Missions Begin At Home

Bible Book: Psalms  142
Subject: Missions; America; Working for the Lord

Each year at this time, throughout all of the nearly 40,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, there is an emphasis on home missions. This year the theme of the home missions emphasis is "People Count." Pastors throughout the Convention have been urged to preach on this text, Psalm 142. Tonight, with the help of God, I want to paint a picture of the desperate need we have in America of reaching our nation for Jesus Christ. In our nation we have a multitude of lost people, a multitude of hurting people, a multitude of broken people, and perhaps many people who are expressing themselves, as did David in Psalm 142, when he said, "no man cared for my soul."

A tombstone in Crittenden, Kentucky, has these words: "Curtis G. Lloyd (date of birth) died sixty or more years thereafter. The exact number of months, days, and years that he lived nobody knows and nobody cares. Monument erected by himself, for himself, to satisfy his own vanity." I guess the question that we need to ask ourselves tonight is: Do we really care for the people who are lost and broken and hurting?

Let's look at our text. This is a psalm of David. It was written when he was in a cave. During the  course of David's life, he had rather desperate situations in two caves, one at Adullam and another at Engedi. Actually, David's troubles as a young man came swiftly to a head at King Saul's court. After Saul had tried to have him murdered in his bed, he fled to Naioth. He had a secret meeting with his loyal friend, Jonathan, who promised to find out if it was safe for him to return home. Shortly  afterward, Jonathan returned for a clandestine meeting with David and warned him that his life was in danger. By this time, King Saul was under the tormenting influence of a demon. Nine times in two chapters he tried to have David murdered (I Samuel 19 and 20). Though frightened, David fled to Philistia for political asylum. It was a disastrous move, and he escaped from Gath only by pretending to be insane himself. Back in Israel he sought refuge in the cave of Adullam, a big cave not far from the famous "Valley of the Shadow." It was a natural refuge for the beleaguered outlaw and for those who were allied to him. David's own family came to the cave about this time, because it was apparently no longer safe for them to stay on in Bethlehem. A growing band of desperadoes, refugees from Saul's excesses and injustices, found a natural leader in David. On another occasion, David made use of a cave in the wild desert of Engedi. Saul, with some 3000 chosen men who were selected from all Israel, searched the countryside to find David. The hunt for David blossomed into a national crusade. Saul's whole life became one mad obsession -- get David! While David and his men were hiding in the recesses of the cave at Engedi, Saul came into it, apparently alone, threw himself down and fell asleep. He was now in David's power. David crept up to him, but instead of killing his enemy, contented himself with cutting off a piece of his robe. After Saul left the cave to take up a position with his men some little distance away, David showed himself. He exhibited the piece of cloth to Saul to show the demented king that his crusade against him was unjust. It is against this stormy background that David wrote this psalm. The psalm can be attributed to David's desperate situation in either of the two caves. The psalm was written for our instruction. David felt that the lessons he had learned in his trouble should be recorded to help and encourage others. The first thing that we see in this psalm is,

I. The Picture of a Desperate Man

David was keenly aware of his distressing circumstances. He was the object of a persistent manhunt. He had been refused asylum in Philistia. He had no home and few friends. His desperate condition is expressed in several phrases. Notice in verse 1, he says, "I cried unto the Lord." In verse 2, he says, "I poured out my complaint before him." How wonderful God is. He listens even to our complaints. There He sits on high, surrounded by scenes of splendor no mind can conceive and no pen can describe. Every whirling atom, every blazing star proclaims His wisdom, love and power. He is attended by shining seraphim who sing His praise. And the chanting cherubim ceaselessly proclaim His holiness. Angel choirs shout His praise. The spirits of just men made perfect add their anthems, and yet He listens to our complaints. And then in verse 2, David says, "I shewed before him my trouble." But in verse 3, he says, "my spirit was overwhelmed within me" and "they privily laid a snare for me." And then when you come to the fourth verse, you see desperation compounded with despair and hopelessness (read).

By your presence here this evening, I would assume that your condition is not quite as desperate as was the condition of David long ago. But I want you to know that in our nation there are many people who are living in desperation. Let me tell you just a little bit about the composition of our nation, and tell you a little bit about the people out there who may be crying out, "No man cares for my soul."

Thirty-six million people in the United States of America experience some kind of disability. We can help them. One out of every five adults in America cannot read well enough to read the Bible. They are illiterate. We can teach them.

Beyond this, AIDS is running like a prairie fire in our world and across our nation. Ten to twelve million people have been known to be infected with the HIV virus. One and one-half million of those people are in our own nation. The most recent statistics we have tell us that 182,275 people have died as a direct consequence of AIDS. AIDS is the number one killer among men ages 25 to 44. In God-blessed USA, the number one killer. In the midst of that, we can minister to those caught in the clutches of that awful disease. We can minister and serve in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hunger is a growing astronomical problem. 40,000 children die every day as a direct consequence of hunger and hunger-related diseases. In fact, one out of every five deaths on earth is caused by hunger. Every three days, hunger claims as many lives as the first atomic bomb that was detonated at Hiroshima that ended World War II. In the past five years, more people have died of hunger than were killed in all the wars and revolutions and murders in the last century. What can we do? We can give to help feed them.

Additionally, at this very moment in America there are 459 counties where there is no Southern Baptist church or mission of any kind. And those 459 counties with no Southern Baptist witness have four million people collectively living in them. Some of us may be called of God to go and minister and serve in His name. There are approximately 183 million lost people in America today. That is, they have never had a life- changing, personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the United States is the third largest pagan nation in the world. Only China and India have more unsaved people. In fact, we have more lost people in the United States than any of the 132 countries where   we send foreign missionaries. America is a mission field, and every single unsaved person is a lost soul for whom Christ died. What can we do? We can witness to them and seek to win them as we serve in the name of Christ.

Now, in many instances we may have to feed them. We may have to help them in their disability. We may have to teach them to read. We must demonstrate to them that we love and care, because most of them do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.

By the way, you would be interested to know that from 1960 to 1990 America's population grew by 22 percent. And yet, during that time, the number of churches in America grew only 7 percent. The number of Southern Baptist churches increased by 12 percent, but we are still an under-churched nation. In 1988 Southern Baptists plotted more than 22,000 places on a map where churches need  to be started. And yet, we have at least 10,000 areas that have not yet been approached. The task continues to plant Bible-preaching, soul winning, ministering churches everywhere there are people in the United States. 74 percent of the US population lives in cities of 100,000 or more. Only about 40 percent of our Southern Baptist churches are in these cities. 51 percent of the US population lives in mega-cities -- the cities with a million or more population. And only 20 percent of our Southern Baptist churches are in mega-cities. In the past we have abandoned cities as they changed ethnically and historically, leaving them under-churched and under-evangelized. Today we have begun to turn this around with more than 7000 ethnic churches in our Convention, and almost 2000 African-American congregations.

There are more than a million homeless people in America today. There are at least seven million unemployed people in America today.

There are at least 15 million who are slaves to chemical dependency or alcohol in America today. The abortionists are killing more than a million unborn babies every year.

And not until every person in our nation has heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ can we say that our work is finished. So, in David we have a picture of a desperate man who symbolizes our desperate nation. Now, we have seen the picture of a desperate man, but let us consider secondly,

II. The Picture of a Discerning Man

Notice what David said in verse 5 (read). David was a discerning man because he realized that although his friends had forsaken him, and his refuge had failed him, and no one cared for his soul that God was his ally. And that canceled out all of Saul's seeming advantages. He was a discerning man.

I do not know whether a lost, broken, hurting world is looking to God for help or not. I'm sure that many of them are. But whether they are that discerning or not, we need to be, because may I remind you that we have nothing in and of ourselves to place before a hungry, hurting world. Dare we think       that we can address the hurts and hungers of humanity without the power of God upon our lives? It is foolish and sinful to try to do God's work without God's power. And there is no way for Christians to have God's power except by prayer. Our plans, our programs, our preaching, our proclamations are worthless unless they are divinely energized by the power of almighty God through prayer. Prayer is that slender nerve which moves the muscles of His omnipotence and links our nothingness to His almightiness.

The largest church in the world is in Seoul, Korea. The church claims 600,000 members and adds tens of thousands of new Christians every year. Reading the story of this congregation is like reading new chapters in the book of Acts. What is the secret of the unparalleled growth of the church? The pastor, Paul Yonggi Cho, reveals it by writing, "In our church we have committed ourselves to enter a ministry of intercession. We have learned petition in prayer, so we are seeing needs met. We are committed to devotional prayer, so we are enjoying fellowship with our precious Lord. Yet, we are more committed to the prayer of intercession. Therefore, we are seeing revival in our country, and we will see it in the whole world." No other church on earth has two to three thousand people fasting and praying continuously. That church has discovered the power source that is available to all of us, that will lift us out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary, and out of the realm of the natural into the realm of the supernatural. So one of the keys to the desperate condition of the land is through the discerning man who knows how to pray. We're going to see that David's discerning resulted in deliverance. And so, finally I want us to consider,

III. The Picture of a Delivered Man

David had no doubt that God would see him through. By faith he staked his claim and all that he believed God would do for him. And he speaks of a threefold note of deliverance -- actually long before that deliverance ever came. Notice in verse 7 that he looked forward to freedom. He said, "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name." But he also looked forward to fellowship. He said, "the righteous shall compass me about." He was looking forward to gathering again with God's people, the righteous, his kind of people. And in verse 7 he was also looking forward to fullness, for he said, "for thou shalt deal bountifully with me." There is nothing stingy about God.

David's life had been impoverished in the cave, but soon would be filled to overflowing with bountiful blessings. Look at that phrase in verse 7, "the righteous shall compass me about."

Listen, dear church. As people who have experienced the righteousness of Christ, we need to compass about the lost, hurting, broken people of our land. We need to infiltrate the pockets of desperation and despair. We need to be the salt and the light that God has called us to be. We need to demonstrate the compassion and the love of God. We can all pray. Some of you may be called by God to go into these pockets of desperation and despair to minister, to serve, to become involved. But I believe that all of us can give.

Last night while I was sleeping, the money that I have given for home missions was going to train workers in 23 pregnancy crisis centers in the United States. While I was sleeping last night, the money that I have given to the Annie Armstrong Offering for Home Missions went to support missionaries working in 102 different ethnic groups in the United States that collectively speak 98 languages. And last night while I was sleeping, the money that I have given for home missions went to support missionaries who are working with seamen in 37 different port cities across this country.

Through the Home Mission Board, more than 200 churches were constructed last year by volunteer workers from Southern Baptist churches, just like Eastside. The short term volunteer department of the Home Mission Board sent out more than 58,000 volunteers last year who, among other things, rendered disaster relief in many sections of the country -- all serving in the name of Christ.

Altogether, we can gratefully say that there are over 4900 Southern Baptist home missionaries serving all over the United States.

In addition to this, there are some 2400 mission core service volunteers doing the very same thing. And the most recent statistic we have is that our Southern Baptist family, helped by these missionaries and others, baptized in the name of Christ over 360,000 people last year and started over 1200 new churches -- all of that service in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. You say, "Where did all the money come from to fund all of these ministries and all of these ministers?" It came primarily through the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and it came through the Annie Armstrong Offering for Home Missions. (By the way, I'm happy to report to you that among the more than 1700 Southern Baptist churches in the state of Georgia, Eastside Baptist Church was number four this past year in giving to missions through denominational channels.)


Several years ago I heard an interesting story which hopefully is appropriate. A child was killed by a mad dog. The neighbors turned on the dog's owner, not realizing the guilt and sorrow the man already felt. He became a marked man, avoided and ostracized. This went on for a long time. Finally a draught came. The land was bare and seed scarce. The man who owned the dog sowed the last of his seed and the wind blew it out. The neighbors said, "It is a curse on him!" But the father of the dead child went and sowed the other man's field in the night. When the neighbors found out what he had done, they asked, "Why did you do that?" The grieved father answered, "Because I couldn't let God die in my heart."

Folks, it's a shame for those of us who are born of God to let Him die in our heart through an unloving spirit. May the homeless and the hungry and the hurting; may the illiterate and the unlearned; may the down and out; may the underprivileged and disenfranchised; may the lost and undone never look at Eastside Baptist Church and say, "No one cared for my soul." But may we be a part of delivering people from their bondage, from their hurt, from their hunger, from their brokenness, from their despair.

Tony Campolo, chairman of the department of sociology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, has illustrated this principle beautifully. He relates his work with an orphanage in a third world country. The orphanage was designed to house fifty children, some so debilitated that unless they received intensive treatment, they would die within a few months. The day the orphanage was completed, Campolo and his group took a bus and drove to the slum region where these desperate children lived. When the bus arrived, there were over 200 children waiting. Over the next few hours a process of only selecting fifty was completed. The rest would simply stay in the slums until death overtook them. After the bus had been loaded, the priest who served the Catholic church in the slum expressed his gratitude and asked if the children who had been left behind could sing a song for Campolo's group to show their appreciation for the help given to the others. These emaciated and malnourished children began to sing a familiar gospel chorus: God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He's so good to me. He loves me so, He loves me so, He loves me so, He's so good to me. Campolo said his heart began to cry out in protest. "It's not true. God isn't good to them. He doesn't love them, or else He would not leave them in this condition!" Suddenly it dawned on Campolo, as it must dawn on us, God did love them. He had a plan to deliver them. But that plan was to bring His love to them through other believers. And, you see, God's love is complete in us when we become a part of His plan to deliver those in desperate conditions.