Check Your Vitals (Part 2)
We have so much to celebrate here at Mission Woods, and for the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the results of our survey and our call as a church.
The church in itself has always been an interesting organization in that its primary call is to those that are not members. One could contend that it is the only organization that exists for those that don’t belong to it.
Last week we looked at the marks of
Lifelong Discipleship Formation & Intentional Authentic Evangelism.
Today, we’re going to look at the marks of:
Outward Incarnational Focus & Empower Servant Leadership
As we do that, let’s take a moment to pray:
Sovereign God, Gracious Lord, Empowering Spirit, come. Come to your people gathered here this day. We come as needy people. We need your healing touch, we need your inspiring word, we need You. So we have gathered, and we wait; we listen; and we do so expectantly. Lord, speak, for your servants are listening. Open your word to our hearts and minds. We come ready to be challenged, ready to be moved, ready to be called to action. We come and we lay our burdens down to accept and take up the cross you have for us. We come in Jesus Name. AMEN
I’d like to call upon Drew who I like to refer to as our “Reader in Residence” to read our Gospel reading to us this morning. Drew?
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
These are the Words of our Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Check Your Vitals (Part 2)
You may recognize this text as we spent a fair amount of time in it earlier this year back in June when we were discussing our mission. We talked about our elders choosing to recognize ourselves as a Matthew 25 church, and what that means.
From our denominations website this is what they say regarding what a Matthew 25 church is:
“Matthew 25:31–46 calls all of us to actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities. Convicted by this passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the PC(USA) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.”
Some have said, how can a little church like Mission Woods do that?
There’s a story of a man taking a walk on the beach after a major storm. As he walked he couldn’t help but notice how the storm had brought thousands, perhaps even a million starfish and dropped them on the shore as the tide moved out again. As he walked, there in the distance he could see something running up the shore and then back towards the water. A small figure perhaps a mile ahead that he couldn’t quite make out as the gray clouds gave way to the morning sun. As he walked and got closer he could see it was a person, it was a boy scurrying almost frantically up and down from the shore to the water. He watched the boy as he continued up the beach and could now tell with every trip the boy was throwing some object into the sea. Finally he was close enough to see what the boy was throwing. With each trip the boy would pick up a star fish and then run down to the sea and hurl it as far as he could into the water.
Smiling as he approached the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
Winded, the boy said, “I’m throwing the starfish back into the ocean.”
Chuckling, the man said, “There are thousands of starfish all up and down the shore. What difference do you really think you’ll make?”
The boy stopped in his tracks with a starfish in his hand. He looked him in the eye and said, “It makes a difference to this one,” and he hurled it into the water and returned to his task.
You don’t have to be a congregation of thousands or even hundreds to make a major difference in the life of an individual or in your community.
Here are our scores for outward incarnational focus.
66% compared to 76% of how other churches scored.
And lets look at this a little bit more: 92% of you said that this church responds to the needs of people outside the church somewhat or quite well. 92%!!! 64 % said we did this quite well.
This is no doubt because of the efforts we have made in supporting our food bank, St. Francis House, our schools, in praying for those in our community that have needs, and working to be aware of the needs in our community.
The Food bank has said that our church is by far the greatest contributor of churches in the area. Think about that. Think about the size of some of the churches in the area.
Yet, clearly there is more work to be done. Just look around you, and you’re aware of it:
73% recognized that as a church we are working to alleviate suffering and eliminate its cause, but when it comes to Emphasizing Mission over self preservation, we got a 50/50 score.
In our passage that Drew read for us today, both groups of people: the one denied entry into the kingdom and the one invited to enter ask the same haunting question: When did we see you...
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And Jesus Answer:
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I also want to share with you how this is reflected in what you said about our church’s leadership.
Our score is on par with our denomination, but I also think that we need to be mindful we took our survey in the midst of a pandemic, and while we were shut down and doing parking lot worship.
For cultivating spiritual gifts we scored okay. 72% said we help members contribute to the life of the church.
67% said we help you find your God given gifts - I want to help you with that. If you don’t feel like you’ve yet discovered your gifts, lets talk.
Only 65% said you felt involved in the planning or leading of activities. Trust me, when I say, we want you to be involved!
More than half of you are involved beyond worship.
I was proud to see the way you see your leaders in this church. 86% said that staff and leaders model humility. So, when I say I was proud, does that now lower our score?
You see that your leaders are open to suggestions, and I was very much affirmed when 86% said that there is a good match between the congregation and your clergy.
So, I want to challenge you.
Leadership isn’t always done from up front. If you think about our church we don’t have a major paid staff. Much of the ministry we do is done by non-paid, volunteer people like you. Seeing a need. Having and Idea. Getting the information. Sharing their idea. Inviting others to join them. And watching it grow.
Both the righteous and the cursed in our Scripture reading asked, “When did we see you...”
Let’s all take the time to pray and ask the Lord to open our eyes to SEE. See what is around us. See the hungry and thirsty. See the stranger and make them feel welcome. See the naked and clothe them. See the sick and in prisoned and visit them. And I would add, SEE the person struggling for hope and share with them your hope in Jesus Christ.
When you drive through your community, when you turn on the news, when you listen to the radio, what do you see? What difference can you make?
The truth is you can make a difference, but you have to choose to act.
Check your Vitals
I want to close with a story of a young man, a junior in High School who saw something and chose to make a difference.
At 16 years of age, he was enjoying life. One Sunday at church he learned of kids in Africa that couldn’t go to school, because they didn’t have shoes. He didn’t think much of it. The next morning as he got ready for school and packed for basketball practice after school, he took note of the many “retired” basketball shoes packed in the back of his closet. His mind shot back to those kids that couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have shoes. He thought, I’ve got so many and they have plenty of wear left in them.
He shared his idea with his teammates, and his church youth group and thought he could surely come up with a hundred or more pairs to send. They in turn shared the idea with the rest of the school, and his church. In no time, his parents’ garage was filled with shoes of every size. They filled an entire shipping container with shoes for the children in Africa to go to school. The local newspaper carried the story, and the local news channel picked it up.
More shoes kept coming, money began to pour in to help with shipping, and an international ministry was born. Why? because a 16 year old boy who played basketball, saw kids that wanted to go to school and couldn’t because they didn’t have shoes.
I have been blessed as your pastor to hear so many stories of you seeing people in our community. The homeless person at the end of the block, the hungry standing in line at the food bank, the lost person who just needs someone to hear their story. You are ministers in our community. You are leaders in our community. You are servants in our community.
My prayer for all of us is Lord, let us see with your eyes. Lord, let us hear with your ears. Lord, let us love with your heart. Lord, let us serve with your hands. When the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?” May we all respond as Isaiah did, “Here I am Lord, send me.”