Summary: This Sunday, January 8th, 2017, our church will close it's doors. This will be my last sermon to be preached to them
The first time God spoke to me was over twenty years ago. I was traveling down Highway 16 and was almost at Jones’ Exxon when He said, “Look in the book of Acts.” I hadn’t been a Christian very long. Knew very little about the Bible. But I knew that a strong compulsion was upon me to look in the book of Acts.
So I arrived at the house, went inside, grabbed my Bible, told my wife what I had heard, and began flipping through the pages. Suddenly, I heard “Stop.”
I was taken to this passage. Acts 5: 33 - 39 “When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!’”
God then spoke to me and said, “Read this from the pulpit.” Now you need a little background information. At the time, I was attending a church of around 300 people. I was the new kid on the block since we had not been going there very long. In fact, we got there shortly before the new pastor that ruffled some old feathers and there was a huge movement to boot him out. Business meetings had gotten unruly and a couple of times it spilled into services. In fact, the Sunday before this word came to me, we went straight from the sermon into a business meeting and all the guest were asked to leave.
So here I sat wondering what was I to do. I called the pastor and told him that God had given me a passage to read. I may have even told him what it was. He said that he needed to get the approval of the deacons so I figured that was the end of that. However, he called back and said they had okayed it.
Suddenly I am immersed in scripture that I had never seen before. Exodus 32:9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! and Ezekiel 34 1-4 “Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty.”
That Sunday I spent twenty minutes blasting the deacons and the pastor for their ungodly behavior. It was even impressed upon me to tell them that Last Sunday someone was there that needed salvation but instead was pushed out the door so that the yelling could begin. This message came from a hard working, regular Joe, sitting on the back road. That was my first sermon.
The church split. I went with the group that called the renegade pastor to lead them. A new church was formed and I became a leader way before I was ready. But in this church another division developed. We had an elder rule of 7. Three leaned toward supporting the pastor, three leaned toward supporting the lead elder, and I was the one to court. Both men made me feel important and needed. I never realized until later how I was played.
The final outcome was the lead elder was fired causing this church to also split. The pastor left for the missions’ field, leaving the youth pastor in charge but planting the thought that I would need to be the one to run things. Soon a struggle developed between the youth pastor and me over whose church it really was. I rallied my side, he rallied his, and the church split again. Only this time I had nowhere to go. I was without a church and the church I left closed. I would carry the guilt of my being responsible for destroying that church for years.