Sunday Worship at Black Forest Community Church
Black Forest, CO
September 14, 2014
© Rev. Diane Kay Martin
So That God May Be Glorified
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. … And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.
1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
If we had a slogan for Rally Sunday today, it might be something like, “Rally Sunday – It’s not just about Sunday School anymore.” In most churches, Rally Sunday is, or at least used to be, just about Sunday School starting up after a long summer hiatus. But we run Sunday School all year long here, and we had a vibrant program all summer, so “it’s not just about Sunday School any more.”
But slogans are supposed to be positive, not negative, right? So maybe for us, a better slogan would be, “Rally Sunday – Dude! What are you doing for God in the next nine months?” Maybe for us, Rally Sunday is more about renewing than resuming—renewing our commitment to walk alongside God in the work God wants to do through this church. Maybe it’s more about taking new steps of faith and serving in new ways—ways we maybe hadn’t considered before. Maybe it’s about realizing that if this little church is going to thrive, we’re all going to have to pitch in, “so that,” as Peter wrote, “God may be glorified.”
We all have to pitch in, because a church is a unique organism. It’s made up of people—flawed people—but still, the church is the organism through which God chooses to express God’s self in the world. The church is a flawed, crippled, diseased thing—you know it’s true!—but still, God chooses to dwell in it. The church is the child that Jesus was birthed into the earth to give birth to. (Think about that…) And the fact that the Holy Spirit still dwells in the church—well, I’d say that’s pretty good proof that God still believes in it.
But nearly all of the statistics and studies since the 1970s say the church as an institution is dying. In most sectors of the U.S., church membership is down, attendance is down, and churches are closing their doors … forever. And maybe the church “as an institution” should die. Maybe the church God still believes in isn’t an institution but a group of people who love each other and are determined to stay together, come hell or high water, come fire or flood, because it is through those people that they have come to know God.
When is the church an institution? I think when it becomes more about ritual than about relationship, that’s when the church gets in trouble. “We’ve always done it this way” is empty rationale for being a place so culturally irrelevant that it shuts out 90 percent of the people it says it wants to reach. And there is a strange new breed of people who, on average, check their email or their Facebook page on their phone every seven minutes! Have you heard of the Apple watch that’s going to be released soon? You’ll wear it on your wrist so you never have to be without an internet connection. The next thing, says my daughter jokingly—and this week’s Time magazine quite seriously—is a microchip embedded in your body so you are constantly connected. Connected. It’s a different kind of connection, but it’s the way the world is headed. It’s a different way of relating, but it is relating, and that is what that strange new breed of people craves. Relationship. Connection. And that is what the church must be about. Or it will die—just like the Sunday newspaper and the yellow pages and “regular” gasoline and “dialing” a telephone. Relics of the past. Empty buildings standing as sad monuments to an institution that simply didn’t see it coming until it was gone. Long gone.
Will that be the way of Black Forest Community Church? Not if you can help it—and you can help it. By getting involved. By staying involved. By discovering your spiritual gifts and using them to keep this church alive. By nudging it forward, into the future, helping it adapt when it seems to be getting stuck. By serving on a board or a committee so you have a voice in the matters that matter to you.
Our scriptures today give a lot of examples of spiritual gifts, and our boards and committees use those gifts in very real and tangible ways. They do the work of God, building this church, keeping it vibrant. A leader of each committee has agreed to come forward when called, to give a shameless plug and try to convince you that theirs is the most exciting way to use your spiritual gifts for God.
• There is one group that uses the gift of assistance, does some healing, and even works a miracle every now and then by making sure everything regarding worship is just right. They prepare Communion, tend to the altar equipment, and take care of details such as palm branches, Easter lilies and poinsettias. They are … the Diaconate Committee!
<<<Diaconate representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• There’s a group that has a corner on the gifts of knowledge and teaching. They oversee the Sunday School program, the youth group, the nursery, vacation Bible school, and the adult education program, and they even have some clout with First Steps Preschool. Let’s give a big hand to …the Christian Education Committee!
<<<CE representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• The next group has the gift of exhortation: they’re always encouraging us to think beyond our own needs and desires. And because they bring an awareness of other peoples in other lands, they could also be said to have the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Give it up for … the Missions Committee!
<<<Missions representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• I have to tell a story in my introduction of the next group. Last week, I was reading through some resources I was considering using in the Confirmation curriculum this year. In one booklet, the author was commending a young woman who had been offered a high-paying job but turned it down because she had decided to “be faithful to God and pursue ministry work.” He wrote the story as if it was either/or! As if, if she accepted the high-paying job, there was no way she could be faithful to God! But I’m sure this next group—blessed with the spiritual gifts of wisdom and generous giving—would agree with me that accepting that high-paying job and then giving generously to your church is as much “ministry work” as anything else! We need those high-paid generous givers, don’t we, Becky? This next group is entrusted with the finances, the assets and the staff of the church. Let’s welcome … the Trustees Committee!
<<<Trustees representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• Everything I said about the church needing to adapt to the culture to remain relevant—well, it would take a good dose of prophecy and discernment to make that happen, and our next group is loaded with both. They get to plan the fun events that so effectively build the church as a community and not as an institution. They take on the marketing and social media aspects too. Give ’em a hand … the Church Development Committee!
<<<Church Development representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• This next group’s job can get pretty tough—and indeed I have heard that it has in past years. Blessed with the gift of cheerful compassion, this group is expert at smoothing out the wrinkles between the pastor and … well … everybody else in the church. Bring ’em on … they’re the Pastoral Relations Committee!
<<<Pastoral Relations representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• And no one, but no one, has the gift of exceptional faith—and exceptional arm-twisting—like this little group that functions only once a year. Let’s bow in reverence to … the Nominating Committee!
<<<Nominating Committee representative comes forward and speaks.>>>
• This next group exemplifies the gift of diligent leadership like no other. They are our church officers, and to our Moderator, Vice Moderator, Treasurer, Financial Secretary and Clerk, there is nothing more appropriate to say to them than “Thank you!” And now … our Moderator!
<<<Moderator comes forward and speaks.>>>
I close with the words of Peter, from one of today’s scripture readings. Again, “Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To God belong the glory and the power forever and ever.”
And so, let us speak and let us serve, so that God may indeed be glorified through Black Forest Community Church! Amen!
Sunday Worship at Black Forest Community Church