8/5/07 – Helping People: Our Method
Helping People Find The Way Home
Have you ever thought about how some things just didn’t seem to belong together.
For example a Karate Studio and Senior Home just don’t seem to fit well with each other. Or consider the idea of starting a business that was a combination Pizzeria and Health Spa. I just don’t think that will fly and what about the idea of being both a divorce lawyer and a wedding planner? Nope – it just doesn’t work.
It is far better to focus on one thing and to do it very, very well.
So if we apply this concept to the church – what is the one thing that we are all about? What is the key to what makes us who we are?
Today I’m beginning a three week discussion on what the Meridian Christian Church is all about. We use a phrase, and you have probably noticed it, that when you scrape off the paint, get past the brochures and stop the music – is the very heartbeat of Meridian Christian Church. At the core of our being we are focused on one thing – Helping People Find The Way Home. This is not a slogan. This is not bumper sticker material. This is best way that I know to describe the focus of Meridian Christian Church.
Today let’s take the first two words, “Helping People”. Helping People is our method. This is our modus operandi – or in other words this is how we operate. It is what we do to express God’s love to our world.
But let me hurry to say that this is not something that we have invented. This isn’t anything hugely original. In fact, this methodology has been the operations plan of God’s people since the first days of the church. It is the only method that really works to prepare the hearts of an unbelieving audience to hear – really hear about the love of God which is expressed in Jesus Christ.
Now let’s look together at a little studied passage in Acts 9:32-43 that tells the brief stories of 3 completely different people. They are mentioned by name and seem to have nothing in common between them.
First we shall meet Aeneas - who happens to be a paralytic. Then we’ll meet Tabitha – who happens to be a faithful servant. And finally, we’ll meet Simon, the one we know the least about. Who are these people and what do they tell us today about the work of Meridian Christian Church?
God Cares about Hurting People
32 As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. 35 All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Aeneas was not in good shape. We don’t know his age – he could be a younger man or he could be a senior citizen – we just don’t know. What we do know is that he has been like this for 8 years. For eight years he has been lying in a bed – day after day – 24 hours a day; 7 days a week.
This guy was as useless as you can get. Aeneas could do nothing productive. He just laid there. He could not contribute anything to society. His friends were few and he was pretty much abandoned by most everyone else in life. He was like that branch in a river that got caught in an eddy and was stuck up against the edge of the stream. Aeneas was going nowhere – and going there fast. Imagine what it must have felt like to be Aeneas. It was pretty sad.
We have people like this in our society. Not much has really changed in 2000 years has it? We’ve had in our own community a reminder of this in the situation of both Pam Turpin and Micah Magnesun. In one case there is a tragic accident and a young mother is confined to wheel chair. In the second situation, an artery in the brain stem of young man bursts and suddenly he is confined to a bed in a coma.
It is pretty easy to write off this kind of person. They are unproductive. They offer nothing of value. Yet, God cares and so do we.
God cared for Aeneas sent the apostle Peter to this little town to heal him.
Please Notice two very important things here:
First: Peter tells Aeneas that it is not Peter who has the power to heal – it is Jesus.
Second: Because Peter cared enough to help ALL those who lived in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord.
Helping people who need help is what makes the Christian community different. Helping Hurting People is our method of expressing God’s love.
At MCC we are focused on helping hurting people. There are people in Ukraine that don’t have enough money to buy clothes for their families so we send tons of clothing every September.
There are lots of lonely people with no where to go on Christmas day so we celebrate Jesus birth with them at the Okemos Big Boy.
There are many who struggle with disabilities like those who live at the Rainbow Homes so we invite them into our church, and ask them to join our softball teams and help by being part of our greeters ministry.
There are many who suffer traumatic losses in fires and tragedy so we are launching a ministry through the Meridian Fire Department.
But that’s not all – there is also the Caring People
God Cares about Caring People
36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died…
40 Peter …got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
42 This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.
Tabitha was a helper. That was her spiritual gift. She saw that poor people and widows did not have enough clothing, so she made them robes and other clothing that they needed. She loved doing that. It made her feel good and it made others feel good. Tabitha was a healer and God heals the healers!
And Peter called everyone back into the room and presented Tabitha, now alive, to all of them. Can you imagine the joy and celebration by everyone! Their best friend, who had done so much for them – was forever gone – and now is alive and back with them!
Oh, how we wish this was true for all those who make great contributions to society. We want them to be around forever. We want to have them around to continue to do good, to help others, to be an example for us and for the world.
And sometimes, God keeps those kinds of people around for a long time, in which case, we should be thankful. But other times, God takes them away from us after a while. Not all of them are raised to life, although for all those who trusted in Jesus Christ, will be raised to life one day. In the mean time let us not a couple of important things!
First: Caring People need to be taken care of too! I don’t believe in disposable Christians – you know – use them up and then throw them away.
Second: When Caring People are helped and healed the whole community knows and many begin to believe in Jesus.
At MCC we spend a lot of time and energy on taking care of our caring people. We stay connected to our ministry leaders and workers. I meet regularly with the elders and we lift up the caring people of MCC in prayer. We stay in close contact with Paul and Cathy Kissling and pray for them often. I even sent invitations to the Meridian Township Fire Fighters to invite them to the Band Shell on Aug 26… because we want to encourage our caring people in the community.
God Cares about Ordinary People
43 Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.
And then there is a third person in this passage. We don’t know much about him. Only 12 words: “Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” His name is Simon. He was a tanner, which means he made leather from the hides of animals.
A tanner is someone who takes the hides or skins of animals and dyes them with different colors and then sells the animal hides. So, people can have black leather or red leather clothing to wear or boots to wear.
In other words, this is an ordinary guy. He has a good job – but it’s not a great job. It pays ok, but that’s it. He’s a lot like many of us when it comes to grades in school B’s and C’s – mostly C’s. They can play a little basketball or soccer, they can draw or write a little. Not great stuff you understand – but not bad either. They are somewhere in between – ordinary. And God cares for ordinary people too.
God cared enough about Simon the tanner to have his name and profession recorded in the book of Acts as a lasting record. And God cared enough about Simon to have the leader of the church, the apostle Peter, stay with him.
Notice two important things.
First: Ordinary People are noticed by God.
Second: Everyone can do something that makes a difference.
We care about ordinary people in this community of believers. We put a lot of energy into our Life Groups, our Children’s Ministry, and our Youth Ministry. We partner with His House and Brad Hawes to care for the Michigan State University Students.
What we do for people draws them to God
And we are committed to do more because this is our method of reaching out to people so that they will be drawn to God and his love expressed in Jesus.
I had lunch this week at Culvers with Tom Hampton. We were talking about a number of things when he said that he’d like to talk to me about an idea he has for helping people. I’d like you to hear what we talked about. Tom come on up here.
Interview Tom Hampton
Men’s mentoring program
Sons AND daughters
Broaden to involve men and women and help with after school care from 3-5:30
Will we do all of this? I don’t know. But this much I do know – we are about Helping people – hurting people; caring people; ordinary people.
I know that this kind of church can change the community. It’s not about a program dreamed up by the ministry staff. This is about the heart and soul of the church. This is inculcated into the fiber and it’s impregnated into the dna of the church.
It streams as naturally as the Mississippi River flows into the Louisiana delta. You don’t have to direct it or make it happen it just flows there like it has for centuries.
I want to challenge you to stop thinking of yourself as a consumer. Consumers are constantly worried about themselves and their own needs. They are constantly asking, “What are you doing for me?” And “How does this meet the needs in my life?” These people are not happy people. They tend to be critical, self centered, and easily upset. Don’t be a consumer. Don’t buy into that mentality.
Instead, think of yourself instead as a supplier of God’s loving care. When you begin to see yourself as part of the solution to the hurting, helping and ordinary people in your section of the world – you’ll not only help them but you’ll be changed yourself – from the inside out.
Let me challenge you, if you will permit me to paraphrase a great American President, “Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church!”
Do you get it?
MCC is a church that helps people and that is attractive. The world longs to hear of a people who really care about others. Let us be that people. A people of God’s love and care.
I have two closing questions:
Will you follow Jesus?
This can be your day of decision. Today, can be the start of a new life.
Will you become a supplier of God’s love? If you are a believer and a follower of Jesus we want you to partner with us. We want you to pitch in and help us help people find the way home.