A Most Excellent Adventure

Bible Book: Luke  5 : 1-11
Subject: Church Growth; Church Vision; Evangelism
[Editor's Note: This message was delivered by Pastor Harris as a vision setting sermon some years ago. It is an excellent example of how to call a congregation to look to new commitments and new horizons."

Luke 5:1-11

Sire Ernest Shackleton was a British explorer. He was born at Kilkee, Ireland on February 15, 1874. He was educated at Dulwich College and served in the merchant marines. He was also a lieutenant in the Royal Navy Reserve. But he is known primarily for his expeditions to Antarctica. He established all kinds of new records in exploring this continent at the bottom of the earth.

On one occasion while he was there, he ascended Mount Erebus, a mountain covered with ice, 13,120 feet high. On January 16, 1909, he determined the position of the south magnetic pole.

On another expedition his ship, The Endurance, got caught in an ice pack and sank. He had to leave 22 men behind. And with five companions he made a 1200-mile journey in a 22-foot whaleboat through the stormiest ocean in the world to South Georgia, an island of the coast of Argentina, for help. After four attempts, the stranded men who had been left behind were rescued more than ten months later.

On his return trip to the Antarctic, Shackleton had a sudden heart attack and died at sea. His life was a life of exploration and pioneering and adventure and challenge.

Before taking one of his trips to the Antarctic, he assimilated his crew by putting the following ad in a London newspaper:  “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages; bitter cold; long months of complete darkness; constant danger; safe return doubtful; honor and recognition in case of success.”

The ad was signed by Shackleton. Thousand responded instantly to the call. They were ready to sacrifice all for the elation of adventure and uncertain honor.

My question to this morning is this: Should God’s children do less?

As I give this concluding message highlighting the report of our Strategic Planning Committee, I want to call you to a most exciting adventure. There are risks involved. But if there were no risks, why would we ever be challenged to have faith?

In our text for this morning, Jesus challenged Simon Peter to “launch out into the deep.” Simon remonstrated with Jesus and said, “We have toiled all night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” And, of course, you know what the result was. Although the disciples had been completely unsuccessful in their fishing venture through the night, they met with immediate success by filling not only one ship, but also a second ship, so much so that the ships began to sink. The Bible says that the fisherman were “astonished…at the catch of fishes which they had taken.”

I believe that God is calling us to launch out into the deep. And what I want to do this morning is unveil for you the three strategies which are being proposed by our Strategic Planning Committee, having considered our mission statement two weeks ago and our ministry statement last week. I want us to get down toe the nuts and bolts of this thing today and outline the adventurous call that’s being issued by our Committee, which I believe they have received from the Lord.

The first thing which they are challenging us to do is

I. Edify the Saints

Whatever we do begins with us. And the first core strategy which is being proposed is that we commit ourselves to growing “seven-day-a-week Christians.”

Now you ask, “What is a seven-day-a-week Christian?”

All right, here is the definition. A “seven-day-a-week Christian” is a believer fully committed to serving God in the task of bringing the lost back to him. The attributes of this individual focus on demonstrating obedience to the Lord on a daily basis through prayer life, witnessing and sharing one another’s burdens. The result is a joyful ambassador for Christ that is a light unto the world.

The attributes of a “seven-day-a-week Christian” are the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians  - That includes “love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” And to that we would also add an effective prayer life and the marks of obedience, flexibility and sacrifice. Actually, there are six things, which are highlighted in the challenge to become “seven-day-a-week Christians.”

1. An understanding of God’s unconditional love and absolute acceptance –God’s love is not performance acceptance – God’s love is not performance-based. When we understand how much he loves us, we are led to the realization that all things work together for good and that he is able to guard what we have entrusted to him. It yields confidence and contentment and removes condemnation, insecurity and inadequacy.

2. An unquenchable hunger to know him – this hunger feeds a desire to read and study and pray and be taught, and to interact and have intimacy with the Father. It takes away any desire for the trivial and replaces the “have to” with the “want to,” yielding a fellowship with the Father and a clearer understanding of his direction in regard to the best path of life.

3. Sensitivity to the Spirit – this intimacy leads to hearing and understanding and obedience, as we trust in what we’re hearing and walk in it.

4. A love for people – we become more sensitive to the needs of others and move out to meet them, producing a ministry within us out of love and not out of religion.

5. Faith in Christ – freedom from circumstances – as we place our trust in the faithfulness of the Father and see trials and tribulations as the pathway to proven character and hope and maturity. We’re no longer on a roller coaster of events, but rather a continuing process of sanctification.

6. Absolute surrender – it begins with an act of will and flows out of the conviction that God’s way is superior to our way. This act yields humility and meekness and allows us to place other above ourselves.

This matter of recognizing that God’s way is superior to our way, and this matter of placing others above ourselves, reminds me of a story about a little fellow by the name of Chad. He was a shy, quiet little fellow. It was in February. And one day he came home from school and told his mother that he’d like to make a valentine for everyone in his class.

Her heart sank. She thought to herself, “I wish he wouldn’t do that.” You see, she had watched the children when they walked home from school and her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other, but Chad was never included.

She decided that she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and the glue and the crayons. And for two whole weeks night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines.

Finally, Valentine’s Day dawned and Chad was beside himself with excitement. He carefully stacked them up, put them in a bag and bolted out the door.

His mom decided to bake him his favorite cookies and serve them up warm and nice with a cool glass of milk when he came home from school. She just knew he would be disappointed… maybe that would ease the pain a little. It hurt her to think that he wouldn’t get many valentines – maybe none at all.

That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. When she heard the children outside, she looked out the window. And sure enough, here they came laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear. His arms were empty, she noticed. And when the door opened, she choked back the tears. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside.

So she said, “I have some warm cookies and milk for you, Chad.”

But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow. All he could say was “Not a one … not a one.”

Her heart sank. And then he added, “I didn’t forget a one, not a single one.” Although he had not gotten any valentines himself, he had remembered the name of every single person in his class. He was so proud that he had not forgotten a one of them.

Now, folks, that’s preferring others above self. That’s an example of service. That’s an example of surrender.

And I believe we have people in our church like that. But in order for us to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish, it’s going to take more than dozens … it’s going to take more than scores…it’s going to take more than hundreds … it’s going to take thousands of us who are committed to being “seven-day-a-week Christians” in all the implications of the word.

So we need to edify one another. We need to encourage one another. By the grace of God, we need to begin to pull one another up to the next level of commitment and service and surrender and sacrifice.

“O the bitter pain and sorrow

That the time could ever be

When I proudly said to Jesus,

“All of self and none of thee!”

But he sought me, I beheld him

Dying on the accursed tree

And my divided heart said faintly,

“Some of self and some of thee!”

Higher than the highest mountain,

Deeper than the deepest sea;

Lord, thy love at last has conquered,

“None of self and all of thee!”

That’s the idea inherent in this phrase “seven-day-a-week Christian.” It’s the matter of being yielded totally to God.

Now, we have summed up the first core strategy with the words “edify the saints.” And I would sum up the second core strategy with the words

II. Enhance the Services

Actually, the second core strategy stated by our Strategic Planning Committee is this “Build a staff and infrastructure to reach out to the investigators in our community and to believers seeking a church home.”

Now, there are five steps to this second core strategy:

1. Implement a Saturday night service in the CAC geared to the needs of investigators and nonbelievers by this coming January.

2. To enable Eastside to produce high quality service and special events geared to believers, the staging, lighting and sound capabilities in this auditorium should be upgraded. The recommendation includes an expanded worship team to be created to oversee the programming of the Sunday morning service and the appointment of a worship team to enhance Wednesday evening service.

3. The Strategic Planning Committee recommends the appointing of a leadership team to examine the feasibility of future expansion of Eastside Baptist into the west Cobb area.

4. As dictated by main auditorium capacity needs and success of the Saturday night investigator service, develop a third Sunday morning service which will be a contemporary service in the CAC designed for believers. This service would be developed by the same team initiating the Saturday night service.

5. Develop a plan for a capital fund, which would be for the expansion of our Eastside facilities on the current and/or in west Cobb.

Basically, we’re talking about the enhancing and expanding the services, which we already have. The Committee likes what we’re doing here on Sunday morning. We do not want to change that. We just want to continue to improve what we’re doing on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening. We don’t want to take away from that. We simply want to enhance what we have; to expand our worship opportunities to other times and other places.

Now, do you know what I’d like to do sometime? We have a beautiful screened in porch with ceiling fan and wicker furniture with soft cushions. This porch is well shaded. And generally about 7:00 or 7:30 in the evening it’s cool; it’s comfortable out there. And I’d like to go out there with a big tall glass of lemonade and just recline in a chaise lounge and do nothing. I wouldn’t want to watch television. I wouldn’t want to read. I’d just want to sit there and feel the cool breeze and listen to the crickets.

And we’re been living in that house for eight months. And you know, I haven’t done that yet. And do you know why? Even thought I’d like to do that, there’s something that’s more important to me than that. And there’s something that has a higher priority to me than that. I guess I’m a little bit like Sir Ernest Shackleton. I like the call of a fresh challenge. I like to call to adventure. I want to “press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

And, you know, we as a church could sit in this beautiful worship center and we could enjoy the sweet fellowship that we have with one another, but there are people all around us who are lost and without Christ and they’re going to an eternal hell unless somehow we begin to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I want to say this. I don’t believe there is any way that you can honestly and justifiably question the motive which had inspired this report from the Strategic Planning Committee. And I believe once you are given the opportunity to carefully study the report, you will not be able to question the method. And if you do question it, I would simply remind you of a story that is told about Dwight L. Moody.

One day a lady criticized Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was, “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me how do you do it?”

The lady replied, “I don’t do it.”

Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

So in the report there’s going to be a call to enhance the services and expand the services. There’s going to be a call to excellence and dedication. Here is a call to get out of our comfort zone.

I have never stayed at the Ritz Carlton. But I understand from those who have stayed there that they major on excellence, and everything they do is done with quality. I hear the same thing about the Parsian Department Store – that they’re always looking for new ways to improve their quality of service and their customer relations.

Not long ago I read Truett Cathey’s book, It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail. And, of course, Truett Cathey is the founder and the owner of the Chick-fil-A organization. And in the introduction to his book, he says, “There’s always a better way. This book is dedicated to helping you find it.”

And in the book they have a copy of their song. Did you know that Chick-fil-A has a song? Here are the words to the song:

We are strong hand in hand

We are happy side by side,

Our hearts are joined together

By a sense of family pride

Every day is an adventure

When you’re striving for a goal.

There’s a spirit of excitement

When we see the dream unfold.

It’s so fun to make our living

Doing what we love to do.

When you’re working with your friends

Every day is fresh and new.

We’re exploring new horizons,

Reaching, striving every day.

And the way we work together

Is the pride of Chick-fil-A.

They’re striving for excellence.

Did you know that the Olympics have a motto? The motto of the Olympic games is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” or “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” These words have inspired and motivated Olympic athletes throughout all the years of the historic games. And this maxim is a call to excellence. It is a call to scale the heights and broaden the horizons and reset the standard and beat the clock and better the best.

For example, back in 1896 when Edwin Flack, a 22-year-old accountant from Australia, ran the 1500 meters at the first modern Olympic games in Athens, his time was 4 minutes, 33.2 seconds. Throughout the years both men and women have run faster and set new records in this race. In 1984 Sabastian Coe of Great Britain ran the 1500 meters at the Olympic games in Los Angeles with a time of 3 minutes, 32.53 seconds. He ran that race and was more than a minute faster than Edwin Flack.

But, you see, Olympians are always striving to do better. They’re always seeking excellence in their performance. And if men and women can do that to wind an incorruptible crown, how much more should the children of God be willing to do that for the cause of Christ.

So we want to enhance the services; we want to expand the services. But not only do we want to edify the saints and enhance the services, we want to also

III. Evangelize the Sinners

As you will notice, the third core strategy is to mobilize the Eastside Baptist Church membership to penetrate the community. I don’t know if you understand the composition of Cobb County or not, but only half say that religion is very important in their lives. 46 percent have been defined as born again Christians, based on their beliefs about salvation. 41 percent of the population is totally unchurched. 26 percent attend church approximately once a month. And only one-third of the population claim to attend any kind of church on a weekly basis.

20 percent of the people lack interest in religion. 15 percent are critical of churches in particular. And 13 percent of the people say that they “do not feel the need” to attend church. So we might well say that 48 percent of the people feel that the church, as it exists today, is not relevant; it does not meet their needs and it has no application to their lives.

Now, let me tell you how I feel about it. If these people do not want to make a commitment to the Lord; if they do not at the present time want to make a commitment to the church, I believe that we have a responsibility of making commitment to these people.

Now, how do we do that? We penetrate the community by demonstrating the love of Christ through a positive, loving involvement, and impact on the community and identifying and ministering to the needs of key affinity groups.

A five-step strategy is suggested at this point:

1. Build relationships with the unchurched in the community

2. Introduce people to Christ.

3. Organize small groups that met other than Sunday morning to minister to the needs of new church attendees.

4. Bible teaching.

5. Personal ministry.

As I understand the New Testament, that’s exactly what the early church did. That early church in Acts literally blitzed their community with the gospel by loving people and ministering to them and leading them to the Lord. First of all, 3000 were saved at Pentecost. They went through Jerusalem like wild fire; Their church grew to 20,000 in no time at all. And the people said, “You have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” Now, isn’t that exciting! “Your message is all over this city.” Well, shouldn’t it be? Isn’t that the idea?

I mean, the whole purpose of our ministry is to add one more voice to the Hallelujah Chorus; one more potential life to glorify God. The church must be committed to penetrating the community.


Perhaps you’ve heard this parable, but I think it’s worth repeating. There was a lighthouse on the eastern seaboard of this country. In the community where the lighthouse was situated, there were a number of people who had volunteered to man the lighthouse and to rescue imperiled ships that came into the dangerous waters there near the shore.

Occasionally a ship would hit one of the reefs off the shore and begin to sink in those treacherous waters. The men from the lighthouse and the rescue stations would be dispatched to go out into those rough waters in small boats to rescue those crew members and passengers who otherwise would be drowned in the stormy sea.

For a number of years, the volunteers at the rescue station worked diligently and faithfully when there was a need to respond to some alarm at sea. As a result of their faithfulness, many lives were saved. The rescue station received a great deal of notoriety for their valiant efforts in saving the lives of those who would otherwise be drowned in the treacherous waters. Because of the publicity, more and more people volunteered to help with the rescue operation. Some of those who volunteered were not as impassioned about this matter of going out into the stormy waters of the sea and rescuing the shipwrecked.

Some of them began to major on renovating the lighthouse and the rescue station. They painted the rescue station and put in carpet and provided new furnishings. They added a game room and a fellowship hall.

The lighthouse and the rescue station really became the focal point of the community. Oftentimes people would come there just for fellowship. They would cook meals there and have parties and banquets. Their gatherings were festive occasions and everyone enjoyed being a part of the volunteer lighthouse and rescue organization.

Although the membership grew, it seemed to become more difficult with each passing year to get the people involved in the actual rescue operations. The few people that did participate would bring in the wet, disheveled, shipwrecked people. Some of the volunteers would complain about how these victims of shipwreck being brought into their rescue station would track in on the carpet and soil the furniture. Oftentimes the rescue operations disrupted their fellowship and became a real inconvenience.

However, some of the people who had volunteered to be a part of the rescue station thought that their intended purpose had been diluted and perverted. So they moved several miles down the shoreline and they established another rescue station with the avowed purpose being to rescue those who were shipwrecked.

For many years they did a wonderful job of saving people from drowning in the storm-tossed sea. They would go out in their boats and they would bring back those who needed to be saved from the perils of the wind-swept sea. By this time, the first lighthouse and rescue station had become only a social club.

By and by, however, the same thing began to happen with the second lighthouse and rescue station. People came in to volunteer who did not have a passion to save those who were shipwrecked. They carpeted the station, they painted the walls, they brought in new furnishings. They made of it a social club. And those who were really committed to rescuing shipwrecked sailors went down the beach a few miles and erected another rescue station.

I am told now that all along this area of the eastern seaboard there are many lighthouses, and there are many rescue stations. But, unfortunately, most of them are social clubs and they do not even have the equipment necessary to plunge out into the sea and rescue those that are shipwrecked.

Basically, folks, the report of this Committee are the report of 22 people who want to see the church become a rescue stations and not a social club.