Summary: 1 of 4 in the series "Inside~Out: Developing the Heart of God" More sermons by Charles Sackett at Audio also available at

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1 of 4 in the series "Inside~Out: Developing the Heart of God" More sermons by Charles Sackett at Audio also available at

There is a story Fred Craddock tells about his first church, young preacher, upper east Tennessee near Oak Ridge. He says when Oak Ridge came to boom with the atomic energy that little bitty town became a booming city overnight. Every hill and every valley and every shady grove had recreational vehicles and trucks and things like that. People came in from everywhere to pitch tents, lived in wagons, hard hats from everywhere with their families, their children paddling around in the mud in their trailer parks, lived in everything temporarily just to work.

Our church wasn’t far away. We had a beautiful little church, white framed building, 112 years old. The church had an organ in the corner, which one of the young fellows had to pump while Miss Lois played it. Boy, she could play the organ just as slow as anyone. The church had beautifully decorated chimneys, kerosene lamps all around the walls. Every pew in this little church was hand hewn from a giant poplar tree.

After church one Sunday I asked the leaders to stay. I said to them, we need to launch of a calling campaign, an invitational campaign in all those trailer parks to invite those people to church. Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think they would fit in here, one of them said. They are just here temporarily, just construction people. They will be leaving pretty soon. Well, we ought to invite them, make them feel at home, I said. We argued about it, time ran out, and we said we would vote next Sunday.

Next Sunday we all sat down after the service. I move, said one of them, I move that in order to be a member of this church you must own property in the county. Someone else said, I second that. It passed. I voted against it, but they reminded me that I was just a kid preacher and didn’t get a vote. It passed.

When we moved back to these parts, I took my wife to see that little church. I had told her that painful, painful story. The roads have changed.

The interstate goes through that part of the country, so I had a hard time finding it, but I finally did. I found the state road, the county road, a little gravel road. There it was, back there among the pines, that building shining white. It was different. The parking lot was full. Motorcycles, trucks, cars packed in there. Out front a great big sign, BBQ, all you can eat. It’s a restaurant.

So we went inside. The pews were up against the walls. They have electric lights now. The organ is pushed off in the corner. There are all these aluminum and plastic tables and people sitting around eating BBQ pork and chicken and ribs, all kinds of people, Parthians, Meades, Edomites, dwellers of Mesopotamia, all kinds of people. I said to Nettie, it’s a good thing this isn’t still a church because these people wouldn’t be welcome here.

Why is it that it’s so easy to have people feel unwelcome? How is it that it’s so distinctly possible to have a group of people feel as if they don’t belong? Or, worse yet, how is it possible for us to communicate within ourselves that there are some people we would just as soon not have among us? How in the world did Jonah get to the place that he got to that God said, I want you to go to Nineveh and preach, and he said, I think I’ll go the other way? How do we get to that place that the place next to us is reserved for somebody that we approve?

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