Some from the 11th hour preacher party emailed and asked for excerpts from a sermon that included Christian Education, Evangelism and Stewardship. Here it is with a few edits...
As it often is with growth, we might experience some growing pains. Currently I am 5’10” and I remember when I grew six of those inches in a year. Some of you taller folks may remember similar experiences in that you spend a good part of your youth having no idea where exactly your feet are going to land at any time.
I spent years tripping up the stairs, running into immovable objects and my all time humiliation favorite - tripping over nothing. This usually happened to me on the way to or from school while walking with friends. It got to the point where my friends would not even stop, they would just keep on talking and walking while I picked myself up, grabbed my back-pack from wherever it had flung and caught up with them again.
No, growth does not always go smoothly but without growth, there is no life. Too many Christians have stunted growth.
I am going to share three areas where I believe we as a faith, as a denomination and yes even as a local church need to grow.
The first, is education and by that I mean Christian education. Oh there are plenty of excuses - Sunday is our morning to sleep in, we don’t like what’s being offered, our parents never came to Sunday School…
Ephesians 4:14 - We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine… How can we know what is truth? How can we stand firm in our faith when we don’t know what it is we really believe? How can we not be tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine when we don’t know why we believe it in the first place?
The Reverend Very Respected - whom many of you know - has a great line when someone is trying to throw their version of the Bible down her throat. She says, “Umm, that’s not what my Bible says.” How many of us can be that confident in what the Bible does and doesn’t say?
This year, beginning September 10th, our Christian Education program is offering the opportunity of a lifetime. It is called Year of the Bible and that is exactly what it is. One year, one Bible - we read it together cover to cover.
There will be at least two Bible study opportunities per week revolving around this undertaking. That means the same class offered at least two times - one on Sunday mornings and at least one more at another time during the week depending on what works for everyone. Year of the Bible is a comprehensive program filled with incentives, ways to keep up enthusiasm and accountability. Take home resources, the sermons and bulletin and newsletter articles will all coordinate throughout the year with the program.
Year of the Bible is just one way to leave behind childish ways and act our age - Christian Education.
The second area where I believe we as a faith, as a denomination and yes, even as a local church need to grow is evangelism. That’s right, faithful Presbyterians, I said the word. It’s out there now, we might as well talk about it. Oh, there are plenty of excuses - we don’t want to offend anyone, we don’t want to look foolish, our parents never invited anyone to church…
Ephesians 15: 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… What is there to be afraid of if we are speaking the truth in love? What is so intrusive about a simple invitation? We live in a free society, I am pretty sure we would not be here if we did not want to be so why not invite someone to join us? If we are uncomfortable with starting out at the worship level then what about inviting them to Church Event or offer to bring their kids to VBS - it starts tonight at 6pm and goes until 8:30.
It is time to act our age. New houses are going up all over the place. What if we took one of our welcome bags - I brought some over, you can grab them from the back - took an extra bulletin and newsletter, threw in a baked good (store bought or not) and dropped it off? No intrusion. No beating anyone over the head with a Bible (which is good since the study Bible we will be using for The Year of the Bible class is quite heavy), just a friendly, neighborly welcome.
Reaching out to our neighbors, finding a way to share the Good News with the people just next door - is just one way to leave our childish ways and act our age - evangelism.
The third area where I believe we as a faith, as a denomination and yes, even as a local church need to grow is stewardship. Oh my goodness, evangelism and stewardship in the same sermon - Lord have mercy! Oh, there are plenty of excuses - it’s too much math to figure out a tithe, the church doesn’t spend it exactly the way we would, our parents never gave that much to the church…
Ephesians 16: Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. There is no better way to promote the body’s growth than by taking joy in it. Look at the programs and the leadership and the campus and the busting-at-the-seams nursery and the beacon of light in this community that WSC gets to be BUT that does not all happen just by chance.
Those who came before us had the vision to put a church here; they built a Sanctuary and a manse. They converted a schoolhouse into a Parish Hall. Some of you here today took the leap of faith and built a Christian Education building.
We are generous to our neighbors in Christ and neighbors in need, we SHARE, we provide food to the community, we support one another through fellowship events and through prayer. These things take talent. These things take time. And I am on a roll so I am going to say it, these things take money.
It is time to act our age. Are we giving the same amount we have been giving for the last ten years? Has our income raised but your pledge stayed the same? Leaving behind our childish ways means promoting the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Part of building the body in love is responding to that love by joyfully giving our gifts - Stewardship.
The letter to the Ephesians challenges those involved in ministry in the post-Jesus era to grow up. We are to grow in our faith. Three places where there is room to grow are Christian Education, Evangelism and Stewardship.
Gotta tell you, I am feeling a little bit grumpy about these challenges. Actually Grumpy might be the wrong children’s character. I am feeling a bit more like Peter Pan - I don’t want to grow up. All of those excuses I mentioned earlier - those are MY excuses. If I attempt to grow in these things I could lose my footing and crash at any moment.
I could trip up and not finish the Bible in a year.
I could fall on my face and have my invitation to church rejected.
I could misstep and need the money I have pledged to the church.
True, all true. When we step out in faith in order to grow we take risks. It would be so much easier not to do it at all. But when we do not grow, we do not live.
Are we ready to act our age? Are we ready to grow?
In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.