Someone once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I stumbled upon a vivid illustration of the truth of this statement just this week.
As, hopefully, all of our members know, February 5, 2017 is our Commitment Sunday. Our shepherds are asking each member to make a commitment to how they wish to be involved in the ministry of this congregation. We will give each member an “Involvement Survey” to complete and return before they leave that Sunday morning.
At our Elders and Deacons meetings, the past few months we’ve been talking about involvement in our worship services and in the congregation as a whole. We are concerned about the same people always teaching Bible classes, saying prayers, leading songs, etc. Thus the Involvement Survey we will be filling out on Sunday, February 5, 2017.
What does that have to do with what I stumbled across this week? Well, what I stumbled across this week is a survey that was conducted at Eastgate in January, 1981.
This survey was basically a “How are we doing?” survey. It was passed out to all members and the results were broken down into four age groups (under 20, 20-30, 30-50, and 50+).
In each of the four age brackets, “Involvement of the Members” was in the “four areas of lowest evaluation.” Along these lines several mentioned having the same people lead the worship services all the time, singing the same songs over and over (although some older groups did say they wanted more familiar songs...while the younger groups wanted to sing newer songs that were a little quicker tempo), etc.
Involvement simply by attending on Sunday night and Wednesday night was also a large area of concern. I want to quote a 1981 30-50 year old member here: “What can you do for people who do not feel the need to come? They are missing so much!” Truer words were never spoken. We miss so much when we are not involved in the ministry of the church.
Essentially, in January, 1981 we were dealing with some of the same things we are dealing with in January, 2017. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
I pray that in 36 years when some preacher is poking around the office and stumbles across this Involvement Survey and the results they will say, “Wow! In 2017 they saw a need, met the need head on and really changed the course of the congregation! That Involvement Survey was a turning point in the life of the Eastgate congregation.”
Disclaimer: what you are about to read may upset or even enrage some people. On the other hand, it may make you want to yell, "Bully!" (even if you didn't know that I graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School). This is just my opinion on the subject, though I think my opinion is based on a fair application of the Word of God. In either case, you've been warned.
We are entering a season of the year when many churches, if they still have Sunday evening worship services, will be cancelling them for a Sunday night. The leaders of these churches will say, “Well, most everybody wants to watch the ‘big game’ (or at least the commercials) and so, rather than being tied to a ‘tradition’ of meeting on Sunday night as well as Sunday morning, we’re just cancelling the evening service.”
While, on the surface, this sounds like they are listening to their flock and being sensitive to their flock’s needs, is such really the case? Is cancelling services because of a football game really putting the spiritual needs of their flock first? Is cancelling services ever really a good idea?
I would have to say that it is really never a good idea to cancel an assembly, unless it is absolutely necessary. The elders here at Eastgate really don’t like to have to cancel services...but when the weather is bad and/or the roads are dangerous, sometimes it is necessary for safety reasons.
In the past, I have asked elders to either cancel or “rearrange” evening services on the day of the “big game.” As I have grown and matured in my career and faith, I have stopped asking about this because, well, what does it say when we allow outside forces to tell us when to assemble to worship God.
While it is true that our meeting times are set by our local elders for the convenience of the members and not a matter of doctrine, it is also true that God expects and demands that He be the top priority in the lives of His people.
Also, think about our children. What are we teaching them if we cancel services because of a football game (even if it is only canceling services for our family because we want to stay home and watch “the big game”)? Does that not tell them that it is OK to put other things ahead of God? Does that not teach them that it is OK to put ourselves ahead of others (your brothers and sisters in Christ)?
I believe the same can be said about missing services for other reasons as well. Some folks miss services just because they don’t want to come...really that’s what it always boils down to, isn’t it? If we really want to come, we’ll find a way to attend.
I can hear the objections, gnashing of teeth, and anger of people. “The Bible doesn’t say anything about having to come to church TWICE on Sunday! So you can’t tell me that I HAVE to be here on any Sunday night...let alone that one special Sunday night when they play the ‘Big Game’! Preacher, you’re trying to bind your opinion as if it were God’s law and that’s not right!”
The Bible does teach that the first century Christians assembled as often as they could on every day of the week (i.e. “day by day,” Acts 2:46).
The Bible does teach that we are to submit to the elders leadership and make their work a joy, not a burden (see Hebrews 13:17).
The Bible does teach that we are not to give up meeting together, as some are already in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another (see Hebrews 10:25).
The Bible does teach that we are to make God (and our service to Him) our number one priority (see, for example, Luke 14:26-27).
The question simply is what is your top priority? Is your top priority God, who loves you so much He gave His Son to die for you? Or is your top priority a sports team/league who really doesn’t even know that you exist?
Well, the new year has started. 2017 is here and in full swing. And, well, wouldn’t you know it, I noticed that neither in bulletin articles nor in my sermons have I made the obligatory mention of New Year’s Resolutions or goals.
I believe it is important for us to have goals. If we don’t have goals, then we will never know if we have achieved anything...but if we set goals for ourselves then we will see the growth that accompanies the achievement of those goals.
So what sort of goals have you set for yourself for 2017? Maybe you have an unhealthy habit that you want to stop. If so, you’ve taken the first step. Now follow through with it in 2017.
Or, perhaps, you have not been engaging in a healthy habit and you want to start. Well, now is a really good time to make these changes.
In Acts 3, Peter has healed a crippled beggar. While those who witnessed the healing focus on the healing, Peter uses the opportunity to preach the gospel to the onlookers.
That just might be a good goal to set for 2017. Maybe one of your New Year’s Resolutions needs to be to make the most of every opportunity you are given to teach others the gospel.
Peter simply did what he could do to help a crippled beggar. When those around wanted to focus on Peter or the beggar, Peter put the focus on Jesus and shared the gospel message.
All of us have friends who are in need of the gospel message. All of us will have various opportunities to share the gospel with those friends...or will we?
Jesus Himself tells us that no one knows about “that day and hour” except for God (see Matthew 24:36). The next time you have opportunity to share the gospel with that friend, it could be your last chance...their last chance!
So, please, for that friend’s eternal sake, don’t wait! Make it your goal in 2017 to make the most of each opportunity God gives you to tell others about Jesus. This, I believe is what is most pleasing to God.
“So whether we are at home or away (in 2017), we make it our aim to please Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
Moses warned the Israelites in Numbers 32:23, “...be sure your sin will find you out.” This verse took on a whole new meaning to me over the recent Christmas holidays.
On Tuesday, December 20, I was on my way home from the church building. (Yes, the office was technically closed. Yes, I still came to the office over the holidays...just not everyday and not for long periods of time.)
So I was on my way home and stopped at the light at 412 and Mt. Olive, preparing to turn right. Just as the light turned green, I felt a jolt like I had not felt in probably 25 years. I remember thinking, “What was th...oh rats! Someone rear-ended me!”
I made the right hand turn, then went into the bank parking lot. I called the police and we exchanged information while waiting for the police to arrive.
When the police arrived, he did what the police do at an accident scene. He gave me a sheet of paper with the other party’s information, and, told me I could go (the other guy had to stay a little longer).
So I went home and called my insurance people. They asked if I was alright, and I was. They gave me a claim number and said they would contact the other guy’s insurance. Shortly after that, I received an email from my insurance company telling me a claim number for the other guys company and telling me that if I hadn’t heard from them in 48 hours, I should call them.
Naturally I had not heard back from them in 48 hours, so I called. They were very nice and polite. I gave them the claim number and said they would transfer me to the agent in charge of that claim.
The agent in charge of the claim was also polite as she informed me that the policy of the other driver was not in effect at the time of the collision.
To make a long story short (TOO LATE!), we have full coverage on our cars that includes uninsured motorist and as I write this article I am two days away from seeing my car again...with $3,700 worth of repair work done on it.
As I was talking with the adjuster, I asked him if I should call the Siloam Police Department and tell them that the other driver did not have insurance. He told me that there is a form that Arkansas requires be filled out by both parties and sent to Little Rock. When they do not get a form from him, his driver’s license will be suspended and the tags on any car he owns will be cancelled until such time as he makes full restitution.
It’s illegal to drive without insurance. The other driver took a chance...he (apparently) got an insurance policy just long enough to get tags for his car.
You may think you have everything under control...even those “questionable” activities that you are engaged in.
Just remember what Moses said several millenniums ago is just as true today as it was then: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”