Raising the Bar On Blessings - 1

Pastor Thornton examines what evangelism means to him.

Richie Thornton
Jun 10, 2018    31m
Pastor Richie Thornton dives deeply into the subject of what evangelism means. He challenges the preconceived stereotypes of an evangelist. You don't have to stand on a corner and shout the word to be an evangelist. You can simply be brave enough to be the church. Share the word with your family, your friends, your coworkers. The key to being a helpful evangelist is to not lose focus and to not be afraid to share the word of the Lord. Video recorded at Pineville, Louisiana.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Richie Thornton: 00:00 Man, I'm excited to be here and, can we just give pastor James some love real quick? I know he's listening. So man it's a tremendous honor just to be here this morning and a wow I can't say how excited I am. You all know, pastor James Guards this pulpit, and for some crazy reason he said, Richie, I'm going to let you take it this morning. So hey, you know, thank you pastor. And we love you, and we are praying for you. And we also welcome the Alexandria campus this morning. Welcome, Alexandria. Good to have you all this morning.

Richie Thornton: 00:39 Well, let's go ahead and jump into it. So we're continuing with our series on raise the bar, and this morning we're going to be talking about raising the bar on evangelism. Can you say evangelism? Now I don't know about you, but whenever I say the word evangelism, to me I feel like the picture oftentimes that we get is you know going to stand on the street corner. And we have our soap box, and you know we stand up, we open our Bible and we stand on our soap box and we just began to preach and declared the good news. How many of you get that vision in your mind? Or another picture we may get, is hey, let's go do evangelism. And so we hit the town and we start going door to door in the neighborhoods, maybe our own neighborhood. And what are we doing? We knock and we say, Hey, you know, I'm from so and so, are you saved to born again? If you died, do you know if you'd go to heaven or hell? And then we offer them...you know, and look that is a form of evangelism, okay? That is certainly a form of evangelism. And I'm not knocking that, but guess what, that's not the only type of evangelism. Do you know that?

Richie Thornton: 01:54 This morning whenever I talk about evangelism, in this context, what I'm talking about is being a witness for Christ everywhere we go. Being a witness for Christ everywhere that we go, no matter what context or situation we're in. What are we doing? We're talking about Christ, we're being a witness, we're being an example, we're working him into our conversations. That's what I'm talking about whenever I'm speaking about evangelism. How many of you know that everywhere you go, there's someone who needs to know about Christ. I mean there's someone, I don't know, maybe you're here, maybe you still don't know the Lord. I pray that you come to know him this morning. But everywhere that we go in every single circle, every realm of influence, there's someone who needs to know Jesus and the life giving message of the Gospel. And so as pastor James shared this past Wednesday, how many of you were here this past Wednesday? Man, wasn't that phenomenal. You know, just a great message, and this is what he talked about.

Richie Thornton: 02:58 I believe one the greatest goals that the devil has concerning the church is for us to keep Christ quiet, keep Christ quiet. That's one of the greatest goals that the devil has for the church. But you know here's the thing, the devil knows that he can't defeat the church. He knows that he can't defeat us. Why? Matthew 15:18 says, "And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Guess what I've read the book, and I know how it ends and guess what, we already win. The devil knows he's not going to defeat us, so what does he try to do? He tries to say, Hey look, I don't mind if you go to church. Hey, you can go to church, just shut up about church whenever you leave. You can talk about Jesus all you want in the building, but don't talk about Jesus once you leave the building. And guess what? I believe we've bought into the lie that coming here once or twice a week is enough. Guess what, it's not enough. It's not enough and there are still plenty of people out there who need to hear the message.

Richie Thornton: 03:58 We've bought into the lie, but guess what, I believe God is getting ready to shatter the lie. I believe God's in the process right now of taking the blinders off our eyes. He's in the process right now of saying look, you all have done some good things, you know you. You've done something up to this point, but we're getting ready to take it to another level. We're getting ready to raise the bar. Come on, I believe he's got great plans. I believe this, we're going to see one of the greatest moves of God that this area has ever seen, this church has ever seen. Why? Because God is waking us up, that we're no longer going to just come to church, but we're getting ready to what? Be the church. I truly believe this, that man, God is up to something. Do you all feel an excitement? Do you feel an excitement, I hope that you feel an excitement, and man God's getting ready to do something incredible. He's doing something incredible, as we're gearing up to be the church as we go. You see the devil has a goal for us, and that's to keep Christ silent. But guess what, God has a goal for us and that's to keep us talking. Come on, we can be the church by just continuing to talk about Christ in every situation. By bringing Christ into every environment that we go, we can be the church, by talking about Jesus. You know talking and sharing about Jesus furthers the kingdom, and it also changes our focus. The words that we speak are so powerful it furthers the kingdom, and it changes our focus.

Richie Thornton: 05:30 I want to tell you a story. Have you ever noticed that when you talk about something, what you talk about, you tend to focus on. Have you ever noticed that? There was this gentleman in Spring Hill, the church that had just came from, his name was Mr. Luther. And man he did so much for the church, he mowed, he was just willing to get his hands on anything. He's since gone to be with the Lord, but man, this guy was a servant if there ever was one, and he helped us count the finances, count the money. And I can't even remember what we were talking about...well one day we're in the office and Mr Luther starts talking about his droopy eye. I've got to be honest, I didn't realize that Mr Luther had a droopy eye until he said something about it you know? And after he brought attention to his droopy eye, well guess what, now all I focused on was this droopy eye. You know I'm like, you do have kind of a droopy eye, you know. And it wasn't until he said something, that I noticed it. And you know, I'm making myself a little vulnerable here by telling you this, I don't know if it's a good idea or not. But my ears, ones a little higher than the other. And so whenever I go to get a haircut I always have to remind them, I'm like now look, don't go by my ear lobe for how you do my sideburns, because if you do one is going to be higher than the other. Then they get to looking and they're like one is higher than the other. So you know that's all to say this, that what you talk about, that's where your focus is going to go.

Richie Thornton: 07:05 You see, our focus will always follow our words. We've got to be so careful what we talk about because that is where our focus is going to go. Let me tell you something. The devil loves it, he absolutely loves it, when we begin to speak negative. When we begin to gossip, when we begin to back bite, when we begin to demand, when we begin to tear people down, when we begin to say, man, did you see how she did, did you see what he did, did you hear? He absolutely loves that stuff because guess what? If that is the topic of our conversation, there's no way that our focus is on Christ. Come on, he absolutely loves it. Here's the thing, our focus will follow our words. You know it works both ways. When we talk about negative, our focus will go towards the negative.

Richie Thornton: 07:52 But when we begin to speak about Jesus, come on, when we begin to talk about his goodness, when we begin to talk about how he saved us, when we begin to talk about his promises, how they are yes and amen. When we begin to talk about God, and how he's good, and how I may have went through something bad. But Romans 8:28, "He works all things out to the good, to those who love him, and are the called according to his purpose." When we begin to say, man, look what God has done in my life. Look at his promises, and any problem that I could face, my God is bigger. Then guess what begins to happen? Your focus will begin to shift. Come on, your focus will begin to go from jealousy, to Jesus, it will begin to go from focusing on your crisis, to your Christ, it'll go from focusing on your mountain, to your Messiah, it'll go from focusing onto I'm too stressed, to I'm too blessed, it'll go from focusing on your condition, to focusing on your position. Why? Because our words, our focus follow our words. And it is so important. What are you talking about? If you see this life in such a negative light, I would check your words.

Richie Thornton: 09:03 Why? Because our focus will always follow our words. Focus is so important, because focus determines our direction. Our focus determines our direction. How many of you know this? If your focus is off, it won't be long before you're off course. If your focus is off, it won't be long before you're off course. Let me ask you something. How many of you have ever been in the vehicle, you're focusing, you're looking at where you're going, and all of a sudden you feel that vibrate. You all know what I'm talking about, that cell phone, you pick it up, you look. Nobody in here does that, that's the Alexandria campus. I'm just joking. I'm just joking. So you picked that phone up, and you begin to look. And guess what, if your focused stays here instead of where it should be long enough, guess what you're going to hit someone or end up in the ditch. Am I right? Come on.

Richie Thornton: 09:54 Here's the thing. I think far too many people end up in a ditch. They end up in a ditch in their marriage, in their workplace, they end up in a ditch in their spiritual walk. Why? Because they begin to look at the distraction versus the destination. Here's the thing. Here's the thing. If we're not careful, we'll begin to focus on what someone else has versus what God has given us, and we'll end up in a ditch. If we're not careful, we'll begin to look at what God's doing over here, and well why is God blessing them like that? Why isn't God blessing me? We'll begin to focus on that and guess what we'll end up in a ditch. We'll begin to focus on ourselves, if we're not careful, and say well what can you do for me? Or how can you help me, versus how can I help you? Guess what? If we do that, we'll end up in a ditch. We've got to be so careful that we're not focused on the distractions, we've got to keep our eyes on the destination. Come on, God wants to take you somewhere. He's taken us all somewhere, but we've got to focus on the destination, not the distractions. It's about focus. Here's the thing it's pretty easy to find, focus is pretty easy to find, but guess what it's so hard to keep.

Richie Thornton: 11:07 Focus is easy to find, but it's so hard to keep, and even the original disciples dealt with this. Luke chapter 9:1-2, "Then he (speaking about Jesus) called his 12 disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases." Verse two, "And he sent them to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." So I want to hone in on something. Jesus called them, he equipped them, and he sent them out. In other words, I could say it this way, Jesus aligned and set their focus. He set their focus. He said, this is what I'm calling you to do, go out and do it. And guess what? Verse 6 of the same chapter says, "So they departed, they went through the towns preaching the Gospel, and healing everywhere." So you see as long as the disciples kept their focus, they saw outstanding and amazing results. But here's the kicker, just a few verses down, we see them begin to get off track. They began to lose their focus.

Richie Thornton: 12:06 And I want to show you just a few of them. Luke chapter 9:46, it tells us, "They began to argue about which of them was the greatest. Then Jesus had to realign their focus." They begin to kind of pick the rank, well I'm better than you, or I'm better than you. And the scripture says that Jesus he basically, he knew their hearts. He was able to read their intentions, and their thought, and what do you have to do. He is like guys, you're off track. He had to come and realign their focus. He put a [inaudible} and he says this, he draws a picture. He says, "He who is least among you will be the greatest. If you want to become great in my kingdom (guess what) become a servant to all."

Richie Thornton: 12:50 Can I tell you something this morning, I believe some of the greatest people in the Kingdom of God are those that are never, ever seen. I believe some of the greatest people in the Kingdom of God are those who are never ever seen. I believe that there's people in here, under the sound of my voice, that guess what? Either at 4:30 in the morning or late at night, guess what you're doing when nobody else sees you're climbing into your closet or your getting down on your bedside, and you're petitioning God for this church, and this staff, and this city, and this nation, and nobody else sees it. But I want to tell you something, God sees it and you're great in his kingdom. There's people in here that when nobody else is here, you're here grinding, and you're doing work for the kingdom, and the church and no one else sees that. But guess what, God sees it. The people up here in the booth that gets absolutely no credit for what you do hardly. Guess what you may feel like nobody else sees it, but can I tell you, God sees it, and I believe you're great in the kingdom. The people in the nursery that are changing diapers so that we can sit here and hear the word right now, they are great in the Kingdom of God. And I just think this is a good idea, this is free and extra, that each and every person should at least go work a service and kids to show some appreciation. You don't know what they deal with. Go work a service with the kids, you'll find out they have a special anointing. Okay, that's free, man they're great in the kingdom.

Richie Thornton: 14:16 The second time that the disciples get off track, and these are just a few verses within each other, verse 49 and 50, we see them lose their focus, "John says Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, but we forbade them because they don't follow with us." Can I tell you, this happens every day right now today in 2018, and this is what it sounds like. Well, they don't go to church with us. They don't go to Journey Church. We don't say that, but they don't look like we do, they don't dress like we do, they don't sing like we do, they don't smell like we do, their hair doesn't look like we do. Come on, here's the thing. If we're not careful, we'll allow the local church down the road to become the enemy. And guess what, if that is our thinking, then we have lost our focus. Here's the thing, we're not competing against each other. We're all fighting for the same team. Come on, if they're not against us, then they are for us. Come on, God had to come, Jesus had to come, and realign their thinking. He's like don't forbid them speaking in the name of Jesus, they're not against us, they are for us.

Richie Thornton: 15:25 Can I tell you something? This is what I absolutely love about our pastor, pastor James. Let me tell you something, he loves Journey Church, that man loves Journey Church, he wants to build Journey Church, he wants to take care of Journey Church. But I know this, if somebody doesn't want to come to Journey Church, he said just go get plugged in somewhere else. Hey, I don't care where you go. Here's the thing, he cares about little c, but ultimately he's concerned about Christ's church, which is big C and I love that. Come on, we've got to be focused on little c, but also big C. And then the disciples missed it again man, they're on a roll. Verse 51-54, we read about how Jesus was going through the cities, he was going to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of him. He said, "Go before me prepare the way, and when they got there to the Samaritans they realize that hey, these people didn't want to see Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. And so Peter and John saw this. They said, Lord, do you want us to command fire down from heaven and wipe this place out and destroy, consume this place just like Elijah did?" Now this is kind of extra right here, but I always kind of wonder, could they have done it? I think they could have, like if they asked that question, I truly believe that they thought they had the power to call down fire from heaven. That's besides the point, but here's the thing Jesus says, "No, absolutely not. You don't know what spirit you're of. I didn't come to destroy men. I came to save men." Come on, he had to realign their focus, they got off focus once again, and the disciples were always getting off track. They were always getting off track because they constantly were losing their focus, and because they continued to lose their focus, they weren't getting the job done.

Richie Thornton: 17:22 And so what's interesting is we begin to see a shift in the scripture. We begin to see a shift. Where were the focus of Jesus was solely on these disciples, as far as sending them out, he called them, he equipped them, and he sent them. His focus was on them, but they weren't getting the job done. They kept losing their focus. And so what's interesting is Jesus turns his attention, his focus, to this group called the seventy, and I believe this seventy is a representation of you and me today. The same way that Jesus called, equipped, and sent the original disciples, he turned to these seventy, and he also called, equipped, and he sent them to do the work.
Richie Thornton: 18:05 Let's look at Luke chapter 10:1. It says, "After these things, the Lord appointed 70 others. He also sent them out two by two, before his face in every city and place where he himself was to go." So once again he called them, he equipped them, and he sent them out. But before he sent them, he gives them a message, come on, he gives them some principles and I want to look at at least two. It gives them some principles to enable them and power them to keep their focus where it should be. The first principle that we see as this don't allow your lack, to get you off track. Don't allow your lack, to get you off track. So Jesus commissioned them, he sent them out, Jesus commanded them. Luke chapter 10:4, "Carry neither moneybag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road." Now what's interesting is if you skip forward 12 chapters, Luke 22:35-36, it says this, "And he said to them, when I sent you out without money, bag, knapsack, sandals, did you lack anything?" They said this, "They said nothing, we lacked nothing." And so he said to them, "But now whoever has the money bag, let them take it. And likewise, a knapsack that he who has no sword, let them sell it and buy a garment, exchange it for a garment."

Richie Thornton: 19:32 So I'm trying to draw something. Do you see how there, does that sound contradictory? Some people would look at that and say, well, Jesus contradicted himself. No, he didn't. He was trying to bring forth a spiritual principle, so that they could apply it. Here's the thing, Jesus wasn't telling them that they could never again have money or resources. He was not saying that they can't have stuff, but what he was doing, was saying I don't want your stuff to have you. Do you hear what I'm saying? So many times when Jesus calls us and he sends us out, we begin to look at what we don't have, rather than what God has for us. Can I tell you something? That every time God has called me to do something, most times I'm not equipped for it at the time.

Richie Thornton: 20:16 God, I feel the call I think you're sending me, but I don't see the resources. I don't feel called, I don't feel equipped. I feel the call, I don't know the resource. I don't know how you're going to do it, but Lord I feel your spirit, I'm about to take a step. Guess what? It's called faith. Here's the thing, we can't allow our lack, to get us off track. This is what the Bible says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness." That's talking about focus and what there is a promise attached, and all these things will be added unto you. Here's the thing, if we keep our focus where it's supposed to be, God says I'll take care of the rest. Don't even matter. Here's the thing, if God's calling you to do something, quit looking at your lack, and start focusing on the destination. Don't get distracted by your lack. Did that communicate?

Richie Thornton: 21:04 Hey Man, I just want to share a quick story with you real quick. I remember my wife and I, we were taking a position in Spring Hill, and this thing it was quick. And we were newlyweds, and we had a washer and dryer, but the washer and dryer that we were using was our sister in laws. And so it was okay that we used it as long as we were in the same town, but now we're getting ready to move, and she's like I want my washer and dryer back. You're not leaving with my washer and dryers, so no problem. And my wife you know she just, rightfully so, she's like, how are we going to wash clothes? How are we going to, you know, thank God she washes my clothes, she'd say well what are we going to do? How are we going to wash and dry the clothes? And I don't know, you know, God can give you a gift of faith. He can impress stuff on you. I said, Joy, I ain't worried about a washer and dryer, God could give us a washer and dryer. And so we moved to Spring Hill. We step out in faith and we're not there for two or three weeks, and let me tell you that no one knew the need. We weren't walking around saying man we don't have a washer and dryer. Could you please, you know, somebody help. We weren't walking around doing that. No one knew the need, out of the blue, somebody said, hey we're getting ready to upgrade, we don't need these, could you all use a washer and dryer? I just smiled. Here's the thing, if God calls you and sends you, he will equip you. Don't look at your lack, and don't allow it to get you off track. Come on, I could go on and on about those stories, but I've got to go, I've got to get done.

Richie Thornton: 22:40 So the second principle that Jesus gave them was don't allow rejection, to become an obsession. Don't allow rejection, to become an obsession. In other words, he sending them out to declare the Kingdom of God. You know that Jesus is coming to heal the sick and cast out devils. And guess what? Some people are going to reject that. Some people will reject it. Some people aren't going to receive the message, but guess what Jesus set them up for success. He says in Luke 10:10-11, "But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say the very dust of your city which clings to us, we wipe off against you" These are the words of Jesus. What would Jesus do? Nevertheless, know this, that the Kingdom of God has come near you. In other words, we need to learn to dust our feet. We need to stop worrying so much about rejection. I don't know about you, but nine times out of ten whenever I don't share, whenever I feel like God's impressed upon me to be a witness, or invite someone to church, or share my testimony. Guess what, nine times out of ten I don't do it, out of fear of rejection. Out of fear of rejection. Well what if, what are they going to think, but God, you see they are a Buddhist or a Hindu. Here's the thing, unless we speak the gospel, how are they going to know? How will they hear, unless we go forth and speak it? We've got to get over this thing of rejection. Here's the thing we've got to keep in mind, if they reject us, they're not truly rejecting us. What are they doing? They're rejecting Jesus. They're rejecting Christ.

Richie Thornton: 24:24 Come on here's the thing we've got to remember, that there's a promise attached to this. Verse 6, it says, "If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it. If not, it will return to you." In other words, this is a twofold blessing, if you go out and you share your testimony, you share the good news of Christ. This is a two fold blessing. Either two things will happen. You shared the good news and guess what? A seed is planted, or that person is going to get saved. But if they reject it the Bible just said that the peace will return on you. I believe this. If we can learn to handle rejection the right way, we can walk with a greater peace than when we shared the Gospel in the first place. Does that make sense? Come on, it says if they refuse, if they reject the peace, it will return back unto you. Come on, here's the thing we've got to recognize, that there's no greater joy or power than doing what God has called us to do. Don't allow rejection to become an obsession. Don't get distracted about rejection. If God calls you to do it, step out and do it. Here's the thing if we keep our focus, just like the disciples, we will see some outstanding results. How many of you are ready to see some amazing results? How many of you are ready to see some amazing results? Amen.

Richie Thornton: 25:40 That was a good patty cake, I'm glad, a quarter of the church is ready to be the church. I'm joking. So after Jesus appoints the 70 in Luke 10:1, "He sends them out two by two into the surrounding cities." And then Luke 10:2, Jesus said to them, "The harvest is truly great, but the laborers are few, therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest." Do you see in the same sense that God called the original disciples, he called them, he equipped them, and sent them. But then he turned his focus to the 70. He called them, he equipped them, and then he sent them. Do you realize that this morning god is calling us, he sending us, and he's also equipping us. Here's the thing that the scripture said, Jesus said himself, "That the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the God of the harvest, that he'll send up laborers." How many of you know that there are real people out there, with real souls, and some of them are real family, and real friends. And guess what? They don't know Jesus, and if they died, they're on their way to a real hell. How many of you know that there are really people that are hurting and they're not too far, we don't have to go far to reach them, that are hurting. That they're stuck in the ditch, that they're stuck in a rut, and guess what? They don't need people that just come to church for an hour on Sunday. They need people who will leave and be the church and say, I know that I've been called, I know that I've been sent, and I know that I've been equipped and I've got a purpose to do. Come on, we've got work to do as a church. We've got work to do as a church. Come on, I believe that there's a harvest out there with our name on it, but if we're ever going to reach them, we've got to get our focus right. We've got to get our focus right. We've got to quit looking at the distractions and begin to look at the destination. We've got to quit being so fearful of rejection. We've got to quit looking at our lack and what we don't have and pay attention to what God has for us. Come on, do you believe he's equipped you this morning? Come on. God wants to send out laborers. Are you ready to go? Are you ready to go? I believe we'll see outstanding results, if we'll keep our focus.

Richie Thornton: 28:08 Will you stand with me this morning? Here's the thing, I believe we can be the church simply by beginning to share Jesus and talk about him. Just by beginning to share our testimony. We can be the church just by simply beginning to do life with others, and bring a spiritual component. Come on, if you have the peace book, that's a great tool. If you have the Journey Church App, that's a great way. I remember whenever I worked at Sprouts and Flower Mound man, the people on my team, they weren't saved. Man I wish I would've had this App to be able to say, man, do you just want to look at what my church is preaching on right now. Look at what we're learning. Guess what? They weren't born again, but I guarantee you that would have influenced their life. There's so many ways that we can be the church. The question is, are we willing to do it? If we'll say yes, I believe will raise the bar on evangelism. Are you ready to do it?

Richie Thornton: 29:13 Come on. I'm getting ready to pray this morning. We're getting ready to close, and man this is where the rubber meets the road. You know we can hear this and we can walk out the same way, or we can say, Lord, I'm ready to be the church. I'm ready to be the church, I'm ready to step up. I know that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. I'm ready to be a labor in the harvest. Come on, I'm getting ready to pray. Go into a time of decision. And if you're a person you say, man, I've just been distracted. I've been distracted, but I'm ready to get my focus right. I encourage you answer this call. Come down here if you are like, man, I've been focused so much on what other people think rather than what God thinks you need to get down here. Maybe you're in here this morning. You're like, man, I know that I've been sent, I know that I've been called on, I know that god's equipping me, but I don't feel it. I just, man, I don't feel like I'm equipped. If you need empowerment, let us pray over you, let us pray over you this morning. Maybe you're in here this morning, you're like, I don't even know the Lord, I don't know what you're talking about. Guess what? You need to come to know the lord. You can come to know him as your Lord and savior this morning. Maybe you're in here, and you want to make a decision to be baptized or join the church. Come on, if any one of those are you, I encourage you, I challenge you, step out this morning.

Richie Thornton: 30:39 Let's pray. Lord, we love you, Lord, we thank you for your goodness. Lord, we know that the harvest is truly plentiful, it's great Lord, let us be laborers. Lord, let us go out, Lord, let us raise the bar on evangelism. Lord, let us get our focus right, not on the distractions, but on the destination. Lord, thank you for what you're doing and what you're going to do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Recorded in Pineville, Louisiana.
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Journey Church
2900 Donahue Ferry Rd
Pineville, Louisiana 71360