Part 2: What I Hope I Can Expect from You
Colossians 4:2-4; John 1:35-46
Rev. Morris Brown
So, maybe you’ve heard about the pastor who had just preached his first sermon in a new church? After the service he was greeting folks when a little girl walked up, introduced herself, and handed him a dollar. A bit puzzled, the pastor said, “It’s nice to meet you, sweetheart! But why in the world did you give me this dollar?”
“Cause”, the little girl said, “When you finished your sermon, my daddy leaned over to my mamma and said, ‘That’s the poorest preacher I ever heard!’”
Well, I don’t know how you felt about last week’s message, but I’m happy some of you came back! Last Sunday, we began a three-part worship series entitled Great Expectations. In this series, we’re talking about expectations.
Last week I shared some things you can expect from ME as your new senior pastor. In case you weren’t here, you can check it out on our church website. Today, I want to switch gears. Today, I’d like to talk about some things I hope, as your new senior pastor, I can expect from YOU as my new family of faith. So, what do I expect from you? Here are four things.
First, as your new senior pastor, I hope I can expect you to PRAY for me.
I love the story of the little boy who went to big church for the first time. He tried really hard, but he just couldn’t behave. So, in the middle of the service his dad had to carry him out. As they walked down the center aisle the little boy looked out at the congregation and cried, “Ya’ll pray for me, ya hear!”
Now, let me tell you, that little boy’s plea to the people in his church, is my plea to all of you! I need your prayers! I can’t be the leader you need me to be–I can’t help us be the community of faith God wants us to be– unless you are praying for me, unless you’re praying for God to strengthen me, guide me, and help me.
That’s what Paul reminds us of in the scripture we read from Colossians. Paul wrote this letter from a prison in Rome where he was waiting to be executed for the faith. While he was there; however, he wanted to God to continue to use him to minister to his fellow prisoners. But, he knew he could not do that without the help of others, and the help of God.
So, Paul asks Christians in Colossians to “pray for him.” He says, “Devote your selves to prayer. Pray for me that God may open a door for our message, so that I may boldly proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Someone said, “To be effective, every spiritual leader needs to be supported by the prayers of his or her people.”
Paul believed that. And I do too! In order to be an effective pastor–in order to be the leader God wants me to be–I need to be supported by the prayers of each of you, my people. I need you to hold me in God’s light each day. So, ya’ll pray for me, ya hear! Pray that God will help me be the best I can be, so we can be the community of faith God wants us to be.
Second, as your new senior pastor I hope I can expect you to be PRESENT.
Does anybody remember the comedic actor Woody Allen? He’s kind of a strange guy, but he’s made a number of great movies, like, Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Midnight in Paris. Anyway, someone once asked Woody Allen if he could describe the secret to success.
Woody Allen once said, “90% of success is just showing up!” Well, I think that is true. If I’m going to be the pastor God wants me to be, if we’re going to be the community of faith God wants us to be, I need you to show up! I need you to be here, to be present on a consistent basis. In fact, if you miss a Sunday you need to bring a note from your doctor!
I’m kidding! I know we live in a mobile society. I know that we all lead very busy lives. I know we all have a lot going on. I know all of us can’t be here every Sunday. But the truth is, if we don’t show up at Christ Church to be a part of our community of faith on a regular basis, if we aren’t present as much as possible, it will have a negative impact.
First, it will have a negative impact on us as individuals. For example, if we are not present at Christ Church on a regular basis we’ll miss learning the wisdom of our faith offers to help us navigate the challenges of life we face each week. If we’re not here on a regular basis, we won’t experience the support of a community of people who want to love us, care about us, and “hold our hand,” when we face the dark and difficult valleys of life.
If we’re not here on a regular basis, we’ll miss learning about and being inspired by the way and worldview of Jesus which call us to live our lives in a way the makes a difference in our community and God’s world. If we are not here, if we don’t gather with our community of faith on a regular basis, it will have a negative impact on each of our lives.
I am reminded of the old man in the mountains who quit attending his church on a regular basis. One winter day, his pastor went to visit him. When the pastor asked him why he wasn’t attending church the old man said, “Why should I? What difference does it make?” Hearing the man’s questions, the pastor noticed a fire burning in the fireplace.
So, he picked up a poker, pulled a red-hot coal out of the fire and placed it on the hearth. When he did, the red- hot coal began to cool off because it was no longer in the fire with the others. After a few minutes, the pastor picked the coal up, handed it to the man, and left without a word. Holding the cold piece of coal, the old man got the pastor’s point. He showed up at church the next Sunday.
Here’s the point. When you and I do not gather with our community of faith on a regular basis, it really will have a negative impact on our lives. And, if we aren’t present on a regular basis, it will also have a negative impact on our church. When you’re not present our church is less than it could be.
When you are not here, an integral part of Christ Church is missing. When you are not here, it’s like we’re having a family party but an important member of the family is missing. I thought about this last summer when my family went to the beach for the weekend. We were with our older son Zach, our daughter-in-law, Ellen and our younger son, Caleb.
Now Zach, Ellen, Caleb, Pam and I had fun; in fact, we had a great time! But, as great as our time was, the whole weekend we felt like it wasn’t as fun as it could be. Why? Caleb’s wife, our daughter-in-law, Kelsey was missing! You see, last summer Kelsey started a new job. And because she was new, she didn’t have any vacations days she could use. She had to work. She couldn’t come to the beach with us.
Here’s the thing, when you are not here we may have a great time at Christ Church; in fact, our Sunday may be wonderful. But, it won’t be as wonderful as it could be. Why? You were missing! Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. But let us encourage one another, all the more as we see the day approaching!”
Early Christians knew that church’s ability to be effective was tied to everyone being together on a regular basis. And so is ours. So, if I am going to be the pastor, and we are going to be the church God wants us to be, I need you to be present as much as you can!
Third, as your new senior pastor I hope I can expect you to PARTICIPATE. In other words, if we are going to be the community of faith God wants us to be, we all need to identify our God-given gifts and talents and put them to work for the common good. We didn’t read it today, but I love the way St. Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 12.
He says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” So, what is Paul saying here?
First, he is saying God has given every single one of us in this room at least one gift, talent or ability. Some of us are great musicians, while others have the gift of teaching. Some of us have never met a stranger, and we’re good at making people feel welcome. While others are shy, but we’re great with numbers. Some of us are extremely creative, while others have a talent for organizing people, unifying people in a way that gets things done. Some of us are great listeners; people talk to us because they know we’ll truly hear them. Others love working with their hands. Some of us love teaching children or youth. Others enjoy being with and leading our senior adults.
The point is, there is not one person in this room who hasn’t been gifted in some way by God. Second, however, Paul says God has given everyone of us a gift so that we can put it to work for the common good. Every one of us has been given a talent that our community of faith needs us to put into practice. Why do we need to put it into practice?
Because when we do, good things happen. Our church becomes the best it can be. I have a friend who had the privilege of playing in the Little League World Series in Hershey, Pennsylvania back in the 1950’s. In fact, his team won the tournament that year. One day, we were talking about his experience, and he told me something very interesting.
He said, “When we went to the tournament that year, we were NOT the best team. The thirteen boys on our team were not the biggest or the fastest or the most talented players. And yet, even though we were the underdogs in every game of the tournament, including the championship game, we won! Do you know why?” he said. I said, “No! Tell me why?”
He said, “It was because we were the only team that played as a TEAM! Every boy made a contribution. Every boy put his particular gift to work for the team. And because we did, it made us better than anybody ever thought we could be. In fact, it made us good enough to win a national championship!” You know, I just love that story! Why?
Because it’s not only true of baseball teams, it’s true of churches. You see, we may not be the most cutting- edge church in Greensboro. And we may not have all the bells and whistles. But, we are a community of faith filled with incredibly gifted people. And if we ALL identify our gifts and if we ALL put them to work for the common good...well, there is no telling what God will do with us. Instead of winning a Little League championship, God WILL use us to help transform the city of Greensboro, Guilford County, and even the world for love. So, as your new senior pastor, I need you to participate. I need you to identify your gifts and put them to work for the common good!
Finally, as your new senior pastor, I hope I can expect you to invite your PEEPS. You see, if we want to continue to be a thriving, growing community of faith–the community of faith God wants us to be–we need to continually invite people we know, who don’t have a church home, to come to Christ Church and join us on our journey with Jesus.
We see a beautiful example of this morning’s gospel story. In this story, we’re told that Andrew meets Jesus. Andrew is so impressed that he wants to share his experience with his brother, Simon Peter. So, he invites Peter to come meet Jesus too. Then, Philip meets Jesus. And he is so impressed, he wants to share his experience with his friend Nathaniel.
So, he invites Nathaniel to come meet Jesus as well! Andrew invited a family member. Philip invited a friend. And because both of them were willing to offer an invitation to meet Jesus, the lives of Peter and Nathaniel were changed forever!
I once read that Mercedes Benz was the first car company in Europe to design a car with working airbags. What’s interesting, however, is this. Even though Mercedes Benz patented the first airbags, they evidently never enforced their patent. Instead, they allowed competing car companies to copy their technology. A reporter decided to ask a Mercedes Benz executive why they never enforced their patent when so many other companies started duplicating it.
The executive had an interesting response. He said, “We don’t enforce the patent because some things in life are simply too important not to share!” Listen, in a way Christ Church is like Mercedes Benz. We have an incredible message. It’s a message of God’s unconditional love for everyone! It’s a message that’s way too important not to share.
So, we want to invite people we know–family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who don’t have a community of faith–to come here so they can hear this news, experience this good news of God’s love for themselves. And you know what? Chances are, if we like Andrew and Philip and invite them to come with us, they will come!
For example, a few years ago a poll came out that indicated “7 out of 10 people would go to church if they were invited by a friend.” It also said, “ninety percent of people who currently attend church do so because at some point in their lives, someone they trusted, invited them.” So, as your new senior pastor, I hope I can expect you to invite your peeps.
If you will, I will make you a promise. I will do my very best not to embarrass you! I will do my very best to help us provide a warm, non-threatening atmosphere where people you care about will feel welcome. I’ll do my best to provide people you’ve invited the opportunity to experience the good news that we have a God of unconditional love.
So, as your new senior pastor there are some things I hope I can expect from you as my new family of faith. I expect you to PRAY for me because I can’t do this by myself. I expect you to be PRESENT as much as you can for your benefit and all of ours. I expect you to PARTICIPATE by sharing your gifts. I expect you to invite your PEEPS.
If you will do these things I believe God will not only continue to bless Christ Church. I believe our best years as a community of faith God is using to bless the world are still ahead. Now, I hope you will come back next week for what will perhaps be the most important message in this series, “What God Expects from Us All”! Let’s pray.