I trust that you all had a spiritually rewarding and meaningful Passover last evening. Moreover, undoubtedly, you are looking forward to a special evening tonight as we observe God’s deliverance from slavery and bondage to sin.
In addition, tomorrow, we will assemble together as God instructs, to worship and honor Him on the day He has sanctified and set apart for such special observance, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
Most local brethren will be tuning into a webcast sermon from their own local areas. There will also be webcast services from Cincinnati at 2:30 p.m. EDT on both the First Day of Unleavened Bread and on the weekly Sabbath.
For the First Day of Unleavened Bread, Steve Myers will present a sermon titled “Shelter in Place.” Today, life is different. We have received a “shelter in place” order from the Almighty. How does that impact our daily life? This sermon will discuss the significance of living “unleavened” as well as the responsibility and refuge given to us.
This Sabbath, Darris McNeely will present a sermon titled “Where Are You Going?” Understanding often comes from asking the right question. On the night of Passover, Christ’s disciples didn’t ask the one question that has the right answer. Christ’s answer holds the key to our success and begins our path to Pentecost.
In the recent congregational survey, 81% of those who responded answered “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” to this statement: “The environment of my congregation promotes personal and spiritual growth.”
Many members seem to be very satisfied with their pastor and their congregation and the environment for personal and spiritual growth. One member commented, “Our pastor does an excellent job of encouraging the congregation to support each other and come together for spiritual growth.”
A majority of our members are reasonably satisfied with the level of “spirituality” they are experiencing at church services. Nevertheless, we still have a significant number of members who believe the level of spirituality is lacking and ought to improve.
One member made this comment in response to this issue: “We get a variety of messages and they are very encouraging and well presented. I feel we have a very well-rounded atmosphere for our spiritual growth.” We will consider the effectiveness of the messages we hear each Sabbath in next week’s eNews.
Nevertheless, what about each member’s contribution in helping to develop an environment for spiritual growth?
Another member had this to say, “I feel the only spiritual growth I get is from the sermons and I have no complaints there. We are well fed spiritually. But, emotionally and having a true sense of spiritual family, my family is struggling.”
What are you personally doing to “promote personal and spiritual growth” in the congregation you attend? It is important that each of us seriously considers this issue and is doing his or her best to provide an environment of spiritual growth. If every person takes personal responsibility for helping to ensure that the atmosphere and environment of their local congregation is one that enables the members to grow personally and spiritually, then there will be such an environment at our local services. So, what can each of us do to promote such an environment?
• Pray for God’s help to be able to do your part. If God is with you, you will benefit those around you and you will be able to help them grow spiritually. When we experience others who are focused spiritually, we become more spiritually focused ourselves. Praying for God’s help is essential if you really do have a desire to contribute more. Believe and know that God will help you.
• Fill your hearts and minds with God’s truth throughout your week and speak to one another on the Sabbath. If you have been studying God’s Word faithfully during the week, you will be more spiritually minded. God’s truth and His Word will be closer to the surface and is more likely to be reflected in your communication and interaction with your brothers and sisters in Christ. God truly appreciates those who converse on a spiritual level. Notice this, from Malachi 3:16-17 Malachi 3:16-17  Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought on his name.
 And they shall be mine, said the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.
American King James Version×: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’”
• Think of specific situations and incidents from the Bible that you may bring up in conversation with others. Share spiritual lessons you have learned or had reinforced throughout the week. Ask others what they have been studying and what has stood out to them. Listen to sermon messages at UCG.org during the week and share your thoughts about messages you believe will benefit others. Note that this is not an invitation to pester members of the congregation by seeking support or promoting any “pet” doctrinal beliefs you may have.
• Listen carefully to one another and validate the other person’s worth by doing so. Don’t interrupt one another, but don’t monopolize the conversation either. Practice active listening by reflecting back that you understand what is being said. Show love and respect to each other. Realize that some people really may have had a difficult week and listen with real genuine empathy.
• Be enthusiastic and positive about what God is doing in your life and share that enthusiasm with others. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. If you are growing spiritually, it will also be because you are applying yourself throughout the week. It is not possible to be spiritually minded only one day of the week—on the Sabbath. We need to stir up the Spirit of God within us on a daily basis and allow God’s Spirit to guide us and speak through us each Sabbath so we may benefit others and add to an uplifting spiritual environment.
• Show yourselves friendly—be mindful of new members and visitors who are attending services. Another comment from one of our members had to do with new members attending services: “While this church is warm and friendly to the members of the congregation, the members are rather stand-offish and cold-shouldered to new members or members of other congregations.” We want to be sure to welcome any new members and/or visitors and have many people come up to them to warmly say “hello,” but we don’t want to overwhelm them, either. Please be friendly, but also be sensitive to our new members. We certainly do not want to come across as “stand-offish” or “cold-shouldered.”
• If God has given you a musical gift, please be willing to regularly share that gift to inspire others. Don’t make excuses for not using the gift God has given you to benefit others. Music is a very powerful medium to inspire and to bring joy and thanksgiving to one another. Volunteer to serve in this way and don’t wait to be asked. Practice and prepare beforehand so your contribution will be edifying to all.
We all have our own personal approach to music and the type of music that inspires us the most. However, most people will agree that music does have the power to inspire and to lift one’s spirits. This is what one member had to say regarding their impression of our services: “I feel our church environment is very bland and doesn’t really promote personal/spiritual growth for me, and some others. I feel the traditions and routines are far outgrown and we could use some spiritually encouraging modern music and activities and just overall changes added to our church lifestyle, which would not affect the gospel and fundamental teachings.”
I will turn age 65 very soon, so even I don’t count myself as “young” anymore. Thankfully, I still feel young. I am not threatened by trying some new approaches to Special Music. I do believe “Special Music” should be “special”—uplifting, inspiring, thoughtful. I find some of the “modern” spiritually oriented music very inspiring and uplifting and I would have no problem listening to this type of music at Sabbath services. As long as it is presented in a godly manner with passion, love and humility, I believe it could help energize our brethren spiritually. But, of course, that is only one small aspect of having an atmosphere and environment of spiritual growth.
The person who commented above seems devoted to our fundamental teachings and the preaching of the true gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God. At the same time, they believe we would benefit from “spiritually encouraging modern music.” Perhaps we could all be a bit more open-minded without compromising proper godly decorum at our services. Personally, I love our hymnal; but I am not opposed to some other, more modern, spiritually uplifting and inspiring music as a part of our service.
May we all strive to fulfill the following verses and have a more spiritually edifying environment for personal and spiritual growth: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21 Ephesians 5:18-21  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
 Giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
American King James Version×).
May you all continue to have a very uplifting and inspiring spring Holy Day season!