Here is the podcast for my sermon from April 27, 2008, titled The Waters That Save. The text was 1 Peter 3:13-22, and I deal with the mysterious reference to Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. Plus, there’s a great story of Mickey Mantle’s conversion that you’ve never heard before. Hope you find this helpful.
Our Wednesday night schedule is pretty typical for a Baptist church. About 25-30 of us eat together at 5:45 PM, then prayer and Bible study takes place around the tables at 6:30 PM. Choir follows prayer meeting, which is the schedule in about every Baptist church I can remember. So, nothing unusual there.
Four years ago, when I first arrived, I noticed during prayer meeting that all the prayer requests were for sick people. The list of sick people wasn’t just confined to our church either. Requests included neighbors, relatives of neighbors, friends, and folks who have moved away from Chatham. Frankly, I thought we should pray for other things, too. I tried to steer the requests to other topics. I even organized our prayer requests into Church, Community, and World requests. That worked for about one week, then we were back to praying for sick people.
Four years later, I finally get it. It’s not that our folks don’t pray for other concerns in our church, community, and world. But, Wednesdays nights are a very informal fellowship time. Prayer request time is an extension of that fellowship. Last Wednesday night as I listened to the requests — all for sick people — I realized that these weren’t just prayer requests. This is the way we keep up with each other in a small town. Our concerns for others aren’t confined to our own membership either. We are concerned for friends, neighbors, and their families who are experiencing the crisis of serious illness.
Did I mention this is the first time Debbie and I have lived in a small town? I’m learning that life in a small church in a small town is different. People process things differently and share information in traditional ways, including prayer requests. At first I thought we requested prayer for sick people because we weren’t praying for anything else. Now I know that everything in a small town is seen through the lens of relationships. Everything here revolves around family, even prayer requests. And, if not our family, somebody’s family that we know. So, we pray for sick people because they are people we know and care about. And that’s a good part of life in a small church in a small town. I’m learning.
Tonight was the last Soundcheck for this school year. Soundcheck is a teen open mic night sponsored by our church and other local groups. Kids run the show — from emceeing to performing to managing the flow of the evening teens are in charge. Of course, adult advisors are close by, but the kids handle the event. If you want more info, Outreach magazine did an article on Soundcheck in December, 2006, titled Partnering for Art’s Sake. Here are some photos of tonight’s performers:
The New York Times features the Syrian town of Malula where the language of Jesus, Aramaic, is still spoken. The Times article also includes the history of Malula’s beginnings, which legend attributes to a young woman who was converted under Paul’s ministry, and then fled her family’s persecution. The article is an interesting resource for both study and sermon illustration. Hope you enjoy it!
After a very hectic week last week, I am finally back around to tending the blog here. Here is the podcast of my sermon from last Sunday, April 20, 2008, titled “People With A Purpose.” The text is 1 Peter 2:2-10, and I talk about what it means to be a priest to others. I also talk about my brother and his addiction, which is what landed him in the hospital over a week ago. I also received a very touching email from a parent whose daughter was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings a year ago last week. I hope this touches your heart as these experiences have touched mine.
I’ll be back to a regular routine tomorrow, and thanks for your patience during the past few days. — Chuck
After a whirlwind trip to Atlanta to check on my brother, I am very happy to report that he is conscious, off the ventilator, and improving. We returned home to Virginia this afternoon and I called the hospital and talked to him after we got home. So, thank you for your prayers and concern as he recuperates. I’ll share more about this later, but wanted to get this note posted before we crash tonight. Again, thank you. It meant a lot to have folks praying at our church and around the country. More tomorrow.
My father, who is 88, called me this afternoon. He had just received a call from a hospital in Georgia where my brother had been admitted in critical condition. We still do not know any details except that he was found in his car unconscious and brought by paramedics to the hospital. He has not regained consciousness, and is now on a respirator in intensive care. Debbie and I leave in the morning for Georgia, and appreciate your prayers as we travel, and for my brother. Thank you.
We used this idea for Easter 2008. It doubled our church attendance for Easter. We average 105, on Easter we had more than 210. Largest crowd ever! The church is still buzzing about it. Not only that, but we have retained several families it seems. The next Sunday the attendance was 125 and the one after that was 151. It seems to have created some momentum. God gets the glory!!! He used this idea to see many come to know Him and add to the church.
John gave me permission to share his results with you. He graciously offered his email address — pastorjohn [at] evangelnorth.net — and church website — www.evangelnorth.net — for those who would like to contact him for more details. The key to this outreach idea, whether you use it at Easter or some other time, is personal contact. A personal invitation, followed by a personal phone call make this plan successful. Let me know if you try it and how it works in your church. Thanks, John, and keep up the great work at Evangel North!
I forgot exactly where I heard that saying — When God closes a door, He opens a window — but as corny as it sounds, it’s true. Last year, I dropped out of the “Missional Leadership” Doctor of Ministry program track at Fuller. The program is great, but the process we were to lead our church through was not working at our church for reasons that are unimportant here. But, my point is, after spending a lot of time, study, and money, I decided it would be in the best interest of the church for me to discontinue that line of study. Fuller was very accommodating, and I did not lose any credits in the transition, but it was still a disappointment to not be part of that cohort.
I am halfway through the DMin program, so I need two more seminars to finish. As I looked at other course offerings, none of the courses Fuller was offering seemed to be a good fit for me. A couple of weeks ago, Fuller posted a new course — Missional Ecclesiology. That’s a good fit for me with my previous missional leadership courses. “But, wait, there’s more,” as they say on TV! The course is to be taught by N. T. Wright, who is one of my favorite authors and theologians. And, I’m in! This is The N.T. Wright who is the Bishop of Durham, the author of a new book, Surprised by Hope, and of the magnum opus, The Resurrection of the Son of God, plus about 4 dozen other books. The course is offered Feb 23-27, 2009 at Fuller, which is also perfect timing. So, as they also say, “God is good…all the time!”
Here’s the podcast of the sermon I preached last Sunday, the third Sunday of Easter, on April 6, 2008. The text is 1Peter 1:17-23, and the sermon is titled, Living In Exile. Hope you find it helpful.