable because then you are more responsible. There are people in our church who have been touched by God for various ministries but we are afraid to release them because they might mess up or they might make us look bad. I must remind you that the Bible says all the disciples, except for just a few, at one time turned away from the Lord. Some denied Him, they betrayed Him, but He did not give up on them. When you invest in people, it is not always a guarantee, it is a risk.
We have not always been what God wanted us to be, but for some reason, He has extended His mercy.
When you sow seed in the ground, not all are going to produce, but if you sow enough seed, you will get a harvest. Some are going to discourage us and some are going to disappoint us but if we can learn to release it to Jesus, we will see an increase. God may want to work in different ways than we have been used to. Some unconventional approaches may be needed to reach this generation, but if God is not inspiring it, it will come to naught anyway. The bottom line is we can’t just sit here in our camp and die— we must do something now.
God has always worked through human leadership. Ehud came into a time of confusion in Israel: he ordered Israel to “Follow Me” and the resulting victory was eight years of peace. Gideon said “Watch me, follow my lead, do exactly as I do” and three hundred Hebrews defeated thousands of Midianites. Paul wrote “Follow me as I follow Christ.” The scary fact is a congregation will become like their leader. Intense spiritual leaders will raise us intense spiritual followers.
Jesus was aware of this fact and He chose a few men and poured Himself into them. He invested His life in them. It was a risk, but it paid off, because afterwards, wherever these men went, people saw Jesus in them, they perceived they had been with Him.
To invest yourself is the greatest risk of all. To invest yourself, you can’t play it safe. That is why a lot of people never invest themselves or their resources, they are afraid of the risk. Risk is not hurting this church today as much as playing it safe is! Fear of risk caused Israel to stop short of Canaan. We have compassed the mountain long enough!
On Thursday evening of this assembly, Dr. Lamar Vest stated that breakthrough for the Church of God of Prophecy actually began in 1994 when this church made a decision to turn to the harvest. I believe this to be true.
I would like to use a quote from a sermon Bishop Billy Murray preached in January 1994 entitled “Turning to the Harvest.” He said “We had our beginning amidst blazing evangelistic fervor which resulted in amazing growth from some 20 members in 1903 to 20,000 in less than 20 years. The assembly minutes in 1906 states the following: ‘After consideration of ripened fields, and open doors for evangelism this year, strong men wept and said they were not only willing but really anxious to go.’ It is, therefore, the sense of this meeting that we do our best to press into every open door this year and work with greater zeal and energy for the spread of the glorious Gospel of the Son of God than ever before.”
Bishop Murray continued to say, “This evangelistic zeal that caused such growth in our early history was not backed up by a financial system, their trust was in God, not in a system.” Finance has been on the heart of our people this last year and in this assembly, but I made a note while Bishop Varlack was preaching on Friday morning. I wrote, “This church does not have a financial problem, it has a heart problem.”
When we get the heart problem fixed and get our vision set on the main thing and that is winning the lost to Jesus Christ, the resources will be there. Money follows ministry. A God that can take five loaves of bread and two fish and feed thousands of people can take what little we have and breathe on it and supply every need we have and more. I say it is time for grown men and women to weep again and get ready to press through every open door this year and work with a greater zeal and energy than ever before! This is God’s year to act—breakthrough has begun. I am praying for God to change our little, bitty mindsets and give us a vision of the lost souls. Let us go forth and do the work that Jesus Christ has called us to do. This is our time, our day—we must not miss what God is doing. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord!
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