Summary: Unrighteous people vote AGAINST the church with their feet and their pocketbooks in order to "get their way." Righteous people should vote FOR their church with their feet and their pocketbooks. How can we do that?
OPEN: It was Palm Sunday 8-year-old Bobby stay home because of strep throat. When the family returned home carrying palm branches, he asked what they were for. His mother explained "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by". The boy sighed and said. “Wouldn't you know it, The one Sunday I don't go… Jesus shows up!”
Sunday is a time when we expect Jesus to show up. That’s why we get together each Sunday… we’re looking for Jesus. We look for Him in the sermons, the singing, communion, our prayers, the fellowship, and Sunday School. And what we’re looking for is Jesus.
That’s kind of what Peter is saying here: “you come to (Jesus), a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious” I Peter 2:4. That’s Jesus we’re looking for - chosen and precious.
(PAUSE) Now this has always been a great church because Jesus is what you folks have come looking for each Sunday. And I brag on this church all the time. Visitors are always telling me what a loving and kind congregation this is. People always feel welcome. And people often come to us who have been damaged in other churches, because this is a healing church. I don’t know if I’ve ever told you, but I’ve been fired from my first 2 churches – by contrast I’ve been here for 23 years. Any church that won’t fire me after that long has got to be a great church.
In addition, we have Hispanic and Burmese worship services. God has been kind enough to entrust that to this congregation. And once a year, we have a “Unity Worship Service” where all three language groups gather for one large worship gathering and carry-in meal to celebrate that, in spite of the fact that we are 3 different languages, we are ONE church serving one Lord.
And I’m always telling people 40% of the people do 100% of the ministry (compared to 10% in many churches). There’s people doing things around here that I don’t even know what they’re doing… and that’s OK.
There are preachers who’d give their eye-teeth to preach at a congregation like this. And part of the reason is because of how “invested” you folks have always been in the success.
• When the congregation first got started over 50 years ago, everybody who went to Worship also went to Sunday School. And that same group all went to Sunday Night and Wednesday Night worship times. Why would they do that? They did that because they realized how critical their presence was. They believed that if they weren’t there, the church might grow discouraged and so they INVESTED their time in making this congregation a success.
• As the church began to grow, it moved from a house on Clinton St. to a downtown funeral home, to an ancient church bldg. where bats would occasionally join the worship time. And finally they bought this ground and built the fellowship hall. I often told folk that no one came to that part of the church because it was a pretty building. They came because they loved Jesus. These people were faithful as it moved from location to location because they were INVESTED in its success.
• About 10 years ago we (when we met in the fellowship area) we were bumping 150 in attendance on a regular basis and we had no more room to put people. At a subsequent Elders meeting it was decided to go to services once we hit 150 three weeks in a row. It just so happened that our Annual meeting was a couple weeks later and someone at the meeting asked what we planned to do for church growth. Dave was the MC for the meeting and he replied that we planned to go to 2 services. Almost immediately, several members shouted “NOOOOO!!!” When it came my turn to address the group, I sympathized with the negative voices – it was going to be twice as much work and would require twice as many people to make it happen… and I’d have to preach 2 sermons rather than one – but I didn’t see any choice. Jesus had commanded us to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to teach them all that Jesus had commanded. But if we didn’t do something soon, we’d lose our momentum and attendance would drop off. We simply didn’t have the room to grow anymore. So we were left with three options: 1) we could tell Jesus we weren’t interested in growth – and nobody would want to do that, 2) if someone had a $ million in their back pocket we could start breaking ground the next day, or 3) we could go to 2 services. If someone else had another option I was open to hearing about that, but there didn’t seem to be anything else to do.