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LET'S GATHER IN THE OUTCASTS!
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, October 15, 2005
"For mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him" (Isaiah 56:7-8).
These verses, says Dr. Gill, refer to the gathering in of outcasts to Christ and into the local church. "Yet will I gather others to him." God speaks of Christ, "Yet will I gather others to him." Note that it is the outcasts, both of Israel and the Gentiles, of which He speaks.
Surely the "outcasts" of our time include college-age young people. The Hebrew word translated "outcasts" means "pushed down, abandoned, not wanted by others." Those are the ones, from "all people," that Jesus gathers to Him.
So, we are looking for young people who feel rejected and unwanted. And this is not difficult because so many high school and college-age young people feel that way. And our job is to be used of God to gather these outcast young people into our church and bring them to Christ.
Outcasts! Unwanted! Do high school and college-age young people feel like that today? You bet they do! Deeply! Baptist attorney David C. Gibbs, Jr. says that young people "growing up in America today face an unprecedented spiritual assault. They are encountering challenges and pressures not experienced by any previous generation of Americans."
Attorney Gibbs goes on to say, "The recent census reported that there are seventy-three million young people under eighteen living in America today…That number…nearly equals the population of the entire state of California." But attorney Gibbs didn't get the numbers right. There are about 35 million people in the State of California. So, the number of young people under 18 in America is more than twice as large as the population of California! But Mr. Gibbs is correct when he points out, "Only eight percent of all American teenagers attend any church" (The Legal Alert, March 2005, p. 3).
What does this show? Why, it shows that young people in high school and college are the ripest prospects for our churches - that's what it shows! And there are well over twice as many of them in the U.S. as there are people living in the State of California!
Go to any mall on a Friday or Saturday night and you will see thousands upon thousands of them. Remember, attorney Gibbs says that only eight out of a hundred you see on the streets attend any church. And even those who do attend are not being reached effectively by most current methods. Dr. James Dobson pointed out that 88% of the 8% who do go to church will leave the church forever before they reach the age of twenty-five. That means we are reaching less than 2% of these young people with the current methods.
What can we do? I'll tell you what! We can gear up our evangelism and focus almost exclusively on reaching these high school and college students. That's what we can do! And that is exactly what our church is doing. Someone may say, "Hymers is directing all his evangelism toward a bunch of kids. That's crazy!" Yeah, crazy like a fox! Just think, in five or six years they will be out of college - making money, starting homes, becoming young adults. I say that churches which shove these kids off into a "youth program" with a wet-behind-the-ears "youth director" are missing the boat! They are missing the greatest evangelistic opportunity of the 21st century!
We need to focus on reaching these young people as a church - and stay focused on them! We already have an exciting and dynamic inner city church. Dr. Lee Roberson called us "The most unusual church in America." O.K. I'll buy that label - but only if you'll say that it shouldn't be unusual! Churches all across our land should be centering most, if not all, of their evangelism on this age group. That's what I believe with all my heart!
Now, what do we give these kids when we get them to church? We don't give them rock music. The world already gives them that! We don't give them a dance, as many churches are now doing. The world already gives them that! We don't give them a place to "pick up" a date. The world already gives them that! We don't give them forty-five minutes of "worship." The other churches are doing that - and it isn't working!
So, what do we give them? We give them something the world just doesn't offer - a group of people here at church that will love them and respect them, and include them, bringing them in with us and treating them like we want them! Love, friendship, eating together, having good, clean fun together - that's what today's young people are looking for. Let's give it to them again tomorrow morning!
Don't get me wrong. I don't pull any punches in my preaching. I'm preaching a good, old-fashioned sermon on the text, "Many are called, but few are chosen" tomorrow morning (Matthew 22:14). I'm going to preach strongly from that text. It will not be an easy or soft sermon, I promise you. It will challenge their beliefs, knock holes in their doubts, and tell them that there is a better way - in Christ Jesus! Will they listen? Yes, some of them will. We had over 25 new kids, from Buddhist, Catholic and other non-Christian religions, with us here last Sunday morning. Most of them had never been inside a Baptist church before in their lives. We had another thirty or forty young people who have only been coming a few weeks. About 50 new young people, along with all our regular young people, and the adults, listened with rapt attention as I preached an old-fashioned fiery sermon at the top of my lungs. And they loved it! Two different Chinese boys grabbed me and hugged me afterwards. One was a first-time visitor. The other had been coming only three weeks with his girlfriend. They loved that "give-it-all-you've-got," old-time preaching. You see, they can't hear that anywhere else! I have to swim every day to at least have as much energy as Mick Jagger displays in his old rock song, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." He's exactly the same age as me. If he can still throw himself around, and hold a crowd at 64, I figure I can do the same thing - for the Lord Jesus Christ!
So, I say, we must have a return to fiery preaching to attract these kids. We must tell them that Hell is horrible and Heaven is wonderful. We must tell them that Jesus Christ is the only person who can save them from damnation - and give them a better life on earth as well!
And, then, we must have fellowship, fellowship, fellowship - and more fellowship! And we must draw them into our fellowship one by one, by knowing them, loving them and accepting them into our homes and hearts!
Remember, the average young person in America is alienated and alone. But our text says,
"The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him" (Isaiah 56:8).
God is in the business of gathering in outcasts, young people who feel unwanted and unloved. And God uses you and me to gather them into the local church and get them converted. The Bible says so.
"We are ambassadors for Christ…we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (II Corinthians 5:20).
Let's do just that tomorrow. Let's look at every one of these new high school and college-age kids as prospects for our church, and for the kingdom of God! We might have to put a tie on some of the new boys. We might have to cover up some of the girls with a light sweater - but let's get them in, preach the gospel to them, and love them in sweet Christian fellowship. They may not understand all the words in that old Baptist song - but they will feel the message if we love them enough.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
("Blest Be the Tie" by John Fawcett, 1740-1817).
I cannot think of a finer or better thing to do as a Christian than to love these young people into our church. That was D. L. Moody's method. He said, "Love them in!" Let's do it tomorrow morning and tomorrow night! Let's love them in!
"The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him [to Christ]" (Isaiah 56:8).
Let's be instruments in the hands of God to "gather" in "the outcasts." Let's not allow a single visitor to leave without someone taking personal time to talk with them and show an interest in them. Let's do it! Let's "love them in!"
Let me paraphrase an old poem,
They drew a circle to keep us out,
Bible thumping Baptists, a thing to flout.
But the kids in our church knew how to win.
We drew a bigger circle that took them in!
Draw a bigger circle of new friends, and bring these young people into it! Let's gather in the outcasts! As Moody said, "Love them in!"
(END OF SERMON)
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