Believers called to pursue Christ, offer relief and release

by C. Walter Overman
Friday, April 12, 2013 | 7 yrs old

As a young church planter Kyle Idleman believed success was determined by the number of people who attended church every week. He viewed ministry through the prism of the corporate world where Jesus became a commodity.

“Suddenly, without even realizing it, I had turned the church into a company and the gospel therefore into a product where I was selling Jesus,” he said. “The way I sold Jesus was by presenting the parts of Jesus that I thought people would like.”

It was, as he described, an incomplete gospel.

“I would make a big deal out of the good things and a little deal out of the things that are harder to hear,” Idleman said. “I made it so the gospel had some small print to it.”

All that began to change when Idleman, who now serves as pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., was preparing to preach Easter Sunday 2009. Knowing large crowds would attend Easter services, he intended to preach in a way that would entice the crowds to return.

Then it occurred to him that Jesus never preached to crowds with that intent. Jesus never minimized the cost of following Him; instead, Jesus challenged would-be followers to sacrifice everything.

“I realized something that broke me and changed the trajectory of me in ministry. I realized that when Jesus had those crowds that he often said something to them that they didn’t want to hear,” Idleman said. “I had cheapened the gospel. I made it sound as if people were doing him a favor by coming to him.”

Idleman shared his story during the recent North Carolina Missions Conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He told the audience that after reading Luke 9:23, he realized he had been leading people to become casual followers of Jesus, rather than leading them to commit their lives to Him.

Now, he calls people to a higher level of commitment, a commitment that requires Christ-followers to deny themselves and to pursue Jesus passionately.

“Passionate pursuit is what you do in a relationship. You make it a priority; you do what you have to do to rearrange your life and your time and your day to spend time with that person,” he said.

Idleman challenged attendees to pursue Christ completely and to call others to do the same.

“Saying ‘yes’ to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to yourself. There’s no way to follow Jesus without carrying your cross,” he said. “That is what we have to offer. We reach out to the world with truth and grace and we challenge people to follow Jesus in this way.”

Relief and Release
This year’s conference theme was “Relief and Release: The Hands of Christ,” based on Luke 4:18-19.

“Jesus came to give relief and release. He came to set free those who are oppressed and he came to give release to us from sin that holds us captive,” said Richard Brunson, NC Baptist Men executive director-treasurer. “All through Scripture you see Jesus using both hands to minister to people because God loves and cares about people.”

The conference featured worship led by Meredith Andrews, break out sessions and testimonies of what God is doing through North Carolina Baptists in the United States and around the world.

In addition to Idleman, keynote speakers included Taylor Field, pastor of Graffiti Church in New York City; Terry Rae, founder and director of Africa for Christ; and David Nasser, pastor of Christ City Church in Birmingham, Ala.

Speaking from the book of Daniel, Rae described the prophet Daniel as an Old Testament illustration of the “hands of the Lord Jesus Christ bringing relief and release.”

Daniel was a missionary prophet who ministered in a strange land filled with darkness and idolatry. Yet, Daniel brought relief to the Jewish people under Babylonian bondage, and release to many who were captivated by Babylonian idolatry.

Rae said Daniel was able to be the hands of God because he saw the needs of others.

“You and I today are called to be the hands of Christ in such a world and we cannot do that until we have seen,” he said. “We need to see what’s going on to people all around us before we can be the hands of Christ to a needy world.”

Rae illustrated how Daniel was able to see past the theological and cultural differences of the Babylonians in order to be the hands of God. In the same way, modern believers should look past insignificant differences to take the gospel to those in need.

“So many times, instead of us seeing people who need the touch of Jesus through our hands so that their pain and suffering and poverty can be relieved and they can be released from the sin in which they are living, all we see are problems,” Rae said “We do not see people needing the touch of God.”

Daniel’s ministry also succeeded because he refused to blend with the culture. Instead, he stood courageously for the Lord when it was unpopular. Rae challenged Christ-followers to be outstanding for Christ in the same way.

“So many of us are chameleon Christians – when we are with ungodly people we change color and blend in,” he said. “We need to be outstanding for the Lord so that when people see us they see the hands and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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