Summary: My first sermon as the new Pastor of an older church that has struggled for several years.
First Thessalonians is the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a Greek city in a land filled with false gods; and even though Paul met strong opposition he dared to preach the gospel. Even though many who had accepted Jesus
as Lord suffered severely and were persecuted, they welcomed the message of salvation with joy. They had given Paul a loving reception: A reception with open, loving hearts and minds. Their growth in Christ and their acceptance of Paul and his other associates, Silas and Timothy, was such a miracle, that the love and faith of the Thessalonican believers had become famous throughout the area. Paul wrote Thessalonians(Probably from Athens.) to encourage the church.
Today is my first opportunity to share a sermon with you, and to share the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Communion with the Danvers Church of the Nazarene--My new church--My Forever Family. Last Sunday, Installation Sunday, you opened your arms and hearts to Joan and to me in a gracious way. You worked hard painting the parsonage and had the pantry stocked
with food. (May I say: Not only were your arms and hearts open—So were your eyes! Every time that I looked up someone was looking at me or at Joan. Guess what? We were doing the same thing! We too were checking you out. And we liked what we saw and heard.)
For several years this church has been in my prayers. While I was a college student at Eastern Nazarene College, I pastored the Reading Church of the Nazarene.(About 12 miles away.) My first District Ministers
License was signed by a former pastor of this church, Ross Cribbis.(When the church was then located in Peabody. He was the New England District Secretary.) While at Reading, Joan and I visited the Peabody church and enjoyed a gospel music concert by the Spear Family. Ken Mills, my former college roommate, my former District Superintendent, and my friend served as your pastor for eighteen years.
Just over ten years ago, after pastoring in Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida, I returned to New England to pastor the Falmouth Church of the Nazarene. At that time, they were a church in deep trouble. Spiritual trouble, financial trouble, relationship trouble, reputation trouble… During the ten years that I was pastor, God blessed in wonderful ways,
scores of souls were saved, the church grew and the mortgage was paid off many years early. Plans were developed to expand the church for the growing congregation. When I moved, a few weeks ago, the church was on a good and strong foundation. Reports are coming here to me that the church is functioning well and good things are happening. Of that, I am happy!
I thought I would probably pastor Falmouth until I retired. Why leave a good thing? But over the past ten years God began to place a burden on my heart for this church. At District Assemblies, I heard and read the
reports. Each year the Danvers’ reports pointed out more declines in almost every area. To make a long story short: Just as verse two of today’s Scripture tells us that Paul prayed for the Thessalonica church
and loved them, God turned my prayers into a burden, and then the Holy Spirit, District Leadership, the Danvers’ Church Board, your example as a church that held on through out multitudes of trials, and my desire for a new challenge, resulted in my acceptance of your call to become your new pastor.
For far too many years this church, you, have suffered. Perhaps not in the same ways that the Church of Thessalonica suffered and was persecuted. The Devil used other trials to try and cause you to give up your faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah and Soon Coming King. When I read today’s Scripture passage, I immediately thought of you, the Church at
Danvers. Please notice with me, three similarities: 1. "Your WORK produced by FAITH." 2. "Your LABOR prompted by LOVE." 3. "Your ENDURANCE inspired by HOPE in our Lord Jesus Christ." Let us compare.
I. "Your WORK produced by FAITH."
Why have you hung on and kept working when so very many have, for a multitude of reasons, given up, moved on to other churches, or completely given up an active, working faith in Jesus Christ? A few of you hardy souls are new to this church and even though the church was in crisis, you choose to join this crowd of Nazarenes. Why? Why did you stay?
Each of you have your own reasons. Maybe you live nearby and it takes to much effort and gas to drive to another Church of the Nazarene. Maybe you were brought up in the church and your roots go very deeply into the past days(Way back to 1899.) where God blessed for so many good years. Maybe you gave funds to purchase something in this building and you have an emotional attachment and to leave would be too hard to do. Maybe you thought you could outlast a pastor that you did not particularly like.(And some of you did…) Maybe you are just plain stubborn. Maybe because of friends. Maybe you are asking yourself, "Yes Pastor, why did I