Summary: A sermon on encouraging congregations about not allowing the little things get in the way of our mission in ministry, and give them a a new perspective into the true meaning of stewardship of ministry the Spreading of the Gospel and its living message.
At a recent Iowa Annual Conference I heard a Deputy Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society state, “If the homosexual issue was truly the dividing issue of the United Methodist Church, then our situation would be easily solved.” He went on to say that, the real issue affecting the UMC is the matter of spreading the Gospel. Instead of working to spread the Gospel, our church has wasted too much of its resources pursuing a political agenda. So how can we as Methodists change the course that has been set?
From our church’s earliest days, the spreading of the Good news was our main focus. In the Epistle, Paul reminds Timothy to, Fight the good fight of faith and win the eternal life to which you were called and for which you made your noble profession of faith before many witnesses.(1 Timothy 6:12 NJB). This was the message that the early church made its priority to bring to the people.
I would like you all to take out your Bibles, you can use the pew Bible if you like, and look at 1 Timothy chapter 6 please. Now when I began to do my research for this set of scriptures, most of those who offered starters for this sermon, suggested a stewardship message. John Wesley even used the verses to speak on the evils of being rich. However, I saw a different message in this scripture. Take a look at the first 5 verses of 1 Timothy chapter 6 as I read them.
1. All those under the yoke of slavery must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute. 2. Those whose masters are believers are not to respect them less because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God. 3. This is what you are to teach and urge. Anyone who teaches anything different and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, 4. is proud and has no understanding, but rather a weakness for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and evil mistrust; 5. and unending disputes by people who are depraved in mind and deprived of truth, and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. (1Timothy 6:1-5 NJB)
You see the real issue, as I see it, is not love of money, or what ministry or church doctrine can be tweaked so as to not offend somebody. For as Paul said basically said in verses 3 through 5, nothing is gained by fighting over the meanings of words and phrases as it only leads to distrust and anger resulting in the loss of the true message, the teaching of Jesus Christ.
In the early days of the Methodist Church, it thrived because its message was simple. The Methodist Church went west with the pioneers, the societies were often times the center of social life within the settlements, and with each group the glory of the kingdom went just a little bit further west.
Right here in our own communities to be true, in Nemaha for instance the Methodists were meeting north west of town for about fourteen years before Nemaha even existed as a town.
However, today some churches have turned its attention away from spreading the Gospel. The leadership of those churches has turned away from the mission of spreading the Gospel to the mission of social activism. It seems at times that they have become a church that does not stand on Scripture, but rather a church that uses and manipulates Scripture to promote well meaning, yet unbiblical, ethical ministries in the name of Jesus Christ.
Some churches have gone from a church that professes its faith openly, into a church that believes your practice of faith is a “private” manner to be left at home.
We are about to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the creation of the United Methodist Church. I wish I could stand here today and tell you that the United Methodist Church is harmonious and free of problems. But, that is not true and anyone who has ever been to annual conference and heard the multitude of arguments back and forth between members of the conference, know this as well. People who may be very liberal want the UMC to project one image and people who are very conservative want it to project another and then there are those who are in the middle and riding the fence. People fighting amongst themselves over what faith the church should project.