Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Harmony in God's House

(This is the sermon I preached on November 25th. Our congregational identity survey had revealed a variety of opinions and ideas about the direction of the church. The message was given in hopes of helping people see how we should react and respond to each other when we have differences of opinion in the church.)

Romans 12:16 - Live in harmony with one another.

Pastors are reporting an outbreak of a disorder in their churches: RHD
RHD = Relational Harmony Disorder
And researchers are already at work to develop a little yellow pill to cure it, the proposed name for the new pill - Harmonex.

Harmony is the pleasing combination of elements into a whole.
It requires both diversity and unity. If you have only diversity, you will experience discord.
If you have only unity, you will experience unison. Harmony is the result of developing unity in the midst of diversity. Harmony, therefore, is hard work. That is why choirs and bands have to spend so much time practicing together.

Seven Steps to Harmony (from Romans chapters 14 & 15):

Hold back judgment on matters of opinion - 14:1
Avoid looking down on those who aren't up with you - 14:3
Realize that you live to please the Lord first - 14:12
Make sure you don't cause others to stumble - 14:13
Only do that which leads to peace and accord - 14:19
Never make a big deal about your personal opinions - 14:22
Yield personal preferences for the common good - 15:1

God doesn't expect nor want "unison" in the church. But because we haven't learned how to have "harmony" together when we don't have "unison" we often resort to quarrels and fights.

Good Church Motto: Everyone has their say; the majority gets their way;
and after the vote, the minority gets on the boat.

Two Questions: Are you doing everything you can to bring harmony in God's house?
If not, what do you need to change about your attitudes, your actions, and your words?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Church Thanksgiving Meal

Our local congregation had an annual Thanksgiving meal together on Sunday night, November 18th. Ernie Glenn and the men of the church fixed some fine turkey and ham along with some of the best dressing I have ever eaten. I sure hope that the church I serve next year has a similar tradition.

We actually had two church Thanksgiving meals on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The one mentioned above and the Eucharist on Sunday morning. The sacrament that we now commonly call by the names of The Lord's Supper or Holy Communion was first called The Eucharist by the early church. The term - Eucharist - literally means "giving of thanks". So our congregation gathered around the table of our Lord to give thanks for the blessings of salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My sermon was entitled: The Thanksgiving Catalog and was taken from Psalm 103.
Two quotes from the message:
"There are two kinds of people; those who receive everything with gratitude and those who take everything for granted."
"A.W. Tozer once said, 'We can not be too grateful, for it would be like loving too much or being too kind.'"

I will post a summary of the November 25th sermon soon as well as one final pre-Christmas Transition Team update before the team takes a six week break for the holiday season.

Pam and I spent three days in Kentucky with Elizabeth and Trey (daughter and son-in-law) for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful visit. I pray that you had a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Servant Evangelism

Sunday afternoon, November 11th, almost 50 people gathered at the church to go out for "Sunday Serve". There were four ways for the folk to serve.
1) Go door to door and offer a free 9 volt battery for the home's smoke detector. We told the people that God cared about their lives and so did we; therefore, we wanted to give them a battery as a gift. We gave away 100 batteries.
2) Go to a local nursing home to visit those who seldom have visitors. We got the room numbers of 7-8 people and sent the folk out to "love up on them". We just wanted them to know that God had not forgotten about them.
3) Go the Crisis Center and sort bunches and bunches of clothes so that the staff would be free to better serve those who come in needing assistance. This is a dirty job but somebody needs to do it!
4) Those who could not go out got on their knees and prayed for those who went out and for those who were being served. Without the Spirit of God going before us and behind us our efforts are in vain!
As we gathered together after our service projects there were so many smiles as we experienced the joy of serving in Jesus' name.

November 11th was also the day that everyone returned the Operation Christmas Child boxes filled with goodies, toys and necessities for children around the world. We had 64 boxes collected and delivered to Samaritan's Purse. Many of us got to experience the joy of sharing in the name of Jesus!

Upcoming Service Projects: 1) Community Thanksgiving Meal - Several area churches combine their efforts on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to provide a nice meal for shut-ins, the elderly and anyone else who would like a hot meal. Several in our congregation are very involved in this project.
2) Rally Point for the Christian Bikers "Toys for Tots" Ride - Several hundred bikers tour the county and distribute free toys to underprivileged children. Our church serves free coffee and cookies to all the bikers and the families of the children while they are on our parking lot.
3) GIFT Shop - "God Inspired Free Toys". Several of our young adults and others have been prompted to start this new ministry. The week before Christmas they will be giving new and gently used toys to underprivileged children in the community.

It is exciting to see so many people putting on their "service aprons" and discovering the joy of sacrifice for Jesus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

CSI Pizza Party Follow-Up

First, an update for those who may not know and to explain the gap in my postings on this blog. About an hour after I posted the previous blog we received news that my father-in-law had passed away. He had been in failing health for years so it was not a total shock. The nursing home staff where he resided found him in his bed and he had just died so we did not realize that his passing was imminent. He was a godly man who had faithfully served in a jail ministry for almost 30 years so he was ready to go home to be with his Lord and previously deceased spouse.
Because of the death in our family I was unable to present for the CSI Pizza Party. The Transition Team led the event very, very well without me. I knew they would! The following is the report that I received from the team about the evening.
Everyone enjoyed as much pizza as they wanted. The team then sent the teens and youth sponsors out with about 10 leftover pizzas to give them away in the neighborhood around the church. This was just one more component in our efforts to improve our "servant evangelism". More will be shared in the next post about servant evangelism at First Wesleyan.
Lisa Herman shared the conclusions from the congregational survey. These conclusions were given in the previous post on this blog. The congregation had gathered around the tables in small groups for discussion. People had been assigned to tables by a random draw of names from a bowl. The groups were given the opportunity to reflect and discuss the findings from the survey.
Once this discussion was concluded the groups were instructed to brainstorm on ways that we as a congregation could do a better job of reaching out into the community around us. All of the ideas were written down by the team member at each table so that the team could compile a master list to present to our church board.
As the team is concluding our work on the current task of "determining our congregational identity" and preparing to move to our next task of "embracing the new pastor and our future" the team is working on a preliminary church profile before we take a much deserved Christmas break. The team will do enough of this next task so that we can present a church and pastor profile to the church board by March 1st so that they can begin the search process. But the team must also work on the last task of "examining leadership and decision-making concerns" before the church elections in the spring and the team's intentional interim assignment is completed.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

C.S.I. Pizza Party

The Transition Team is hosting a pizza party to do some C.S.I. work on Sunday night, November 4th. The response to the recent congregational survey has been great (87 surveys were returned) and now the team wants to share what “the survey says”. We will have an ample supply of regular and dessert pizza for everyone.
After the pizza, the team will share what “the survey says” and the congregation will have small group discussions at our tables. First we will discuss our thoughts about the survey results and then we will brainstorm ideas for ways that the church can move forward into the future. Copies of the survey results will be available for those who would like to receive one.
This is the third of the congregational meetings led by the Transition Team. These meetings are opportunities for every member of the congregation to participate in the intentional interim process. Completing surveys is important and valuable data is received. But congregational involvement in the meetings actively engages everyone in the work of refocusing our church onto the true mission and work that God is calling us to do. Come, spend the evening with your church family, enjoy the fellowship and engage in the work of the church.
The following is a summary of the team’s conclusions from the surveys:
Affirmation #1 – Most people are experiencing meaningful worship services at our church.
Affirmation #2 – Most members appreciate their church and that it positively impacts them spiritually.
Observation #1 – The vast majority of the members of the congregation lives in close proximity to the church building.
Observation #2 – Generally speaking, the 9 am service involves people who are longer term church attenders while the 11 am service involves people who have started attending the church more recently.
Observation #3 – The church still deals with some residual effect of earlier conflicts and the congregation needs to deal with conflict in Christian and constructive ways in the future.
Observation #4 – The music and worship style is very important to those who attend the 11 am service but some in the 9 am service don’t yet understand the need for a contemporary type service.
Opinion #1 – Our Church has become an inwardly focused congregation that does a very good job of caring for and ministering to our own members and their needs. But the members still realize that the church should be just as concerned with others outside of the church.
Opinion #2 – The first place that our congregation needs to reach out to if it is serious about “sharing the good news of the Gospel with the unchurched” is the area immediately around the church building.
Opinion #3 – There needs to be some congregational thought and decisions made about the intentions and use of the Building Fund with special attention given to the church’s transportation concerns.
The following items had data that reflected wide differences of opinions on the subject:
Inconclusive Data #1 – Training members for ministry and service.
Inconclusive Data #2 – Open discussion of important church decisions.
Inconclusive Data #3 – Attitude about the church’s future.