Come to the Party

Come to the Party

Matthew 28:18-20 / 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Dr. Jim Denison

According to tradition, Queen Victoria of England looked out her castle window one morning and saw a beautiful flower blooming. It was early spring and the flower was unusual. Delighting in its beauty, she stationed a palace guard by the flower to keep people from trampling it, then soon forgot about it. Centuries later, a guard still stood at that plot of grass.

Sometimes we do things and never know why.

Today we have baptized, and soon we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Let’s be sure we know why. And let’s make these ordinances symbols of the larger Christian faith we should celebrate every week in worship and every day of the week. For Christianity should be a continued celebration, a party of faith. Unfortunately, often it’s not.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote in his diary, as though recording an unusual event: “I have been to church today, and am not depressed.” Oliver Wendell Holmes said he would have become a clergyman except that so many clergymen looked and acted like undertakers. You’ve perhaps heard about the man who went to the airport to pick up the visiting preacher, whom he’d never met. He walked up to a man getting off the plane and said, “You must be our minister.” The man said, “No, it’s my ulcer that makes me look that way.”

The routine and ritual which sometimes characterizes our faith stands in sharp contrast with the kind of joyous faith I witnessed last week in Cuba. Their Sunday morning worship service began at 9:00 and ended at 12:50. The exuberance of their worship and their faith was thrilling. In the midst of oppressive poverty and governmental control, their joy in Jesus was contagious.

Mother Teresa said, “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” They have only Jesus. And he’s enough.

Today let’s learn from them, and from the ordinances Jesus has given to us. Let’s learn to celebrate our Christian faith with exuberance and joy.

Why baptism matters

Years ago, a machinist at Ford Motor Company in Detroit became a Christian and was baptized. He took his baptism seriously. He had been stealing parts and tools from Ford for years. The morning after his baptism he took all the stolen parts and tools back to his boss. He explained his situation and his recent conversion and baptism, and asked for forgiveness.

This response by an employee was without precedent. Mr. Ford was visiting a European plant at the time, but he was cabled concerning the details of this matter. His response was requested. Mr. Ford immediately returned a cable with his decision: “Dam up the Detroit River, and baptize the entire city.”

Jesus went even further. In his Great Commission he ordered his church to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). Why?

The word “baptize” comes from a Greek word which means to “dip” or “immerse.” The word was often used in the ancient world to describe the act of dipping a cup in a stream or washing clothing. To “baptize” something is literally to immerse it in water.

John the Baptist was the first person in the New Testament to baptize people. He did this in the Jordan River when they repented publicly for their sins and chose to follow God in faith. This was their witness to their community.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he started by being baptized by John. He was not repenting of his sins, of course, since he is the sinless Son of God. Rather, he was giving witness to his faith in his Father and supporting John’s ministry.

Later, Jesus commanded all his disciples to continue this work of baptizing: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism thus began with John and is commanded by Jesus Christ for us today.

The symbolism is simple. Jesus has washed away our sins, purging the person we were before faith in him and raising us to new life. Baptism pictures this event: washing away the “old man” and raising the “new man” in Christ.

Who should be baptized?In the New Testament, the only people who are baptized are those who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Because baptism “pictures” your faith commitment, it makes sense that it should follow it.

As you know, many other traditions baptize infants upon their parents’ faith. This is a beautiful dedication of a child to God, but it has no New Testament precedent. We believe in dedicating children to God as well, and do so often in worship, but we don’t use baptism to do so.

This is not a denominational issue. If your baptism followed your personal salvation and was done by immersion as in the New Testament, we would certainly add no other requirements. Typically one of our staff members or counselors would talk with you regarding your faith and baptism experience, and prepare you to join our church family.

If you have not been baptized by immersion, why should you be? Not merely to join a church, as though this were “hazing” to join a fraternity. Biblically there are two reasons: to be obedient to the will of God, and to show others your faith in Christ.

First, consider the obedience of baptism. Jesus commanded us to do this. The early Christians followed that commandment very carefully, baptizing those who became Christians at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and those who trusted Jesus as a result of personal witnessing (Acts 8:38). Baptism does not make you a Christian, but it is an important act of obedience to Christ.

Second, consider the witness of baptism. The water does not wash away your sins—it symbolizes the fact that Jesus has already done this. But it makes this symbol public. You say, “Jesus is my Lord,” repeating the statement of faith used for twenty centuries. You tell the world that you love Jesus, then you show them by submitting to baptism and picturing the forgiveness and salvation Jesus has given to you.

Here’s what it comes to: baptism is a celebration of all that Jesus has done for us. We do it, not in legalistic requirement but in joyful gratitude.

In Cuba, the average monthly salary is $7.00. $30.00 is an excellent salary. Yet things cost as much there as here—a bottle of water was $1.30, and I saw shoes for sale for $140.00. So they depend on the rice and beans given by the government, work two or three jobs, and barter with each other. They eat chicken once a month, and beef once a year.

Imagine our surprise at the meals they served us: fried chicken, ham, beef, even lobster. Wonderful banquets, each one. What if we sat down to such sacrificial meals with boredom, ate little or nothing, took for granted such gifts? Trust me, we did not. We ate each such meal with enormous gratitude for their sacrifice and love.

At baptism we celebrate Jesus’ love for us. Once we are baptized, we are to continue to do so, every day. To live every day as though it were our baptism day, in joy.

Why the Supper matters

Now let’s think about the second Baptist ordinance, the Lord’s Supper. Why does it matter? For three reasons.

First, the Supper unites us. The Corinthians were a divided church, but Paul knew that the Lord’s supper could unite them. As it does us.

When you visualize Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, da Vinci’s The Last Supper probably comes to mind. It’s a magnificent work of art. And completely wrong.

First-century Jews took their meals while lying around a slightly elevated U-shaped table, leaning on one elbow and eating with the other. Jesus was in the center, the disciples to each side. They each ate from a common loaf and drank from a common cup. They were united in the meal of their Lord.

Note the power of this unifying symbol. John the beloved disciple was on Jesus’ right. Do you know who was on his left, the other disciple to whom Jesus directly gave the bread and the cup? Judas. In the presence even of sin and betrayal, there was the unity of the meal of Jesus. And there should be for us.

Next, the Supper remembers Jesus. He told his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (v. 24, 25). When you take these very real elements, you remember the very real death of Jesus. His broken body, like this bread; his poured-out blood, like this cup. These elements cause us to remember that we are loved, that Jesus has died for us. The Supper remembers Christ. As we should, every day.

Last, the Supper witnesses to the world. He told us, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (v. 26). Jesus is alive today. One day he’ll return for you and for me. The Supper shows the reality of our Lord and our faith to the world. As we should, every day.

Here we can learn from our Cuban sisters and brothers as well.

They are united in Jesus. We saw no racism at all, no gender disqualification; every man and every woman serving Jesus together.

They are totally focused on Jesus, and on sharing him. First Baptist Church in Camaguey has more than forty house churches and home Bible studies scattered around the city. First Baptist Church in Cespedes meets in a room the size of one of our Sunday school departments, but sponsors twenty-five mission churches around the country. They love Jesus, and they love remembering him and witnessing to him.

And their witness is courageous and sacrificial. The church in Camaguey is located four feet from the Communist headquarters in the city. In spite of governmental surveillance and oppression, they lift high their faith every day.

So should we.


So we close our series on Baptist beliefs with the most powerful symbols of our faith: our baptism and our Lord’s Supper. If you have not experienced them, I urge you to. Every time you watch and participate, do so with gratitude.

And live every day this week as though it were your baptism day, as though you were standing at the table of our Lord. With joyous faith, gratitude, and celebration.

Tony Campolo is a Baptist minister and professor of sociology, and one of the most thoughtful Christians I know. I once heard him tell about a trip he made to Hawaii for a speaking engagement.

Jet lag had him up at 3:00 in the morning. He walked to a tiny coffee shop near his hotel, a greasy spoon as he describes it. A man stood behind the counter, wearing a tight, sweaty t-shirt with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. Tony asked for coffee.

Just then some “women of the night” came in. Tony overheard one tell the others that tomorrow was her birthday. “Will you have a party?” someone asked. “No one ever gave me a birthday party,” she replied.

When they left, Tony told the cook, “Let’s give her a birthday party tomorrow night. I’ll get a present and the decorations if you’ll make a cake.” The man called his wife out from the back. They were surprised at the idea, but agreed to do it.

So the next night, 3:00 in the morning, when the women came back in, there were streamers everywhere. A present wrapped on the bar. A birthday cake. The “birthday girl” was overwhelmed. Tony took Polaroid pictures to give her. She wouldn’t let anyone touch the cake until she showed it to her mother.

In the midst of the party, the man who ran the counter asked Tony what he did for a living. “I’m a preacher,” he said. The man said, “You’re not a preacher. No preacher would do this. What church do you belong to?” Tony said, “I belong to a church which gives birthday parties to prostitutes.” And he does.

Jesus has paid for all our sins and failures, purchased our salvation, guaranteed us eternity in the glories of heaven together. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper picture his invitation to his party.

Will you come?

Finding Joy in Strange Places

Finding Joy in Strange Places

Luke 10:1-24

Dr. Jim Denison

Americans lead the world in consumption of aspirin, and in physical problems caused by stress. Depression is a very real issue in our country and culture.

More than 35 million Americans take Prozac. By 2020 depression will likely be the world’s second-most disabling disease, after heart disease. The World Health Organization already ranks depression as first in prevalence among females and fourth overall.

Uncertainty about our political future has sent stocks tumbling and consumer confidence sliding. Many are pessimistic about our financial future over the coming months. Many are discouraged.

And the upcoming holidays make things even harder for many. 41% of Americans say they find the holidays stressful. There are entire ministries and psychological support groups which exist to get people through the holidays. Family, finances, and time pressures are hard, and those who have experienced the loss of a loved one have an especially difficult time.

We all need joy, especially in these days.

Where can we find true joy, a deep-seated sense of tranquility and serenity in the face of challenging times? In the unlikeliest of places, from a subject which typically causes us more fear and angst than joy and delight. As we begin a three-week emphasis on global missions, ministry, and evangelism, I wish today to make this single point: your greatest joy will be found in sharing Jesus with others. Your greatest sense of significance, purpose, and fulfillment is waiting for you, right here. Let’s see why this is so, and what this fact means for your life and mine.

How the first evangelists found their joy

Jesus is coming near the end of his earthly ministry, and has now set his face towards Jerusalem and the cross. But there is one last group of cities and peoples he has not yet touched—the Jews and Gentiles who live to the east of the Jordan river, outside Israel itself, the area called the Trans-Jordan. Self-respecting Jews would not go over there. But Jesus did.

On his way, he sent seventy of his followers ahead (v. 1). Why seventy? Because there were seventy nations among the Gentiles, according to Genesis 10. One per nation, figuratively.

He “sent” them—this is the word for “apostle,” one sent with the authority of another and on his behalf.

He sent them “two by two,” because we are to do ministry together.

He sent them to “every town and place” because everyone matters to him. 2 Peter 3.9 is clear: God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

“Where he was about to go.” We are “advance men” for Jesus. Our job is simply to get people ready to meet him.

Now comes the good news: “The harvest is plentiful” (v. 2). Jesus saw the harvest when he was up in Galilee (Matthew 9), and in Samaria as well (John 4). And now with these Gentiles across the Jordan River. Everywhere he looked he saw a harvest ready to be reaped. So should we.

Keith Parks, the former head of the International Mission Board, has said that more nations are open to the gospel today than at any time in Christian history.

We hear stories of 28,000 conversations every day in sub-Saharan Africa; of 20,000 a day in Communist China. South Korea had perhaps not a single Christian a century ago; now the nation is one-third born-again.

Closer to home, we see a hunger for spirituality beyond any in memory. Television shows such as the one on Genesis this week, movies, newspapers and books and magazines all focus on spiritual things regularly.

George Barna’s surveys indicate that one-fourth of those who do not go to church would come if only someone would invite them. Imagine 25,000 lost people here next week—Jesus does.

So what are we to do about this harvest field, just waiting to be reaped?

Pray first: “Ask the Lord of the harvest …” We can do much for God after we pray, but nothing until we pray.

Then go (v. 3). This is Jesus’ command, addressed in the second person plural to every Christian. No exceptions, no options.

Go in his power. We are “lambs among wolves,” and our only protection is in staying close to our Shepherd. Do not depend on your own resources such as a purse or bag or sandals (v. 4a). Do not be distracted by others (4b).

Go wherever you are welcome (v. 5). Build relationships—”eat what is set before you” (v. 8). They would be Jews in Gentile homes, offered non-kosher food. Eat it—make friends—build relationships.

Meet the needs you find: “Heal the sick who are there” (9a). Earn the right to tell the good news of God’s love, by showing them your love.

Ultimately, tell them about Jesus: “The kingdom of God is near you” (9b). Tell them about Jesus. Invite them to enter his kingdom, through faith in him as Savior and Lord. Wherever you go, the Kingdom and the King go as well. Invite them to Jesus.

Will everyone come? No: “when you enter a town and are not welcomed …” (v. 10). We will be rejected by some. But they do not reject us—they reject our King: “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (16).

When we share our faith, we feel as though we are on trial and the one with whom we are speaking is the prosecutor, trying to show us how wrong we are. In truth, Jesus is on trial. Satan is the prosecutor; the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney; the person with whom you are speaking is the jury. You are simply a witness, called to the stand to tell what you know. You may be the first witness, and leave the courtroom without a verdict; you may be the last witness, and watch the jury decide for Jesus. But he is on trial, not you. Just tell what you know.

And you will have joy. Unspeakable joy. Great joy: “The seventy returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name'” (17).

They have joy such as they had never known, because they stepped out of their security and comfort and took a stand for the Lord. They have become ministers and missionaries, and their joy knows no bounds.

And Jesus replies, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (18). When we take the light of God’s love into our dark world, we attack Satan himself. We assault the gates of hell, and Satan falls. We can defeat the enemy himself, in the power of Jesus.

Jesus shares their joy (21). And he tells them how blessed they are: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see” (23). Why? Even David and Solomon didn’t get to do this; even Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Daniel did not get to do this. You and I have the incredible privilege of telling the world about the Savior. There is no greater joy than doing so.

To summarize: see the harvest all around you; care about those you meet; meet their needs as you can; tell them about Jesus, in his power and authority; and expect joy when you do. Great joy.

How we can find our joy

But I hear your response: I can’t do this. Sharing the gospel, ministering to people, being a missionary in Dallas and around the world is for other people. I don’t know how, I don’t know where to start, I can’t do it. If this is the place where true joy is found, I’ll have to live without it.

Not so.

Across biblical history, what men and women did God use most? Jacob, a deceiver; Rahab, a harlot; Moses, a murderer; Matthew, a publican; Peter, a coward; Paul, a murderer as well. Do you see a pattern? Can God use you?

Augustine was a notorious womanizer, a profane man, before he opened the Scriptures, was converted, and became the greatest theologian after Paul in Christian history. Dwight Moody was a nearly illiterate shoe salesman who came to Christ and preached to 100 million people. William Borden was heir to the Borden dairy fortune, but gave it all up to go to India as a missionary. He died before reaching his destination, but left behind a scrap of paper on which he had written the words, “No reserve, no retreat, no regrets.” Can God use you?

Manuel Noriega, Panama’s notorious strongman, became a Christian in jail and told the world. Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer, was converted and growing spiritually before he was murdered in jail, according to the Church of Christ minister who was discipling him. Alice Cooper, one of the most decadent rock stars of the ’70s and self-proclaimed incarnate witch, has become a Christian. He is friends with theologian R. C. Sproul, and has taught a Sunday school class. He still wears scary makeup, but his songs now speak about Christ and his faith.

John Grisham has sold more than forty million books, but says that his commitment to Christ at the age of eight in a Baptist church in Arkansas was “the most important event in my life.” Can God use you?

Do you feel the joy of Jesus in your heart today? You can. If you will stand for Jesus, tell others of Jesus, serve people in Jesus’ name, you can.

I have begun calling our first-time guests each Sunday afternoon, because I was not doing enough personal evangelism. And I have found a joy in regular witnessing and ministry such as is found nowhere else.

This week I’ve spoken with many of our members who have discovered the secret of joy. A couple who has sacrificed financially to help impoverished Christians in difficult places, and cannot stop talking about the joy they feel. A man who started a Bible study for his unchurched friends, and says he’s found the greatest joy you can know. Members who have visited the sick and the shut-in, and talked about the privilege and the blessing they have received. A member who has been inviting her neighbors to our community ministries, and cannot describe fully the joy she feels.

A dear friend has been dealing with very difficult physical problems. A few weeks ago she told me about a new neighbor of hers, someone for whom she had been burdened and praying. Just a few days before her surgery this week, God moved her to go to that friend’s apartment and pray for her. Facing great problems herself, she found in serving others the joy of Jesus. So can we.


Where can you begin?

During these weeks of unified missions emphasis, you can give financially to help get the gospel to the whole world—use the envelopes provided, ask God what he would have you do, and do it. And you’ll find his joy.

You can give food and money for food through our hunger drive, using the bags we are providing through your Sunday school.

You can be part of Christmas projects with Buckner Children’s Home, the S.T.E.P. Christmas store, our Habitat for Humanity house, and other Sunday school and missions ministry projects.

And you can begin to pray for lost people you know. Your unchurched friends will come with you to church during Christmas if they will come during no other season. Next week we’ll give you a tool kit of concerts, events, and services you can use. Today, take the Bible marker we have provided. Write the name of four lost or unchurched people you know. Commit to pray for them by name every day through the Christmas season. Ask God to help you step out of your security and comfort, and invite them to church with you.

And you’ll have the joy of Jesus.

Karl Meninger was a world-renowned psychologist; his lectures were packed wherever he spoke. At one academic seminar, during a time for questions, a graduate student asked Dr. Meninger what he would prescribe for a depressed or discouraged person. Everyone prepared to take notes of what they were sure would be a profound academic answer. Dr. Meninger’s reply: “I’d tell the person to leave his house, walk across the street, knock on his neighbor’s door, and ask what he could do to help.”

Would you take the first step today?

Stepping From Success to Significance

Stepping From Success to Significance

Acts 11.19-30

Dr. Jim Denison

Nearly six million people voted for president in the state of Florida, and the margin between the candidates stood at 930 votes before the recounting by hand, and 537 after. That is a margin smaller than the number of people in this sanctuary, by far, to determine the occupant of the most powerful office in the world. Sometimes people count.

But not often enough.

How many people know your name, out of a Dallas population of 1,075,894? If you died today, you would be just one of 140,000 who will die this day—how many people would notice? Americans earned $7,789,600,000,000 last year—how much money did you make? 400,000 babies will be born—how significant in the larger world is your child or mine?

Conflict rages in the Middle East, political turmoil in Peru and so many other countries, and of course, the political future of America is very uncertain. But what can you and I do about any of this? How much difference does your life make?

Today we continue our focus on global missions, ministry, and evangelism. But why? Isn’t this all really about making more money for missions programs? Or is there more to it?

Would you like to spend the years left to you doing something that matters? Something that touches all of humanity and leaves the world a better place? Something that gives your life deep satisfaction and your soul a sense of real significance?

Who wouldn’t? God says that you can. His word tells us how to step from success to significance. Let’s take the first step today.

What they did …

Let me take you to Antioch, one of the most immoral cities in the ancient world, and surprisingly, home to the greatest missionary church in the New Testament.

Antioch of Syria was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, with a population of half a million people. It was located 300 miles to the north of Jerusalem, where the city of Antakya stands in modern-day Turkey.

Antioch was a great commercial center, as trade from the world over flowed through its banks and markets. This was a city of cosmopolitan culture, much like San Francisco or New York City today.

But Antioch was best known for its moral corruption and decadence. The cult of Artemis, located five miles to the south, practiced temple prostitution and all kinds of sexual immorality. Every kind of illegal activity was found here. If you crossed Las Vegas with Sodom and Gomorrah, you’d have Antioch of Syria.

It is amazing that this city would be home to the most missionary church in early Christianity. We can never give up on any city, Dallas included.

Here’s how that church happened.

Verse 19 tells us that the persecution which began with Stephen’s martyrdom scattered Christians out from Jerusalem as far as Phoenicia along the western coast of Syria, the Mediterranean island of Cyrus, and Antioch to the north. However, these first missionaries preached only to fellow Jews.

But then some courageous Christians from Cyprus and the north African town of Cyrene came to Antioch to evangelize the Gentiles as well. Most Jewish Christians simply did not believe that Gentiles could become Christians. But this unnamed group of missionaries believed we could. And we will forever—literally—be grateful.

And God gave them immediate success, in four ways.

First, against all odds, “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (v. 21). Among them was Luke, the physician and author of Luke and Acts. When you follow Jesus in missions and evangelism, you never know the ultimate result. Tony McGrady and Julian Unger had no idea when they knocked on my apartment door and invited me to church in 1973 that I would one day be your pastor and tell you their names. We cannot know the eternal significance of immediate obedience to Jesus.

Second, the mother church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to investigate this phenomenon; he “saw the evidence of the grace of God” (v. 23) and encouraged the people, and again “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (v. 24). When God is honored, his church must expand. Our church must expand. We cannot help it. All healthy things grow.

Third, Barnabas went to Tarsus, 100 miles to the north, to recruit Saul for this ministry. Saul (Paul to us) had not been mentioned by the Book of Acts for nine years; but somehow Barnabas knows that God wants Saul for this ministry. And so Paul the Apostle reenters the stage of global missions. God’s plan for Antioch was far larger than Antioch. His plan for Dallas is far larger than Dallas.

Fourth, as a direct result of the teaching Barnabas and Saul provided for these new Gentile believers, “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (v. 26). “Christian” literally means “little Christ.” These Gentile converts so took on the character, the priorities, the morals, the personality of Jesus that even the skeptical pagans around them saw Jesus in them. How we want this to be true for us!

Now watch their Antiochian success become global significance.

Some prophets from Jerusalem warned this vibrant, exploding church that bad times are ahead: “a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world” (v. 28). This happened during the reign of Claudius, around A.D. 45.

These Gentile believers in Antioch have enormous resources, given the economic prosperity of their city. This famine will likely not affect them greatly. They don’t need to care. I knew a man who lost $57 million dollars in the oil collapse of the early 1980’s, and was still one of the three wealthiest men in his city. The Antioch Christians had enough resources not to worry too much about the coming hard times.

But the Jerusalem Christians are in for disaster. Jews in their culture have ostracized them for their faith; they have lost their jobs, many have lost their homes. A famine will mean starvation for them.

So the Gentile believers in Antioch, previously ignored by the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, immediately decide to help. They take an offering and send it to the Jerusalem church by Barnabas and Saul. They become compassionate about needs beyond themselves. They gain a passion for a larger world.

And this larger world would beckon them again and again.

One day as they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, “The Holy Spirit, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'” (Acts 13:2). These are their founding pastors, two of their five ministerial leaders. They could have refused. They could have kept their leaders and spiritual mentors for themselves.

But again they saw a larger world: “after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (v. 3). And they would continue this sacrificial support. Each of Paul’s three missionary journeys began with Antioch. Continually he received financial, material, and spiritual sustenance and support from this, his home church.

And God made a group of Gentile believers in the most immoral city in their part of the world to be a church of global significance. Their ministry touched the ancient world as they prayed, gave, and went for Jesus. Their ministry has affected the world for twenty centuries since. You and I are Gentile Christians today, here this morning, in large part because of the Antioch believers. They stepped from temporal success to global and eternal significance.

So can we.

… we can do.

By the end of the Korean War, a young man named Yonggi Cho was dying of tuberculosis. A friend of his family visited him repeatedly, prayed with him, and gave him the Scriptures. Others helped him come to Christ; later he was healed of his disease.

In 1956 he entered Seoul’s two-year Full Gospel Bible Institute. He began a church in a tent on May 15, 1958; only five people heard his first sermon. His pulpit was a stack of wooden apple crates covered by a thin cloth. One of the five in the congregation, an elderly woman, went to sleep and started snoring. Yonggi almost quit.

He and his friends began to pray, every morning at 4:30. The rest of the day they visited in the homes of their poor community, ministering and praying with anyone who would allow them to. People began coming to their tent to pray as well. Ministry teams began to grow. God began to heal the sick and to convert the lost. By 1967, nine years after they began in a tent, their church had a congregation of 7,750.

Their secret was simple: they prayed for God to reach their nation and their world. And they still do. Every staff member begins the workday with an hour of prayer in his or her office. They sponsor all-night prayer meetings every day except Sunday, and have as many as 25,000 at some of them. When their church started, perhaps 4% of South Korea was born-again; now the number exceeds 30%. And their church membership is nearly one million. God has given this one church global significance.

You may know the story of Bob Buford.

As an extremely successful cable television executive in Tyler, he experienced “success panic” at the age of 44. Through a series of circumstances he came to determine that business success was not enough for his soul, for his life to be significant.

In time he founded Leadership Network, a service which links ministry leaders and needs in church and community. Leadership Network has become the leader in the world in such a strategy. And Buford’s book, Half Time: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance has helped transform the lives of thousands of men and women, as they have moved from economic success to spiritual significance.

What are the steps?

Believe that your life must change the world. Get a passion for the world. Believe Jesus when he said you are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). Believe him when he said that you would “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and be his witness “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

You have not obeyed these commands unless and until your life has changed the world. Believe that you can, and you must.

Next, define the needs which surround you. Just as God used the prophet Agabus to tell the Antiochian Christians about the needs of their world, so he will show us the needs he intends us to meet.

Ask him to make you sensitive to the people around you and their problems. Like the Antioch Christians, he has given you the resources you need to meet them. Decide that you will do all you can do to help. You can give food, time, energy, and abilities to help hurting people in your community and around the world.

And last, support those who will do what you cannot. God did not call everyone from Antioch to go to the larger world, but he called some. The others prayed for them, gave money to help them, held the ropes as they went out. We give money to support missionaries who go where we cannot. And through them, we touch the world.


You have experienced success. Is your life significant? It must be—you must touch the world spiritually, or you have not used your life as God intends. Your life can have global significance. The choice is yours.

In Cespedes, our Cuba ministry team met with Carlos, the pastor of a church whose building is about the size of a Sunday school department. His office is the size of one of our closets. But on the wall of his office is a map of the world. He believes that God has called him and his church to touch that world. And on that map is a sticker which marks Dallas, Texas. I am grateful.

When we got back from Cuba, I put a globe in my study where I could see it. Like Carlos, I want our church to touch the world. So does Jesus.

Do you?