How to Get Volunteers in Church and have Effective Ministries

The following is a list on what needs to be done to do ministry effectively with many volunteers. Some will be pretty obvious, but sometimes the obvious ones get overlooked most often.

1. Insure that all the ministries of the church are loving.

2. Have ministries for different types of people to serve in.

3. Empower and equip the people in the church to do activities through the church that can further the work of the kingdom and fits what they are already passionate about or already doing. Opening up the discussion to the body to come up with their own ministries will create dynamic ministries that the people in your church will be gifted at and can become excited about. Ministries do not need to be limited to the ministries that are already being done. Chances are that many pew sitters would already be involved if the church was taking on ministries that those pew sitters would be passionate about.

4. Make sure that all of your ministries are not internally focused. Too often people get burnt out on just ministering to the flock. Have some outreach ministries.

5. Provide some manly ministries. Many men will get involved in church through ministries rather than listening to a sermon, but the church needs to have manly ministries. Manly ministries would be, but not limited to, a home improvement group that would go around and help those less fortunate fix up necessary projects on their houses or car maintenance ministries that would do oil changes for single mothers.

6. Ask people to serve. Not just in a general announcement but specifically. If you feel someone is gifted yet they are not serving, ask them. Not everyone is going to stand up on their own. Many need to be invited. If they do not want to do what you ask them to do, strike up a conversation about what ministries they might want to be involved in.

7. Give the volunteers the resources and tools necessary to fulfill the job and do the ministry well. Some ministries take finances and the church needs to back these because they are often the most effective.

8. Encourage the volunteers and give clear ministry objectives.

9. Evaluate their service or their ministry. This is less of a critical step and more of an assurance that they are in a ministry that they are feeling fulfilled in and are using their gifts to their utmost.

10. Insure that all of the ministries of the church are loving. That is repeated because it is the most important aspect of ministry through the church. If the ministry is not loving or focused on equipping people to be loving, then it is a waste of the church's time and resources.

The goal is to further God's kingdom and give Him glory. Equipping the saints for ministry and empowering them to effectively do them is an important aspect of healthy church life.

Where did I get the time?

I look back at my earlier blogging days and wonder where I came up with all of the time to blog. That was crazy. I still want to be a regular blogger, but I just do not seem to have as much time.

Now I am left trying to come up with time to write the sermons that I will be preaching next week.

The morning sermon will be on 1 Peter 1:22-2:10. I was struggling with what to preach, but these verses jumped out at me, so I have been reading up on them.

The evening sermon is going to be on what makes God change his mind. [This is actually being changed right now. I guess God changed His mind. :)]

Two sermons in one day seems crazy. If you're in the Antwerp area on March 4 and do not have a church home, feel free to stop on by. The morning service at the Antwerp Church of Christ starts at 10:30. The evening service starts at 7:00.

Watch out for the potholes.

British Psychics

Psychics 'hired to find Bin Laden'

The most interesting part is: "The report, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows 28 per cent of those tested managed to guess the contents of the envelopes, which included pictures of a knife, Mother Teresa and an 'Asian individual'."

I found that pretty amazing. The reporter seem to want to show all psychics as frauds, yet the evidenced showed that 28% of those tested showed some amazing abilities.

My initial reaction is that psychics are immoral. But are they? Does the Bible address the topic of being a psychic? What if the psychic claims that his knowledge comes from God? Would that make him or her a prophet rather than a psychic?

Watch out for the potholes.

a person who left the conservative/fundamentalist wing of the church of Christ/Christian churches

I found this website to be quite interesting.

I haven't had time to deal with many of his issues, some of which seem right and some of which seem wrong. They would be good to have a good discussion about. If there are any that someone would like me to address, please drop me an email.


Watch out for the potholes.

Mummified body found in front of blaring TV

I think this story reveals some more of the sad state of our communities. None of his neighbors knew the man enough to actually pursue where he was receiving care or desired to visit him? What a sad, lonely America.

Watch out for the potholes.

Peter Pan / Great Value peanut butter recall

Besides the seriousness of people getting sick, I find this story somewhat humorous. It tells me that if I have been buying Peter Pan peanut butter instead of Walmart's Great Value brand, I have been wasting my money. They appear to be the same peanut butter with different labels.

It makes me wonder what name brands am I wasting money on and could just get if I bought generic.

Watch out for the potholes.

The different ways of viewing Spirituality

I recently started reading Dissident Discipleship by David Augsburger. I think this is the first book that I have read that has clearly defined the source of disagreement I have with so many Christians concerning spirituality and the church. I find it extremely refreshing.

These are some excerpts from the book:

Monopolar spirituality, by definition, is the inner, subjective encounter with one's own inner universal self, with essential humanness that is reverent toward the uniqueness of the spiritual core that is universally present in all human beings. When respected, honored, expressed clearly, and realized more completely, it blossoms into the private inner experience of sacredness without sacred place, ritual, or tradition--of religiousness without formal religion. In fulfilling our unique humanness, we express our spiritual nature by becoming who we can truly and ought existentially to be and become. In its most individualized forms, monopolar spirituality becomes a designer spirituality that each of us composes of themes and harmonies that are most consonant with our personality and preferences.

Monopolar spirituality is spiritual self-discovery, spiritual oneness with nature, and spiritual sensitivity to humankind.

Bipolar spirituality, is both an inner, subjective experience of coming to know one's true self and an objective experience of existence before God. It is spirituality of a subjective, reflective life lived before the Transcendent, a life in search of and in compliance with the Divine. It questions whether one can know oneself apart from knowing God or can truly meet God as Other without humble knowledge of one's soul. It recognizes the need for self-knowledge and inner discovery, but sees them as inextricably linked to the divine presence and the moral demands it makes upon us...It seeks to know a God who is truly there. It seeks through this relationship with the Divine to understand and to claim authentic freedom for the inner self.

Bipolar spirituality is discovery of, openness to, and participation in the Spirit; neither self as spirit, nature as spirit, nor humanity as spirit; but God as Spirit who calls us, God as Savior who redeems us, God as Origin who knows us, God as Presence whom we worship.

Tripolar spirituality, by definition, possesses three dimensions; it is inwardly directed, upwardly compliant, and outwardly committed. The spirituality of personal transformation (the inner journey), the experience of divine encounter (the God-ward journey) and the relation of integrity and solidarity with the neighbor (the co-human journey with friend and enemy, with neighbor and persecutor) cannot be divided. Tripolar spirituality sees all three as interdependent. No single one of these is fully valid apart from the other two; no single one can be truly experienced without the other two; no two can be extracted as primary or as actually present without all three. I come to know myself not alone, but in the company of travelers; I come to know others not merely in collusion, but in shared commitment to the One who brings us together justly and safely in the triumphant surrender of ultimate trust. Inseparable, indivisible, the three poles of tripolar spirituality each define and determine the authenticity of the other parts.

Tripolar spirituality is the breakthrough in which love of God transcends and transforms love of self, love of God and love of neighbor become one, love of neighbor and love of self become one, and submission to God and solidarity with neighbor are indivisible.

Watch out for the potholes.

A friend adopting

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I have not been a diligent blogger.

A friend of mine has been writing a blog chronicling the important steps in their adoption of an Ethiopian girl named Ramiah.

You can read the blog here.

Watch out for the potholes.

Sunday Evening Sermon - God of Second Chances

We used to watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond regularly. Now with my new work schedule, I don’t get to as much. In Raymond, we see a dysfunctional family at work. An underlying theme to every show is that everyone looks to be more loved than everyone else. Robert wants to be the apple in everyone’s eye, but Raymond always seems to get the attention. Raymond’s mother wants everyone to view her as the most essential person in their lives and she manipulates everyone to secure that position. Instead of being a loving family, their desire to be the most important causes them to be a jealous family.

Raymond’s stories might be fictitious, but the stories are funny because they are reflections of our society. We don’t have to look far to find real life dysfunctional relationships. We usually don’t have to look much further than a mirror. In our society, dysfunction has become the norm, and too often we, who should be freed from such chains, find ourselves falling into the same pits as those who live solely for themselves. Our friendships, our families, our own lives, and the lives of our churches all seem to be failing to live up to the standard God intends for them.

If you would like to turn in your Bibles, we will be reading from Galatians 6 today. Paul is writing to the Galatians about how they can be a healthy church. A church is just a collection of interconnected individuals under the headship of Jesus. For a church to be healthy, the relationships between the members must be healthy. What is the answer to dysfunctional relationships in the church? Paul answers that in Galatians 6:1-10:

Galatians 6:1-10

1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. 5 For each one will bear his own load. 6 The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

It would be sort of comforting if the dysfunctional relationships of our culture stopped at the people of God across this land, but they don't. In 2004, George Barna did a study on divorce rates in this nation. 35% of all adults get a divorce in their lifetime. The percentage within married born again Christians, 35%. The church has succumbed to the pull of people's selfishness time and time again making us no different than the world.

Just like those in the world, or sometimes maybe even moreso, we do things selfishly. We have failed to do the things which the verse we just read states we should. We usually don't restore our brother's or sister's when we see them in a transgression; we just allow them to wallow in their sin and proclaim that it is their right of privacy while probably discussing it behind their back. Paul said in Galatians that "each one will bear his own load" but that doesn't give us a reason to ignore the statement just before that where he wrote that we are to carry one another’s burdens and help restore those we notice caught in a transgression.

Another glaring difference between the community of believers described here by Paul and the church today is living as if we are truly, as verse 10 describes, a "household of faith". The New Revised Standard states it as a “family of faith”. The full verse reads: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” What makes a healthy family? I think a healthy family meets one another’s needs. During the summer, when I was real busy at work and rain came down on my days off, I wasn’t able to get around to mowing my yard and it was getting out of control. My father came over and did it. A healthy family meets one another’s needs. The question we have to ask ourselves in relation to this passage is: Do we really adopt one another as brothers and sisters or do we make a distinguishing difference between our biological brothers and sisters and our spiritual brothers and sisters?

Too often when we compare how well we are doing as people or as a church we compare ourselves to people worse off than us or churches that are struggling more than ours. It would be like judging whether Lindsay, Isaac, Eli, Aria, and I have a healthy family based upon a comparison between my family and those on the television shows like Everybody Loves Raymond or the worst family in the neighborhood. Instead of comparing ourselves to the worst examples, we need to always compare ourselves and our church to the ideal. Paul wrote, “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.” Each man should examine his own conduct. But in doing it, don't compare yourself to others who are failing. That causes us to be judgmental and prideful. Instead, we need to compare ourselves to the ideal. Then we can accurately measure ourselves. Comparing ourselves to others rather than the ideal will prevent us being part of the great things God has planned for us.

Jewel, a singer whose latest album reached the top ten, has a song entitled Good Day where she says, “I might watch TV cause it's nice to see people more messed up than me.” We, like Jewel, seem to find comfort in comparing ourselves to people who are worse off than us. But it isn’t a healthy habit to get into. We need to make every effort to stop comparing ourselves to those around us and start comparing ourselves to the ideal. When we compare ourselves, not to one another, not to people or churches that are failing, but to the ideals that God has planned for us and for his people, the result is always devastating: We are all failures.

It would be depressing if we were to stop here, but this, thankfully, isn’t where God stops.

We serve a God of second chances.

There is a theological error in the church that whatever happens is God's will. The Bible never says that everything that happens is God's will. God never wills evil to happen. However, he does give us the promise in Romans that whatever happens, He will work those happenings for the good of those who love him. He is guiding history for the benefit of those who love him.

However, we have a few arch-enemies that keep us from experiencing the complete life that God has planned for us, one of them being ourselves. When we give in to our own selfish desire we commit sin. Sin is any act where we step out of God's will. Sin is a proclamation to God that we think our way is better than His. When we do that, we don't deserve to be taken back. We don’t deserve a second chance. We've betrayed Him, but God is forever gracious and takes us back time and time again. He is a God of second chances.

He was with Moses. In Exodus 2:11-15, we see Moses step out of God's will and kill an Egyptian who was oppressing some Hebrews. It appears that Moses was trying to force God's hand into liberating the Hebrews. Moses failed by taking God's will into his own hands and not waiting for God's timing. However, we see throughout the rest of the first five books of the Bible that God continued to use Moses to help bring about His will on earth. Moses was given a second chance.

He was also the God of second chances with David. In 2 Samuel 11, we are told the story of David committing an affair with Bathsheba. Not only did he commit an affair, but he didn't come clean right way. He then proceeded to try and cover up the act. When the cover-up failed, he proceeded to have the husband murdered. But we see that God was gracious once again and didn't stop using David to bring about His will. David was given a second chance.

And He was the God of second chances with Jonah. In Jonah 1:1-3, we see Jonah running away from the call God placed on his life because Jonah had no desire to love the people God wanted him to love. But by the end of Jonah, we see that God had used Jonah to bring about His will. And Jonah was given a second chance.

Despite all of their failings, God continued to use those who turned back from their sin and began to follow Him again. God is a gracious God of second chances, and he does the same thing for us.

But I would be mistaken to not mention other cases from Scripture. There is a drawback to our sinning and stepping out of God's will. If I were to just paint a rosy picture, I would be doing a disservice to the word of God and to you. Although he will always graciously accept us back, there are times when our turning away from Him causes us to miss the window of opportunity to be a part of His will. There are times when our actions prevent us from receiving the blessing that God had intended for us. A few stories come to mind.

In Numbers 20:1-13, we see Moses, who was told that he would be the man to take the Hebrews to the Promised Land, be removed from that role because, in anger, he took credit for an act of God.

In Numbers 14:20-25, we see the Hebrews remove themselves from the plan God had of them being the people to live in a land flowing with milk and honey. God is patient and will bring about His will with another Hebrew generation rather than use those who have constantly been in rebellion to Him.

And we also see it with the story of Adam & Eve. God planned perfection for them in the garden. However, their sin removed them from the perfection that was planned.

God doesn't break his promises. Humans do. And sometimes when we do, we remove ourselves from the blessing that God has intended for us. We serve a God of second chances, but sometimes, our actions prevent us from being the people that God can use to bring about His will.

It’s expressed clearly in the parable of the talents. Those who are given some and use it for God’s benefit, receive more. Those who are given and refuse to use it for God’s benefit have it taken away. The key is to be sensitive to the Spirit, trained in the word, and obedient to what God wants us to do.

And that leads us to the big question, "What does God want out us?" "What is God's will for our lives?" "How do we live in such a way that we can be a part of God's actions here on earth?"

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied in Matthew 22:37-39:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

He wants us to love Him, and He wants us to love those around us. Loving God and loving others isn't only an emotional thing of the heart. John 14:15 says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I John 2:3 says, "Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments."

And concerning loving our neighbors John wrote in I John 3: 17-18: "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action."

Love is not some abstract concept. It's action. It's tangible. When we live out the greatest commandments and love God and our neighbors, it is something that transforms the world into what God intends for it to be.

We will continue to find ourselves in the center of God's will when we focus on doing those two things. And when we find ourselves in the center of God's will, we will find ourselves being the solution to society's ills. God's will is brought to earth through the lives of those committed to Him, and he want us to be completely committed to following Him no matter what the cost. We can't expect to be used by God to bring about His will if we aren't completely dedicated to following Him.

I read a book entitled Generation Kill. It was the true story of an embedded reported who traveled with the Recon Marines, the Marines equivalent of Navy Seals, sent in to head up the invasion of Iraq. In it there is a great story about how Major General Mattis chose the Recon Marines to head up a mission they weren’t even trained for:

When the author asked Mattis why he put First Recon into this unorthodox role, Mattis fell back on what sounds like romantic palaver: ‘What I look for in the people I want on the battlefield,’ he says, ‘are not specific job titles but courage and initiative.”

God’s approach is similar to Major General Mattis’ in the way he chooses people to bring His will into our reality. God’s criteria might not be courage and initiative. For Him it is faithfulness and obedience, especially when it comes to loving God and loving our neighbor.

God has a plan for you, He has a plan for this church, and He has a plan for Antwerp and the surrounding areas, but He’s not going to force it. He’s waiting for a group of people who are completely dedicated to loving him and loving others. The question is, “Are we going to be that group?” John Wesley, a great man of the faith and church history, wrote, “Give me one hundred men who hate nothing but sin and love nothing but God and we will change the world.”

God also wants us to be not just individual Christians but a family of believers filled with love for one another and the lost around us. Jesus didn’t just teach one disciple and leave him to train the world. He created a group because he knows that Christianity cannot be lived out in isolation. We are a witness to the world, not as lone ranger Christians, but as the loving body of Christ. He wants us to be of one mind, one heart, and one spirit. If we truly and genuinely live out a life of love, we will be brought together with others on the same path. That is what the church should be, a group of believers united together under the headship of Christ to continue living out His life here on earth. A body like that will change our world.

As I mentioned at the beginning, our society has relationship problems. Friendships betrayed. Dysfunctional families. Children growing up unloved. Marriages crumbling. The church needs to be the answer. Sadly, I don't think we have been. The church in America has failed to be different than the world when it comes to healthy relationships. We are just as likely as non-Christians to get a divorce. Pedophilia springs its ugly face throughout all denominations of the church. People run to the government for help rather than the church. For many, the church is the last place they would go to have their needs met. This needs to change.

Thankfully, we serve a God of second chances, a God who is willing to help us be the people to bring about His will. All we have to do is repent and come back to Him, dedicate our hearts fully to him, not just as individuals but as a group of believers. God wants this church to be a church that loves the world like he does. That, I can confidently tell you, is what His will is right here, right now.

The lost people throughout this town will see the light that shines among us and be guided to the Lord if we completely devote ourselves to, not just being another church, but to being a church that is completely devoted to following God in our finances, in our worship, in our Bible study, in our lives together outside of this building, in whatever way possible.

God has a plan for us as individuals, for our church, and for this town. But we have the option of stepping out of that will, not being part of God's work, and not receiving the blessing he intends for us. He isn't going to force His will on us. But he is longing for a group of people that will step up and place themselves in a position to allow God's will to come about. We always have a choice. We can either choose to be like the world, not completely love God and our neighbors, which will result in the continuing downward spiral of dysfunctional relationships around us and missed opportunities to bring about God’s will, or we can make our second chances count and step into a transformed life that will change us, our church, and our town. No matter what we have done or what we will do in the future, that option is always there. God is always the God of second chances.

Watch out for the potholes.

Sunday Morning Sermon - Are we as a church what God wants us to be? - city on a hill, light of the world, salt of the earth

Growing up with the town ball diamonds in my back yard, I spent a lot of time playing and watching baseball games. One thing that you will notice if you ever spend much time at the ball diamond is that we're awfully hard on umpires. When it comes to professional sports, we say that it is our right since we paid to get into the ballgame. I cannot quite figure the logic out that says I can be mean to people because I have paid money, and I cannot quite figure out why people are sometimes so mean to little league umpires, in which nobody pays to get in. The ball diamond is supposed to be a pleasant setting where boys and girls have the opportunity to learn more about the game of life than the game of baseball. That point was driven home to me recently when I read the story of Donald Jensen. You might have heard this story since it took place in Terre Haute, IN. Donald was one of those guys who spent his summer standing behind the plate, umpiring down at the community ball diamond. During one game, Donald was struck in the head by a thrown bat. He continued to work the game, but later that evening was placed in the hospital by a physician. While being kept overnight for observation, Jensen wrote an eloquent letter to folks whose shenanigans make you cringe or bow your head in shame. At one point he said:

The purpose of Little League is to teach baseball skills to young men. Obviously, a team which does not play well in a given game, yet is given the opportunity to blame that loss on an umpire for one call or two, is being given the chance to take all responsibility for the loss from their shoulders. A parent or adult leader who permits the younger player to blame his failures on an doing the worst kind of injustice to that youngster...This irresponsibility is bound to carry over to future years.

What Donald Jensen wrote that night in Terre Haute is absolutely right. Next time you are tempted to insult or mistreat an umpire, remember him—the late Donald Jensen. The following morning he died of a brain concussion.

Our scripture today will be in Matthew 5, immediately following the beatitudes. In the beatitudes, Jesus shares how those that appear to be in dire straits are actually blessed because of their conditions. He follows that up with what we are going to read today. We will be starting at verse 13.

Matthew 5:13 - “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Before we deal directly with the Scripture today, there is a common scriptural misunderstanding that will prohibit us from proper understanding which we need to address. Later in the Sermon on the Mount which our passage is taken from, Jesus states (in 6:1) – Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, sot that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Jesus then goes on to teach the same concerning prayer and fasting. Our financial giving to the church, our prayer, and our fasting should not be done to bring glory to ourselves nor are they acts that would bring glory to God if they were done publicly. There is no benefit except personal glory for those acts to be public. Jesus was focusing on prohibiting people from doing spiritual actions for personal glory.

If we hold these passages as teachings against any public acts of charity, then we would have a tough time living out Jesus commands to us in 5:16 - “Let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Jesus tells us we are supposed to do our good works in such a way that others see them. Apparently, good works are not included in the right hand/left hand prohibition. It is necessary for them to be public to have the desired impact that Jesus wants them to have.

In one place he says to beware of practicing your piety before others and in another he says to do our good works so that others may see them. We see this contrast in the life of the early church with the giving of Barnabas compared to the giving of Ananias and Sapphira. Barnabas gave with a good heart to be a benefit to the church while Ananias and Sapphira gave for personal glory.

The key is that we are to do our good works so that our Father in heaven will receive the glory. What Jesus was teaching in the right hand/left hand passage is that we should not do pious acts or acts of personal faith so that we will receive glory. Proper giving is a matter of the heart. Good works are to be done publicly if they are to have any impact; however, the good doer's heart needs to be one of humility and submission to God. It is through our good works being seen by others that God will be glorified.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

We are the salt of the earth. Salt is a preservative and a seasoning. I bet most of our homes have salt in them. Chicken noodles can be very bland if you do not have salt in them, but if you add the right amount of salt into the broth, the flavor stands out. Salt has a little flavor, but mainly it brings out the flavors that were in there all along and magnifies them. This is what the people of God should be to the world.

I heard a story of a homeless man who was looking for a handout one day in a picturesque old English village. Hungry almost to the point of fainting, he stopped by a pub bearing the classic name, Inn of St. George and the Dragon.

“Please, ma'am, could you spare me a bite to eat?” he asked the lady who answered his knock at the kitchen door.

“A bite to eat?” she growled. “For a sorry, no-good bum—a foul-smelling beggar? No!” she snapped as she almost slammed the door on his hand. Halfway down the lane the homeless man stopped, turned around and eyed the words, St. George and the Dragon. He went back and knocked again on the kitchen door.

“Now what do you want?” the woman asked angrily.

“Well, ma'am, if St. George is in, may I speak with him this time?”

Too often people view the church as the homeless man viewed the innkeeper, as dragons rather than saints. For us, as a church, to be the salt of the world, we need to be in the world bringing the world to God's full purpose rather than allowing the world to devolve into the state of depravity it will naturally fall into.

There are four ways that Christians can interact with the society around them. (These are loosely based on Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture)

1. Christ outside of culture - We see this form with the Amish and other groups of Christians. They separate themselves from the world and ignore the world. I have never had an Amish try to share the message of Christ with me.
2. Christ against culture - The second form we see in the more legalistic branches of Christianity. This is where the people separate themselves from the world and view the world as an enemy to be squashed, attacked, and defeated. These groups seem to not be filled with love to the people in the world.
3. Christ the transformer of culture - The third approach is what I believe we have to take to be the salt of the world. This view holds that we are to be in the world but not of the world. In this view, Christians feel they must be among the lost in the world, share in the lives of those around them, and continue the mission Christ began in redeeming the world.
4. Christ in culture - The final view is one that is a church killer. It is the view that the people of God are no different than those in the world, nor should they try to change the people of the world into the life of Christ – being good is good enough.

Most Christians find themselves struggling to know which way to interact with the culture. We usually waver between all four. But we need to be the transformers of culture if we are to fulfill Jesus' commandment to be the salt of the earth. Sadly, this does not always happen.

In order to be the salt of the earth, we must retain our saltiness.

It is worthy to note that the salt of Palestine, which Jesus was probably referencing in this passage, gathered from the marshes is not pure. Because of the foreign substances in it, it loses its savor and becomes insipid and useless when exposed to the sun and air, or when permitted for any considerable time to come in contact with the ground; but pure salt does not lose its savor. This verse teaches that God's people are to keep the world from decay and from corruption. We should be a blessing to the world. There was not enough salt in the time of Noah to save humanity from the flood, nor in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to save those cities from the fire. We are to be the salt of this community, the salt of our nation, and the salt of this earth. Christians together can be used by God to bring the redemption of Christ to our society.

One historian says that the average age of the world's great civilizations is a duration of about two hundred years each. Almost without exception, each civilization passed through the same sequence. From bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from great courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to leisure, from leisure to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence to weakness, from weakness back to bondage.

The church can play a role in redeeming society and prevent it from following the natural cycle of bondage. We do this by being the salt of the earth.

Salt is a remedy for unsavory meat, but there is no remedy for unsavory salt.

Christians can lose their saltiness in many ways. Two of the major ways I briefly touched on in talking about the methods of Christians interacting with society. One way is that they get so caught up in teaching that they do not live out the faith outside of the walls that they gather together in. This would be more of a case of stockpiling salt rather than losing saltiness, but the end result is still the same. The world is not being redeemed. The church is not the salt of the earth. All that would have to happen to change this is for the people of God to start living the life of Christ out in the world in order to start being the salt God intends for them to be.

Another way that people lose their saltiness is through immorality and/or false teaching. Both of these makes any of the good works they might do in the world to not have any impact and to be discarded easily.

Christ sends his disciples into the world to live their lives in such a way as to season the world with knowledge and grace. If his disciples are not as they should be, they are worthless and as salt that has lost its savor.

Now onto to second half of this Scripture: 5:14 – You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp, puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others.”

There is a difference between being a light and being salt, and I think Jesus had a purpose in using two separate analogies. Salt has to be mixed with what it is to preserve. As salt, we have to be in the world in order to restore it. As light, we will have to be outside of the world to guide it.

Bryce recently showed me a calendar he did for a African big game hunting business. It was disgusting and amazing, but that is besides the point.

Suppose you and I decided we were going to shell out the 1000s of dollars to go to Africa on a big-game hunt. Now I don't know much about Africa. I know Egypt is in the northeast and South Africa is at the south. Everything in the middle is a bungled mess. It is a great big continent. We would have to get there by boat or air, and once we landed, we would be lost. So what do we do? We hire a guide, a fellow who is a specialist at finding big game. So off we go on a safari with the guide. Sure enough, he does his job, and we come eyeball-to-eyeball with the target. Do we say to the guide, “Shoot him! Shoot him”? No. We say, “Get out of the way.” And then we load up and we aim and shoot.

You never take the guide to the taxidermist to have him stuffed. And nobody comes back from a safari with a huge picture of their guide to line the den walls. What does the guide become? Insignificant. You can't even remember his name. Whether you're fishing for bass in the lake or big game in Africa, the guide is a part of the trip, but only a transitory part. He works himself out of a job. He carries you from the unknown to the known and then backs off and says, “Now it's your turn.”

This is how our good works are to be a light to the world. We need to be to the people of this community what the guide is to the big-game hunters. Our loving actions should shine across our community and shine a light to Christ. But we are to be invisible. It is not about us. It is about God. We shine our good works so that God in heaven will receive all of the glory, but shine we must.

Isaiah 2:2-5 reads: In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3 Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

The “city on a hill” analogy that Jesus used in verse 14 comes from this passage of Scripture. In it we see that God is going to dwell among his people. The result of this dwelling is that other people will want to come to the place of the presence of God to learn what God wants to teach them and walk in the path God has planned for them. This dwelling of God should be among His people that are the church.

Being called the “light of the world” is no insignificant title. This is a title that we see given to Jesus in five different passages of Scripture. By being called the light as Jesus was called the light, we are invited to join in the ministry that Jesus desires to do through us. Without the people that are his followers standing up and living the life Jesus would live, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross will mean nothing to the world. It is only through us joining in on the sacrifice of Christ and surrendering our lives for others as Christ has done for us, that the world will come to know our savior.

The first requirement in evangelism is to have a church that is worth joining! If we are ever to be a city on the hill - If the world is ever to say what Isaiah says they will say - “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord”, the Lord's people must first heed the call to “Come...let us walk in the light of the Lord”.

Ben Merold wrote in the November 2006 Restoration Herald in his section entitled Restore New Testament Evangelism: Our people will do very little in the way of inviting if they do not have something that makes them want to be inviters. They will do very little to invite people to dead services or to congregations that have no unity. I am not suggesting that that our church services must be an “entertainment blast” or a “great show” but I am suggesting two things.

First, our church services must be as good as we can possibly present them. Your “excellence” may not be as “excellent” as the “excellence” of some other church but you can do your best.

Second, preaching and teaching must be done without bitterness, sarcasm, and constant fault finding. I believe it can be strong in doctrine without these “downers.”

When we have good things taking place in the church, people will begin to invite and witness, and personal evangelism will take place.

So how are we doing as a church? If we were to examine ourselves, how would we measure up? Are we salt to our community? Are we the a shining light that people know is the dwelling place of God? Any church should be able to say, “We are not quite what God intends for us to be.” And then the healthier churches would learn how to change and become what God intends for them to be.

Many of you know that we recently spent a year trying to find a church home. During that search, this was the first church we visited and ended up being the last church. The reason this became the last one is that when I look at this church I see people who love the Lord, love His word, and have a desire to do His will. I don't see just 50 people and empty pews. I see a spark. I see a group of people on the verge of being the salt and the light that God intends for us to be. But that won't happen by accident.

Only through prayer, the grace of God, and openness to discuss where we need to improve. I started this sermon with the story about the umpire who was disappointed that parents blame umpires rather than encourage their children to train harder. Too often, I find churches do a similar thing. There are a multitude of excuses that I have heard for why churches are not healthier. We need to make sure that we focus on being complete disciples of Christ, that we are the salt that God intends for us to be. That we are the light of the world. That we are that city on the hill. And this will only happen if we fervently pray, rely on the grace of God, and begin a dialogue on how we should do that.

Watch out for the potholes.

Verizon and their service

Our phone was not working yesterday. (This was after thawing out my washer drain pipe and noticing that when Stucky's installed our new washer and dryer they did not set up the dryer to exhaust outside but under the house. I spent a lot of time under the house yesterday. I think my hand about froze off dealing with the dryer exhaust. The wind would just blow through it, and I was having to work without gloves.) So I bundled up and opened up the Verizon box outside of my house to make sure that the problem was on their end and not mine. It was, so I called.

The thing that frustrated me about this is that Verizon said we would have to be at our house from 8 a.m. to 4:52 p.m. today. They expect people to stay around their house all day and wait around for the Verizon repair me. This is insane. They could at least give a morning or afternoon time. I would prefer a two hour window. I just can't believe this. I guess it's time for deregulation or something.

It is all moot now. I woke up this morning and the phone was working. Still, I like the idea of deregulation. Why do they call it "deregulation" if it is actually the government coming in and regulating?

Watch out for the potholes.