Have you ever walked out of a church service, shook hands with the minister, and said, “Thank you for those kind words, then wondered if you meant it? Well usually you can stand on the truth of the matter because somewhere in the sermon is a kind word or at least the pastor did use the expression “In conclusion.” Many sermons have good intentions but lack the dynamic of taking the congregation anywhere beyond their comfort zone. The question is: “Is a good sermon one that ends with leaving people exactly where they were in their thinking when they came in or is a good sermon one that challenges the lifestyle that leaves people perilously close to the edge of living life anyway they want it?”
There is that seemingly simple ditty that people were taught when they were children. “Row, Row, Row, your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, life is but a dream.” In that song is the philosophy of most of today’s world of people. The key to life is self-centeredness, the rhythm of life is “Don’t make waves.” The goal of life is having fun, because all of life is just an extended dream.
Another question before us is, “What if life is not just a dream?” What if at the end of life there is a real place and real consequences for our actions? What if the rewards after death are more real than the life with which we are trying so hard to reward ourselves? Note: C.A. Roberts deals with this subject in his book, “A Life Worth Living.”
These are the things we must ponder. Someone is standing behind the sacred desk each Sunday morning bearing the responsibility to challenge, not tickle, the ears of listeners. People got dressed up and take the time to come to church. Make it worth their time even if it creates some consternation as to how they feel about being confronted with the responsibility of the life changing power of redemption.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that everyone can get something from every sermon that is ever preached because the Holy Spirit reaches far beyond the words and uses even the most mundane to speak into the hearts of people. I just think about how far the message is challenging me beyond where I am in my Christian growth pattern.
As we look out over congregations that gather faithfully each Sunday, we see a sea of people who have varied needs. I listen closely to the sermons I hear and run scenarios of hope that someone in that sanctuary will be touched by the Spirit and find something personally they can apply to their lives that has eternal value. That includes my own personal concentration of feeding at the trough of pastoral exposition.
Don’t think negatively about this, but meditate on these things constructively. We do not come to church to fill time and space with pious platitudes and neat stories that make people feel comfortable who are not following the responsibility they represent when they accepted the work of redemption. We are here to raise issues related to God’s expectations as to how people should live. We must address the “why” of how people serve and what people are doing in becoming the people they claim to be.
Calling for volunteers is shorthand for calling people out to give back only as they will and not as God wills. Servants and slaves do not volunteer, they serve their master with grace and dignity. There are many who say that they lay claim to Christianity who do not have the vaguest idea of what they are signing on to when they accept Christ. When recently have you heard anyone define the requirements for a servant of God? The New Testament even goes as far as calling us slaves to God as we have in the past been slaves to the world and darkness. People are often not challenged from the pulpits and taught in the myriad of Bible Studies as to what the Bible says God expects from those who claim to belong to Jesus Christ.
Listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading and you will find the reality of Christ’s expectations. Listen to your own spirit and you will be challenged by one of two things. The first would be a decision to do it your way. The second is to lay your life on the altar of sacrifice and allow your life to be directed God’s way.
From the time people enter the door of the church they should feel the expectation for change and challenge. They should see lives changed by the power of the gospel at work. They should feel with anticipation that something is going to happen that will change their lives because the church is a miracle working agency. A miracle because its message of redemption is a miracle that changes lives. A miracle because answers to prayer bring healing to the broken bodies and hearts of its people. Answers to prayer transcend our ability to do for ourselves what God desires to do for us. Remember God’s best interest is our best interest even if we must believe it to receive it.
Ministers only have one shot a week to make a point with their parishioners. God help those who are peddling cheap grace in order to keep the best interest of their donors and deacons at bay. One church officer told me that the minister’s job is to keep the pews filled and the money flowing in. Is that really it? We are in a massive battle for the souls of men. If we can see redemptive victory in the hearts and souls of people, we will find the answer to having the lion lie down with the lamb.
We must row like we’ve never rowed before. We are a called out people who should be shaped, not by the world of frivolous flirtation but by a marked out path to holiness. Make waves. Stir up the water galore. The world of people are being lost because many times the church has less and less to say about the requirements of redemption, sanctification, and holiness in its message. This peculiar people who God has called out is not peculiar anymore. It mostly wants acceptance and often goes along to get along.
A most recent example is the stand taken by David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. His convictions are strong and uncompromising. He stands on his Christian convictions. You might disagree with him, but you can not fault him on his faith and stand in what he believes.
The goal of life is not having a good time but in finding God’s will and purpose for every action and every moment of human life. Happenings are the key to happiness, but peace and joy, given through a relationship in Jesus Christ, put the heart and mind to rest in the assurance that God is in charge of our lives. It’s in the joy of the Lord that we will find strength.
Life is not a dream. The world may say I’m dreaming but as the song says, I know it’s Jesus. More Than Volunteers is more than a book. It is built on the belief that any person who is in Christ Jesus is part of a living organism. You who have committed to be a part of this organism are in this world but not of it in purpose and destiny. Abraham looked for a city. Jesus is preparing a place. We work for the night is coming when no one will work. Jesus is coming again. Everything we are is about “Christ in me, the hope of glory.” The fullness of life here is complete when the fullness of our heart’s desire is to please Him who brought us to stature in Jesus Christ. I will continue to express my thoughts in this belief. During the next several weeks’ blogs I will be delineating the thoughts I have to renew our churches and bring revival to our doors through the unity of the Spirit in Jesus Christ.