Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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A young adult recently commented "the Church is not always a 'safe' place to fail." What can we do to create a Church that helps restore broken lives?

Transcript

[Darris McNeely] How many of you remember the hit television series Cheers ? Okay. Cheers ran for about 11 years during the ’80s and into the 1990s. The story was set in a bar in Boston. The opening scene, or the opening picture, had literally the outside of a real bar in Boston that is there, and you can peek, you can see it today. I’ve walked by it and peeked my head in the door once a few years ago. The interior is not the same interior, but the exterior is.

But the storyline essentially was it was a place where all these characters gathered and just like it, whether it’s a pub in England or a bar, you know, in America, it’s a place, neighborhood watering hole, but also a lot more than that. It’s where people’s lives happened. People come to be what they are. And of course that television series kind of laid it out there, and part of its success is that it touched a universal theme in people’s lives.

You remember the song that started each one. I’ll just read to you one phrase. I won’t sing it, but here’s one stanza from the theme song, Cheers . “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see the troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.” Di di di da deet di. Okay. We all remember that. “You want to be where everybody knows your name.” It’s a great line. It’s a great concept. It’s what makes a great church, where everybody knows your name.

God’s Church, our church, should be a place where everybody knows your name, a place where we care for one another, where we love one another, where you’re always welcome, where even if you’re not there  people miss you, and you’re not forgotten. A place where you can be yourself and warts and all at times. And if at times other problems take place, it’s still a place where everybody knows your name.

In surveys that have been taken both in the church and apart from the church by other organizations such as the Barna research organization, surveys have been taken where, among young adults who are in church, our church, and again in other organizations. And one comment that has kind of risen to the top in our attention here in our work is a comment made by a young adult saying about, commenting about our church here, not just this congregation, but the church as a whole.

“The church is not always a safe place to fail. The church is not always a safe place to fail.” Interesting phrase, “safe place.” I have to admit, first time I heard a few years ago somebody use the term “safe place” to me, I thought, “Oh, come on.” You know, “safe place.” I’ll show you a safe place. You know, it’s not a term that I was used to, but it’s a valid term.

“The church is not always a safe place to fail.” How do we equip our church to be a place that is safe? As the comments in these surveys go along, they say that the church is not always equipped to help people, young adults, and other adults in the messy areas of life. In terms of being willing to openly address areas of concern in a way that will lead to restoration of relationships and even membership, even at times. Often, these areas are just packaged in, you know, kind of a “just don’t do it” way, in some of our discussions, collective, or private.

And there is a perception that people in the church sometimes pretend to live perfect lives. We smile, we put on our Sabbath clothes, but then maybe what we’re like on Wednesday night may not always be exactly the way we are on the Sabbath. And there is that perception, right or wrong, to whatever degree. I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s some truth to that particular perception that people have.

A few weeks ago before this last A.B.C. class ended, we had a discussion. It’s an annual discussion. We had the boys and girls go to separate rooms here, and a group of ladies, staff wives, ministers’ wives here met with the girls. The men met with the boys, and it was kind of the annual sexuality discussion, talking about sex.

And my wife was sharing with me what some of the comments were among the ladies. And some of them had commented that too often in that type of a discussion, whether in a young adult Bible study or as often happens in our camps settings, that it’s packaged in just a way of discussion about sexuality, is packaged, “Just don’t do it. Just don’t do it,” with laws, and rules and “just don’t do it,” which is true. We should not just, just don’t do it, until we’re married and, you know, keep God’s laws regarding morality.

And yet, the point was that along with “just don’t do it” has to come instruction as to the why, and include the beauty of sex within marriage and the sex as God created it to be enjoyed in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman according to Biblical standards, and to emphasize that, along with the legalistic, or the, you know, the “just don’t do it” approach. And yes, wait and do it within marriage, and obey God’s laws is the way to do it. But it’s all in the how, and certainly explaining the why. So that’s just one example.

Let me speak to something else. Recently, the United Church of God has been rocked by the death of two young people. Two different stories, but both tragedies. And both raise questions about faith, about God, and about relationships, no question. Three years ago, I was asked to come up to the Camp Cotubic, which is just ending here this weekend up a few miles north of us, and was asked to give the sermon by Dr. Dunkle. We got up there on the Sabbath, and he had invited me to a Bible study with several of the dorm groups, the older boys, and girls. And the kids wanted… we had a list of thought questions, but the first one was talking about death and suicide.

We didn’t get off of question one. We talked for more than an hour about death. Virtually all the kids there have been impacted by the untimely death of somebody in their age group, either through suicide, or just a tragic, untimely death. And there were tears, there were hugs. But they had to talk. They wanted to talk. I wrote an article about it for our Beyond Today magazine off of that experience. But those are messy things, and they have to be discussed in a right and in an appropriate time. They’re not always easy, but we need to have those types of discussions.

So, this morning, for a few minutes, brethren, let’s have a talk about making God’s Church a safe place to fail, about making God’s Church a place where everybody knows your name. What happens when someone fails? What do we do? What’s our response? What’s your response? As I said, this had been made by young adults as they look at church, not just our church, but religion as a whole. Life has, you know, always been messy. There’s always been plenty of sin for us to get caught up in, my age, my peer group, no exception, yours as well. It’s not limited to age. You know, today for young adults, there are a lot of situations that are waiting to ensnare them, and it gets messy.

Now, there’s no new sin. Let me hasten to add that. Sin is sin, and sin has been around since the very beginning. Since Lucifer made a decision and then influenced Adam and Eve. There’s no new sin. But today there are new ways to deliver and to enjoy sin. There’s no question about that. There are new ways to deliver it, and its pervasiveness, and its attraction, and its methods to ensnare people. And so, let’s understand that at the beginning.

But again, the Church must be a safe place to fail. Let me define the word “fail.” In church speak, we’re usually talking about sin, or we’re always talking about sin when we would usually talk about that. It’s sin. We do sin. There is sin. We break God’s spiritual law, and we’re in need of forgiveness when we do. We’re in need of repentance, genuine repentance that fosters and achieves a clearing of the sin. And then, the forgiveness first from God, and then in time, even the forgiveness from ourselves, peers, and certainly from the Church.

Sin separates us from God. Sin can separate us from one another, in a marriage, adultery. Sin of adultery can separate a husband and a wife. Sin can separate us from God, sin can separate us from the Church, and even from the fellowship with one another, depending on what happens, what’s going on, and how we handle that.

But sometimes that failure, that sin, can be very devastating. It can cripple one’s life. It can be sometimes public. It can be sometimes private. No matter, sin is sin. It exacts a penalty, and it can be quite large. It can be quite private.

Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×
tells us a very important principle that we should all remember. It says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” All have sinned. Before baptism, we, all of us, needed the forgiveness and the application of the sacrifice of Christ to our past sins through repentance and faith, the symbolic baptism, and then the receiving of the Holy Spirit, which starts us on a new path in life. After baptism, we can all be thankful that God’s grace is never removed when we do sin again. And we will sin, and we do. Sinning never stops. But God doesn’t just remove His grace from us as we repent and as we pick ourselves back up and acknowledge and confess, that’s there as well. So sin is sin.

We devoted an entire period, one of the Holy Days, the Days of Unleavened Bread, to focusing upon that and talking about that. We all understand that. But, what happens when we do fail, and when we do sin? Let’s look in the Bible at an example that is a classic one that can help us to define a few concepts here. It’s in 1 Corinthians 5, well-known example of a sin in a church congregation at the city of Corinth that had to be dealt with in a public way, 1 Corinthians 5.

It is the story of a man who’s taken in sexual immorality with his stepmother as the understanding plays out there, because in verse 1 it says, “It’s reported there is sexual immorality among you, and such, such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — a man has his father’s wife!” You know the story of Corinth. The Corinth was the Las Vegas of the day times 10, and immorality was just a common part, it’s a common aspect of religion.

And if Paul said that whatever the problem was was not even named among Gentiles, you can know it was really, really bad. And so, the church had it, and part of the problem was they weren’t dealing with it, and Paul had to write a letter to tell them. He said in verse 2 “You’re puffed up, you’ve not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Verse 4 is the hammer verse, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” He writes and he tells them to put the person from their midst until there could be a time of repentance and change in life. And so, it’s dramatic, it’s hard. Every time you read it, you think, “Wow, to have had that read.” And if you were sitting there, you can just imagine all of this. Paul told them to put the people out.

There is a time in the church when a person caught in a sin may be at a point when they have to be told that their privilege of being a part of the Church or attending church is going to be terminated for a period of time. It’s going to be stopped. There’s going to be a separation. And scripture shows us that that is a part of the church teaching. This is one passage. There are several others. Scripture shows us that it can be for several reasons. It can be for heresy, it can be for sowing division, it can be for sin, in this case, and usually moral. And the term that is classic is that of being disfellowshipped. It’s rendering of a judgment as Paul says here, and it should not be done capriciously. It should not be done without application of proper mercy and faith. Frankly, it should be taken and done as a last resort in the relationship between the individual, the pastor, the individual, and the Church. It should be done after counseling, after admonishment, and after warning.

It should be done then after more counseling, more admonishment, and more warning. And then it should be done only after extra counseling, extra admonishment, and even warning. In other words, it’s not something that, it’s not the first option. It’s not, and it shouldn’t be done in a hair-trigger fashion. Every minister learns this.

Let me tell you about the first time that I was asked and had the responsibility of telling someone that they couldn’t come to church. It was a classic. I wasn’t even ordained. I was in the first months of my trainee role as a minister. And there was an individual in the Church that was smoking. And the pastor that I was working under, I don’t know what his previous contact with the individual, with the lady had been. But he told me once, we were in his office.

He said, “I want you to go visit so-and-so and tell her she can’t come back to church till she quits smoking.” And, you know, in those days, you kind of just snapped to, and, you know, and I was a trainee. Number one, I shouldn’t even been sent to do something like that. So Josh, don’t worry. You’re not going to be sent out like that. But, I said, “Okay. I’ll go and visit the individual.” So I did. I set up an appointment, and drove, and visited with her, and her husband was there. Her husband, by the way, was not a church member.

And I, you know, what do I, felt, “What do you do?” So I’m like, you know, go over there and I’m sitting down in this lady’s living room and her husband, not in the church, sitting there, and we got to talking, and it was messy. And I don’t know. I’ve never been part of anything like this. And I kind of hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, you know, maybe best don’t come back to church till you get this whatever.” There were a few tears, and I thought, “Woah, boy, this is awful.” Do I want to do this the rest of my life, or do anything like this? So finally I said, “Well, it’s time to go.”

So I excused myself, and I feel kind of, you know, and I go out, and my car’s parked in front of the house on the street. And I get in my car, 1967 Pontiac, a real boat. And it won’t start. The battery’s dead. I don’t have a set of jumper cables. This is, no cell phone, in those days there were no cell phone. I said, “Oh, boy, what do I got to…” I sheepishly went back up to the house, knocked on the door, and asked the non-member husband, “Would you mind coming out and jumping my car for me?” Just after I told his wife she couldn’t come to church, you know. And he did. And I went on my way and I’m thinking “Darris, you are really ones dummy.”

I was glad my dad, never a member of the church, didn’t see that night. That was not my finest. I learned a lot from that, but I had to go, and I think God was teaching me something because out of that, I learned how not to do it. I learned compassion. I learned understanding. Don’t be too quick to pull the trigger. You know, through the years, I had other situations where you had to deal as well. But I learned a great deal from that. Like I say, you don’t do it as the first option. But there are times, biblically, when things have to be done, ultimately for the restoration of the individual, one hopes, and certainly for the Church.

But, what’s beautiful about this story in 1 Corinthians is this. There’s a follow-up. It’s in 2 Corinthians 2. Let’s turn over to it, because it has a good ending… There’s repentance, and there’s restoration… In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul writes another follow-up letter, and he tells them how to handle the aftermath of this. He says in verse 1, and I’m reading from the New Living Translation, “I decided I would not bring you grief with another visit. For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I’ve grieved. That’s why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you know my joy comes from your being joyful.”

Verse 4. “I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart…” 1 Corinthians not only dealt with an immorality situation but other doctrinal issues in the Church. So he said, “I wrote that letter with great anguish, and troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.” And you can rest assured that Paul did what he did out of a motive of love.

Verse 5. “I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough.” Then verse 7. “Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him… reaffirm your love for him.”

Verse 10, he said, “When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” Satan can be at both ends of a situation like this, whether it’s a situation that may be causing concern, upset, even division within the church, and then if it’s taken to an extreme on the other end and not wisely, properly judged and handled, with mercy and faith, then too much can also fall into Satan’s trap as well.

This is what the beauty of this follow-up is, to teach us a very, very important lesson about this. In Corinth, a man failed. We fail. And we have to recognize the high standard of holiness God calls us to, and certainly work to attain that standard. We’ll not always attain it. We will fall short. But it’s in the striving for that standard of holy righteousness that we will become better people. Remember, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

The beauty of this letter here in 2 Corinthians is that it tells us the environment that a church should have, the overriding environment of grace, an environment that is saturated with the ability to know when to apply judgment with the proper mercy, and handle it in faith, but to create an environment by thought, by word, and deed. That’s what this example gives us, and this is what we should be creating.

The sermon I gave here on the day of Pentecost. One of the points that I made was that God has planted us in each other’s lives. God has planted us in each other’s lives, and that is something we should never forget. That is by God’s will and by our will as well, it’s something that’s eternal we should look at, because it will transcend, God willing, even this physical life. We’ve been planted in each other’s lives for an eternal purpose, and we have to work where we’re planted and work with each other, and we can’t give up on each other. We cannot give up on one another.

In this passage here, in 2 Corinthians, we see a great deal of positive instruction about the culture, the environment of a church. A church has to respond to its surrounding physical culture, the culture of the world at any given time, and just as the Corinthian church reflected the culture of Roman culture, 1st century Corinth, a very licentious, immoral, corrupt culture, our time today in the 21st century will reflect our culture at times as well.

But the culture that we promote in the Church to override the impact of the culture around us, the culture that we have to promote is the culture of the Kingdom of God. And this is a slice of it that we need to have some instruction on, brethren, and we need to understand. It is a culture of holiness. It is a culture of righteousness. But as I said, in the tension between the holiness and the righteousness of the culture of the Kingdom of God, the ideal to which we attain, and the reality of the world that we come from and we live in and its impact upon us, as we are sinners, in a sense, seeking and desiring help to live our lives righteously in this present evil world and to overcome not only the world but even our own human nature, even after many, many years in the Church, there’s that tension.

And in that lies the balance that we have to find, which is to define righteousness, certainly teach godly values, expect high standards. We do expect high standards of ourselves, of our youth. The students who come to A.B.C., we have a code of conduct. Of our teens that come to our camp, we have high expectations, high standards that we set. We have ethical standards for ministry that are quite detailed when you know and look at what we have laid out for ourselves to live up to. Certainly, we all have the standards of the Bible, the sermon on the Mount, whatever passage we want to turn to.

The Corinthian culture that Paul sought to plant here, or plant within that Corinthian culture, was how to discern the holy and the profane, to understand between what is good and what is evil. It included the ability to be able to flee fornication. I have reason to believe, and we should, that many in Corinth did come out of the culture that surrounded them. Others, no doubt had challenges with it. But Paul is wanting them to have a culture that not only sets the standard, but then deals with it, but then seeks restoration with people.

What Paul is really saying here in this passage in 2 Corinthians is create a safe place where the sinning person can return when they’ve repented. Create a safe place that they can return to. How? Well, one of the ways is what he said in verse 8 in 2 Corinthians 2:8 2 Corinthians 2:8Why I beseech you that you would confirm your love toward him.
American King James Version×
, “…reaffirm your love for him.” Reaffirm your love. How do you do that? Well, you have to reach out. You have to maintain relationships. A pastor should maintain a relationship with any person that they have to remove from fellowship in the church for a period of time.

There should be prescribed follow-up for whatever it might be. Sometimes it may be some additional professional help beyond the time or the expertise of a minister. And if you and I know in those situations and have a relationship, then we can continue to have that relationship or to reach out as appropriate, to encourage, to keep in touch, to let them know we are concerned, that we are praying for them. And that is part of what it means here to reaffirm our love for each other.

Turn over to Galatians 6. Paul gives a very specific example here, Galatians the sixth chapter. Again I’ll read this from the New Living Translation, verse 1. Galatians 6:1 Galatians 6:1Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.
American King James Version×
, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.” Gently and humbly. That’s a high order right there. You know, if we are a little bit harsh in our nature, our personality, maybe being a little bit even extra hard on ourselves at times, then we’d better check ourselves if we decide that we are going to take it upon someone, to help someone who’s overcome by a sin, to make sure that we don’t come across in such a way that is not humble and gentle.

I’ve not always been perfect in that. I’ll be the first to admit. I’ve had to learn that. Whether you’re writing them a letter or an email or you’re talking on the phone or in person, you’ve got to be very careful. The words you use, the tone of your voice, and often say less than you say. Another great song… There’s a reason songs succeed to hang around with us for a long time, but, had to use this with someone the other day. It was a song from the ’70s by Gordon Lightfoot, “Rainy Day People.” Some of you may know that song, “Rainy Day People,” beautiful song. “Rainy day People” basically know when to just walk away. They know when to talk and when not to talk.

The lyrics basically talk about when it’s a rainy day for us, it was a rainy day yesterday for sure, but when it comes to what’s happening in our life, a rainy day person is someone who knows what to say, when to say it, when to be silent, when to just be there, and when to come and go. And I was relating that to someone the other day who needed a little bit of help in dealing with some of the advice that they were getting and say, “Hey, pray that God will send rainy day people into your life,” I said. Those who just know when to listen and when to go, and when to say it, when not to say it, and how to say it.

This is what he’s talking about here when we go back to verse 2, you are to be gentle and humble. Going on, back in Galatians 6, “…Be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Verse 2, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you’re only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” In other words, we have an obligation to help someone that we may have a relationship with and to help in whatever way. And if you don’t have a relationship, sometimes just a card can be enough in itself. It all develops from that.

In 1 John 5, 1 John 5:16 1 John 5:16If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not to death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not to death. There is a sin to death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
American King James Version×
. “If anyone sees his brothers sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. They do not say that he should pray about that.” Now, without getting into the full understanding or meaning of what Paul… or what John is writing here, let’s just focus upon the fact that if you see a brother sin, a sin not leading to death, ask.

In other words, pray to God, be praying to God, and certainly in the light of what he said in Galatians 6, to gently and humbly assist, help, encourage as we can. Reaffirm our love, back to 2 Corinthians 2, to reaffirm our love. But there are sins that don’t lead to death. There’s a sin that leads to death, but again I don’t have time to get into what that means here today. But most of our sins that we’re talking about, they’re not leading to this eternal death that one particular sin might be there. And we can ask and should ask. Ask God, and seek the relationship to help and to encourage a person in a right and an appropriate way.

I was just recently kind of introduced to the concept of the difference between nice and kind. I guess you had an 18-35 Bible study here a couple of months ago about that, you know, and some young adults were telling me about it, nice and kind. A nice person, you know, what’s an example? A nice person says “nice sermon” all the time, “nice sermon.” And then on the way home, “Man, can you believe that?” you know, in other words, always nice, but that’s not really what they think.

A kind person, or being kind, as I understood it, and I’ve happened to run across another description of it, but let’s say you hear somebody make a presentation, maybe a sermon, maybe a speech, or a pitch at work, and they get much of it right, but maybe it just didn’t ring completely true, and you have the type of relationship with a person where you could say, “You had this good point, this good point, this good point. But if you really want to improve, let me bring this one up for you.”

And of course, as we all are, we’re sensitive to any type of evaluation and correction. But a kind person will not just pass an opportunity to help us improve, and again, that has to be done very carefully and based on a relationship of trust and respect. But there’s a time and place for it. And a kind reaction is going to be able to point out the mistake or area of improvement to better the church, to better the company, to better the individual, whatever it might be. That’s the difference between nice and kind as I understand it. But again it gets to the matter of relationships and the culture that we are dealing with.

Let’s notice one more scripture here in James 5, just to help us frame this. James 5:16 James 5:16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×
, in the context of explicit instruction about anointing for sickness, calling for the elders to pray over and to anoint with oil. In verse 16, this statement is made that applies beyond, I think, just a time of anointing for sickness, but again to the relationship that we want to, and the culture we want to develop, of a church that is a safe place to fail.

He says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Applied to a broader application beyond, again, anointing and healing, this helps us to accomplish the culture that we’re talking about, to be able to talk among ourselves. Now, there’s a time and a right person that you’re going to confess to. You’re not going to confess to everyone. We don’t do public confessions in the Church. We should not, and one needs to be careful who you might divulge, and go to and seek, you know what I’m saying, “I’ve got this problem.” That needs to be done in a wise way as well. But when it’s done, and to whatever, it is done and then we do it seeking help.

I’ve never had to discipline, and I never have disciplined, in all my years in the ministry, anyone who came to me and confessed, whatever they confessed, in a spirit of wanting help, seeking understanding, seeking help to overcome a particular problem. That’s when you apply and you have the proper judgment and mercy to know that, “Hey, this person is sincere. Let’s work this out. Let’s get you some help. I’ll counsel you, and, or recommend a place to go where you could get professional help, and support you all the way.”

Never disciplined anyone in any way that had that type of spirit and that attitude. Again, done in a right, appropriate balance, timely way, it creates that culture, and we pray for one another, and we work for one another. And the Church then and the relationships become safe places. We pray for one another. Part of that then develops in our lives.

In Romans 12, Romans 12 in the midst of some general practical instruction regarding relationships, verse 4, he says, “As we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,” verse 5, “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” The New Living Translation puts it this way, verse 5. “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to one another.” I like that. We are all parts of one body, and we belong to one another.

Again, I’d go back to the point I made on Pentecost. God’s planted us in each other’s lives. We have been knit together. We belong to one another, and we have to create that culture for the young, for the old, for all of us in between, because I’m not old, that makes us understand and helps us to really truly believe that we all belong to one another.

Anyone who comes to church on their worst day should have an experience that turns their life around. Anyone who comes to church on their worst day should have an experience that turns their life around at that moment. Whether it’s the person who says hello at the front door, or knows their name at the coffee pot, or the sermonette that’s given, or the sermon, or even one scripture or one comment or illustration that might be made.

Maybe it’s the special music that day, something about the service. The fellowship, the instruction, the worship helps them turn around what is their worst day. That should be what we are helping to create, and our church culture should work toward that end, to help people with what they’ve been going through the previous week or maybe facing in the week to come. If our church culture can do that, and get beyond the perfect faces, and the perfect clothing, and the perfect words that we sometimes can project, and should, but again, sometimes may not always reflect what’s going on, if we can get beyond that, then we can make some great strides in that culture.

Brethren, we are all called because we are weak, not because we’re perfect. Turn over to Hebrews 11. We all know Hebrews 11 to be what is called the faith chapter, and so many examples of men and women who had faith, spelled out here: Sarah, Abraham, Noah, Moses, named and unnamed. But down in verse 34, there is a comment made here that is very instructive. Hebrews 11:34 Hebrews 11:34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
American King James Version×
talks about those who “…quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,” and the next phrase is really instructive, “out of weakness were made strong…” Out of weakness were made strong.

You go back and look at the story of any of the people listed here in this chapter, and you will find plenty of weaknesses. Abraham lied more than once before he became the father of the faithful. David, adultery and murder on his way to becoming a man after God’s own heart. Out of weakness was made strong. Solomon, many wives, idolatry, and then sums up his philosophy at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes to fear God and keep the commandments, which to me puts the final seal on his life as far as I’m concerned. Fear God and keep the commandments.

Out of weakness, we’re made strong. We’re all weak. We’re on our way to becoming strong. When we feel like staying home or not coming to church on any particular Sabbath day, come. Your smile, your greeting, your short conversation in the hallway and aisles of church might make all the difference with someone hurting and needing encouragement. We should seek to promote restoration. Promote restoration. T

here’s a time, and we need more, what are called honest conversations. What might be called a kind conversation, in the right time and place. We need more of those. We can do with those. A place where people can be helped and supported as they wrestle with problems. And even if a problem becomes known, we should not shrink away from that relationship. And again, guard our words, guard the approach that we have so that we don’t make it any worse, pour salt into the wound, or gasoline on the fire, but look for opportunities, where we can, to restore, to help, to encourage.

In Acts 3:21 Acts 3:21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
American King James Version×
, it talks about the role of Jesus Christ at His return. Acts 3:21 Acts 3:21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
American King James Version×
, where it says that “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” It’s a beautiful passage that describes the work after the second coming of Jesus Christ, when all things will be restored, a time of the restitution of all things that God began to speak. Now that is a future event that Christ will do. But brethren, take this as a something that spurs us to promote a spirit, a culture of restoration.

We can do this today as Christ lives his life within us, as He works through each of us by the Holy Spirit, we can seek restoration and promote a culture of restoration in our congregations and in our relationships. We can become agents of restoration, and we should, in our effort to seek to create a safe place, where people feel that it is safe to fail, and can be restored in their relationships within the Church. So let’s remember the theme song about a place where everybody knows your name. Now, let’s commit ourselves, brethren, into creating that culture of love.

Comments

  • ejo
    Hello Gary. I am also an older never married single woman in God’s Church. You are not the only one. For some of us, I believe we’ve been given the gift of singleness as I heard a minister once say, we might not like the gift God has given us but Father knows best. If one can keep themselves sexually clean, being single is a GREAT GIFT. No one to nag you or vocally fight with. You have FREEDOM. And as one singer put it, freedom is the best gift yet, this singer had been married and divorced several times and is now Happy and SINGLE.
  • tallgary
    I now , as a 63 yo never married bachelor, who has been in the churches for 36 yrs single, I feel like i have been a failure. My first lady friend in the church near my age died of a drug overdose, when i was 27. Never met anyone near my age to date, but did befriend and wanted to marry some single gals much older than me. I feel very sad at times, in a church of almost all married folks and families, always being the loner, with no relatives in the churches. I know few can relate, though. . . The breakup of in the churches also has made IT FAR worse for old singles. I know it is hard for a minister with longtime marriage, children and grandchildren , to relate with senior bachelors, being so very far removed from being single. When singles issues are addressed, it s usually aimed at YOUNG singles, not older ones. Some of us senior never marrieds feel like failures because we never had a chance to marry, be fruitful, and that love has passed us by, and we do not fit in well, and our issues are never addressed. Loneliness may be the biggest sorrow in the church. Broken hearts of the solitary.
  • cklockhart
    Greetings All, Just to add to Gary & Marsha's comments: we can continue to let God's Light in us shine while in our local 12-step groups. Plus we can receive love and support while working the steps and fellowshipping with other steps' members! Our Higher Power IS THE Higher Power, don't you agree? Mr. Darrell B - You are attending a local congregation? If not, please know that we welcome you! Peace and blessings to all.
  • Darrell Bright
    Thank You for the much needed sermon. Remarkable that you stated exactly what I needed to hear. "God has planted us in each others lives" Very powerful and applicable. This is a sermon that needs to be repeated into other congregations. I am very much in the beginning category of learning but strive daily to measure up...and often feel a failure to meet minimum levels of His acceptance. It helps me to be reminded that "All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God." Again Excellent Presentation by you. I am a regular viewer of the Beyond Today sermons and replay them often. They are my "lifeline on stormy seas."
  • Jhaskins
    Celebrating Satan and the demons being put away is worth fasting and celebrating for!! It means peace and freedom eventually for the rest of humanity! We don't have the perspective of all the pain that God sees 24/7. These 6,000 years of his waiting patiently for us, is like 6 days to Him. I wonder how much joy He is experiencing to see the culminating of his glorious plan. What is years to us, is a short time to him. We know what it is like to see a new born baby anticipated or a newly married couple. It is interesting to know how they are feeling in this time. Most of us have mixed feelings. Sigh and cry, moan and groan and also excited to see the other "side".
  • cklockhart
    Greetings Jen H., I found your words to be encouraging, righteous and comforting! It is so true that a mere fast is so very much worth focusing our minds on the Restoration and Healing this ole, weary world so desparatly needs! Thank you for sharing these words that you wrote!
  • cklockhart
    Thank you Jen H.! I very much enjoyed your insight and Biblically-based wisdom that you provided!
  • tallgary
    12 step support groups, like Adult Children Anonymous would be very good. Mr. Dennis Luker had them in the Seattle church back in the mid 1980's. He told me to go. They were so helpful for some of us from toxic families. Several loner older men really started to open up, after BEING SHUT DOWN ALL THEIR LONELY LIVES!! Joe Jr, put a stop to the 12 step groups, though after he was the pastor general. The church needs support groups, with people leading them who understand, or have been addicts, or abused, or other things, or homosexuals, crossdressers, or other abnormal things.
  • mnewbe
    I can't agree more!!!!! If we can't learn to help each other with the messy things of life; ie abuse, toxic families, how will we help others in the kingdom. It is easy just to say forgive and go on, but sometimes we need more practical ways of dealing with the forgiveness process. We know that our Great God forgives us, but we have others whom we have harmed and have been harmed. We need a living way of this life not just a preaching way. I hope and pray that the church will come to see this and be able to implement some programs into our local church areas.
  • tallgary
    Great topic. So many have had traumatic childhoods, abuse, addictions, sexual issues, gender issue, isolation, and loneliness, especially older single never married men. Our issues are never addresses anywhere it seems.
  • Dollie
    Thank you so much! Many have hurt and been hurt when delicate situations occur. But knowing we are all human and still learning God's true way helps us to forgive and keep on working on improving ourselves. This message was very comforting. A couple of times that I have been hurt by others "doing it the wrong way", what helped me to continue was the knowledge that this is God's church. Thanks again!
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