Summary: A sermon on Christian stewardship.
Mark 4:2-9, 13-20
“Shall We be Fruitful or Unfruitful? That is the Question.”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Not too terribly long ago, one of America’s most successful newspaper publishers was forced to close its doors.
A TV reporter interviewed one of their Pulitzer Prize winning journalists and simply asked: “Why?”
The journalist responded: “We forgot our purpose.”
This can happen to churches as well…and sadly it is happening to a lot of them.
Many congregations that were once filled with children, young adults, and families are now limping along with few—if any children,
few—if any young adults,
few—if any families.
Where did things go wrong?
Was it that the buildings were not beautiful and big enough?
Was it that the pews were not cushioned just right?
Was it that there were not enough Sunday school classes, Wednesday night dinners, picnics and activities?
Why did new people stop coming to these churches?
Why did the children who grew up in these churches—not continue to come—bringing along their own children?
Could it be that many of America’s mainline churches forgot their purpose?
Could it be that for the past few generations these churches were no longer aware of the reason why they even existed?
Could it be that the children growing up in these churches—didn’t have a life changing experience with Jesus Christ—nor were they even exposed to those who were having one…and therefore, now see no reason for attending church?
Could it be that simple?
In the early 1980’s my family moved to Syracuse, New York and joined a big and thriving United Methodist Church with approximately a thousand members.
The pastor was great!
And although I was very young at the time, I remember a number of his sermons.
I also remember that there were a large group of young adults who’s lives had been changed so radically by the Word of God, that one Sunday, the pastor had them stand-up in front of the congregation and tell what they ‘used to be like’, or how ‘they used to behave’, before they accepted God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ—and were born again!!!
Now, I must admit, that as a young kid I didn’t quiet understand all this talk about being born again, and I didn’t fully understand why these people had once lived such different lives.
One thing that did come through to me loud and clear was that they had most definitely changed!
Because I knew these folks very well.
And they weren’t anything like the people they said they “used to be.”
They weren’t drunks.
They weren’t involved in drugs.
They didn’t curse and swear.
They weren’t mean and uncaring.
They were some of the most committed Christians I had ever met in my life.
They were fantastic people, so involved in the life of the church.
Several of them had even formed a contemporary Christian rock band—which I eventually came to travel with as a roadie and as the one who ran the soundboard.
Those were good times in the life of that church—very good times.
It was also, probably, one of the most formidable times in my life.
I was intimately involved with these people from the time I was eleven through my early teens.
Then our pastor got cancer, and the cancer forced him to take a smaller church—then a few years later he passed away.
The new pastor we got—who stayed at that church for at least ten years or so was a very nice man, but there was something different about him.
He didn’t preach the same kind of sermons that the previous pastor preached.
Instead of talking about being born again, or saved or anything like that—he…well, to be honest I can’t really remember what he preached about, but it was never, ever about heaven, hell, salvation, Jesus Christ, the devil, sin and a need to make a choice.
And Sunday school, well, many but not all of my teachers, didn’t talk to us about having a saving relationship with God…we kind of just sat around.
And the congregation didn’t witness to the community nor to each other…nor feel any need to…
…as a matter of fact, we didn’t even use those kinds of words like witness, or convert.
Soon, people started leaving the church, and they didn’t head for another United Methodist Church—they headed for non-denominational churches…one in particular was a very fast growing new church called something, something, “Bible Church” that now has—probably about 5,000 members.
The contemporary Christian rock band hung on for a while until the new pastor told them that he didn’t want them playing in our church anymore because he didn’t agree with their message.
And he didn’t like for them to have “altar calls.”