MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN CHURCH
ILL. Many of you grew up in a little town much like the one that I am going to describe to you now. It isn’t very different from many small towns even today. So travel back with me for a few moments to your Hometown, USA.
It was a quiet little farming community where everybody pretty much knew everybody else. It had definite, discernible cultural centers. I’m not sure that cultural is the right word, but they were definite places where people congregated to do special things.
The school was one such cultural center. Almost everything that happened was connected in one way or another to the school. It hosted basketball games, football games, band concerts. It was the community gathering place.
The church was another cultural center. Some would point out that there were more taverns than churches, but no one much dwelt on that.
It had a local newspaper that consisted of one sheet, printed front & back, & folded in the middle so that it consisted of 4 pages. It was delivered to your home for 25 cents a week, Monday through Friday, & you could catch up on all of the latest gossip.
Main Street was dotted with locally owned businesses. They had been in the family for years, from one generation to another. And they provided a fairly comfortable living for that family.
There was a local bank, owned by local people. The money on deposit was earned locally. When you borrowed from it, you borrowed from your neighbors. When you paid it back, your neighbors benefited from the interest.
Your little town was surrounded by farms, family owned, passed on from one generation to another. Mom & dad, sons & daughters, all worked to plant the crops, working together to make a living on the farm.
About this time of year the leaves would begin to turn. Around Nov. 1st it would start to snow, & about the last of May it would stop snowing. Which is one of the reasons why you no longer live in that little town.
It was a quiet little community where kids gathered underneath the street lights at night to play "Hide & go seek." In wintertime they would take their sleds to the park & slide down the hills & breathe unpolluted air. A quiet little community where mom & dad still lived only a few miles from the place where they were born, & their parents before them.
Yet, when your generation came of age, you left that community, & now your children know hardly anything about it other than what you have told them, & the few visits you have taken back there to see relatives. Sometimes you have reminisced about that quieter & simpler & less complicated life. That is all your children really know about your hometown.
SUM. That is the world into which you were born, & probably very similar to the world into which most of the rest of us were born.
I. OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD
A. But today, our world has experienced sweeping, revolutionary changes. The school is now a consolidation, & children are bused in from miles around. Now pupils are reported as statistics to government agencies for the purpose of receiving tax moneys.
ILL. It is obvious that schools have changed a great deal. I’m sure some of you have read the comparisons that have appeared in magazines from time to time.
One article compared the 7 most pressing problems faced by schools in 1940, & the 7 most pressing problems faced by schools today.
In 1940 the most pressing problems were these: "Talking, chewing gum in class, making noise, running in the halls, getting out of line, wearing improper clothing, & not putting paper in the wastebaskets."
Today, the 7 most pressing problems facing the schools are: "Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, & assault."
ILL. I wanted a copy of the new BISD Handbook, but evidently it hasn’t been printed yet. However, here is a section out of another Texas School District Policy Handbook. In it, they divide offenses in the schools into 4 categories, "Minor offenses, Major offenses, Extremely serious offenses, & Expellable offenses." Let me share some of these with you.
Here are some Minor offenses: "Copying the work of another student; Inappropriate display of affection on campus; Insulting or insubordinate verbal interaction; Profanity or offensive language; Secret societies & illegal organizations; Smoking tobacco products (where prohibited)." Chewing gum isn’t mentioned. Not throwing paper in the wastebasket isn’t mentioned.
Here are some Major offenses: "Abusive or threatening behavior; Boycotts, walkouts & protests; Fighting; Possessing & using fireworks; Forgery; Gambling; Indecent exposure; Insubordination; Obscene material; Stealing."
Here are Extremely Serious offenses: "Blackmail; Bomb threats; Burglary; Extortion; Coercion; Hazing; Immoral conduct; Possessing or Using explosive or dangerous materials; (It almost sounds like a war, doesn’t it?), Robbery; Theft; Larceny; Sex violations; Tampering with fire alarms or other equipment; & Vandalism."
Here are Expellable offenses, the things that will get you expelled from school today: "Assault; Delivering, possessing, using, or being under the influence of marijuana, controlled substances, dangerous drugs, or alcoholic beverages; Possession of a firearm, an illegal knife, club, or weapon; Sniffing glue, aerosol paint, or volatile chemicals; Committing an act of arson or criminal mischief which is punishable as a felony."
The little one room schoolhouse is a thing of the past, folks. This didn’t come from the student policy handbook in New York City or Chicago, but from a city in TX. It is where our kids are going to school.
B. The world has changed - sweeping, revolutionary changes. The little family owned business has been replaced by a giant corporation. The little newspaper is gone, replaced by a multi-sectioned paper filled with advertisements, & it surely costs more than 25 cents a week.
The family farm has become a corporation as well. And many of the families that once lived there have moved to the bulging cities. Our world is different, drastically different.
But are the changes for the better, or for the worst?
ILL. There was an alarming article in Newsweek Magazine a few years ago. It was about children growing up in America. It said this:
"Kids growing up in America have some of the most wonderful advantages of children anywhere in the world. We have high-tech equipment to teach them with. We have satellites floating in space so that in our homes we can see & hear everything going on anywhere in the world. Our children have tremendous advantages."
Then it added, "But what are we teaching them with our high-technology? What is being beamed into their homes through the satellites floating in space?" Here was their conclusion: "We are teaching them about incest & child abuse & AIDS & homosexuality. We are teaching children, whose basic instinct is to trust, that our world is no longer trustworthy. We must make them street smart for them to survive in today’s society."
C. We are bombarded with thousands of subtle, effective voices telling us that we must drink this beverage & follow that diet & wear this brand of clothing & drive that car if we are going to succeed in this world. This message consumes so much of our thinking that we have forgotten the basic Biblical teachings of the Christ who commanded us to "go into all the world."
And many in the church are afraid to share their faith because they don’t know their faith. The result is that the world has not heard about the claims of God. It is ignorant about Christ & the teachings of the Bible.
So the world has dethroned God & placed man on the throne. The religion of today is materialistic humanism, revolving around our wants & our needs & our greedy thoughts. That is our world today.
CONCL. "Go into that world" Jesus said, "Go & preach the good news, making disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Spirit."
The second point is Christ. That’s the message, to preach Christ.
ILL. I have an old book of sermons by Dr. C. C. Crawford. One sermon, written in 1927, is titled "The Story That Never Grows Old." In that sermon Dr. Crawford said, "There are 3 reasons why we must preach Christ to our world." Here are the reasons: "Because there is so much anarchy in the world. Because there is so much sorrow in the world. Because there is so much sin in the world."
A. As I looked at those words, I thought, "Dr. Crawford, you could preach that sermon today, because the needs haven’t changed a bit." "Anarchy" is rebellion against authority. We want to be free from authority, so there is rebellion.
There is religious rebellion when we reject the authority of God, or ignore His rules & regulations. We don’t want to obey the teachings of Scripture. So we rebel, & declare our independence from God. But the only real freedom is in knowing the "truth that will set you free." So we must preach Christ because the world is so full of anarchy.
B. Secondly, we must preach Christ because the world is full of sorrow. Dr. Crawford was writing as the world was remembering the horrors of WW 1. He called it "the bloodiest war the world had ever seen." He talked about the pillage & rape & murder & evil that took place during that war.
But we have seen bloodier wars, haven’t we? The stream of blood hasn’t stopped even yet. We are still engaged in battle. We may be fighting different wars now, but wars nonetheless.
We fight wars to save our families. We’re fighting wars to save our schools. We’re fighting wars to save our society. We’re fighting wars with loneliness & anxiety & worry & emptiness. We’re fighting physical & spiritual wars. We’re fighting against all the forces of evil.
To whom do you turn when your heart is filled with sorrow? Where do you go when your heart is breaking, when tears warm your cheeks? Jesus can dry our tears & mend our broken hearts. Jesus can lift the burden of sorrow, & put a smile back on our lips. So we must preach Christ to our world because there is so much sorrow.
C. Thirdly, we must preach Christ to our world because there is so much sin. You know, every evil thing that grips our society, every pitfall that faces humankind, every worry, every concern, every burden that we carry in life can all be traced back to one word. And that word is "sin."
The world may call it something else, but the Bible still calls it sin. And the Bible still teaches that there is only one remedy for sin. You can’t take pills, or read books, or do exercises to get rid of sin.
There is only one remedy, & that is the precious blood of Jesus. So we must preach Christ to our contemporary world. But how are we going to do that?
III. THE CHURCH
A. God’s plan has never changed. He has commissioned the church to "…go into all the world & make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, & of the Son, & and the Holy Spirit." It is our responsibility to communicate the love of God. That’s our message to share.
ILL. I think about 2 Old Testament stories. The first is found in Genesis 11, the story of the building of the Tower of Babel. Do you remember?
The people got along famously with one another. They all spoke the same language. They were so proud of their civilization that they decided to build a tower to demonstrate their own glory. They didn’t need God any more. The higher their tower grew, the prouder they became. Until finally, in judgment, God destroyed the tower, confused their languages, & sent them in different directions. But we are still dealing with problems that started then.
That is why we have missionaries. That is why we have to learn languages, & are a scattered, confused people. That came because of their pride & their declaration of independence from God.
And we’re still doing it, aren’t we? We’re still declaring our independence from God.
ILL. The second story is in Ezekiel. The prophet Ezekiel looked out over a valley of dry bones, disconnected, lying bleached in the sun. They represented Israel, God’s chosen people.
Ezekiel looks at the bones, & he asks, "Can these bones live again?"
God tells Ezekiel, "Preach to the bones." Ezekiel begins to speak, & the bones miraculously come together & form complete skeletons. Soon they have muscles & sinews covered anew with flesh. They were alive once again!
B. But what about today? Here is the church with a Great Commission to tell the world about a loving God, but we’re dry bones. God tells us, "Preach to the bones. Resurrect the church. Make her once again the army of God, to communicate to the world that sacred message that the world so desperately needs to hear."
What will happen when we do that? I think that the church will become what God intended it to be all along.
We will become an oasis in the midst of a dry world. We will become a community of friends in the midst of an impersonal world. We will become a society of love in the midst of a hating world. We will become a harbor in the midst of a stormy sea.
We will become a community of faith, not just an institution of bricks & mortar; raising money & receiving members & starting programs; but a community of faith where we know what we believe & in Whom we believe. We will know the living Christ, & unashamedly we will share our personal testimony with a world that needs to hear it.
If there are some of you here this morning who have never come to know Jesus as your Lord & Savior, we extend the invitation of God to you. We pray that you will respond by giving your life to Him, by professing your faith in Him, by being faithful to Him in Christian baptism if that is your need.
Maybe there are those who are already immersed believers in Christ who need a church home. We invite you to join with us in the ministry that God has given us. We extend His invitation & pray that you will respond as we stand & as we sing.