Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Compelled, Gripped, Enamored

We attend a church that is blessed with a very exegetically inclined senior pastor. He takes the teaching part of being a pastor very seriously. Week in and week out there is nary a power point presentation, (although his main points show up on the screen behind him in black ink on a white background), and he talks for a full 45 minutes without fail. Due to his exegetical nature he goes through books of the Bible one verse after another in a painstaking way that is somehow also incredibly engaging. This January he began the book of Romans and this Sunday our pause came at verse 13. (You can see the pace I mean). It's true that he could be going through Romans for the next two years, but he will see it through to the end.

One of my intentions for 2007 is to not leave Church at church but to bring it home for the other 6 days of the week. Since I am truly a blog-a-holic, (I actually read my own blog entries again and again if no one I frequent is writing something new), I know that this will be a good medium for me to pen my thoughts on the weeks sermon. I'll be sure to link each week's post so that should you become interested in Romans they are available for your convenience. I'd love to have an running dialogue with whomever may have thoughts to share, so please feel free to comment. If you'd like to hear more on a particular week, (or think I may have misunderstood something I heard), y0u can actually download the sermons each week here .

I learned a new thing in church this week. We are beginning to look at the book of Romans and the church that existed there. I learned that the names of the person(s) who founded the Roman church are lost in history. Someone(s) who heard Paul talk became so compelled, gripped and enamored with what he had to say that they couldn't keep themselves from turning that talk into action. They didn't come home spurred on toward finding fifteen minutes of fame, or a book contract, or to become the next Billy Graham. They came home on fire for living like Christ as a community. No one was looking for superstardom, and that to me sounds completely unique. I don't know how many times I've daydreamed about doing something great for the world, too many to count. I am sure though that each time I thought about doing something great I also thought about becoming something great. I remember sitting in church when they were asking for volunteers to help with Hurricane Katrina relief. I immediately thought how cool it would be to go and be God's hands and feet, but right on the tail of that thought was another about having my face splashed around as a volunteer who made a difference. Maybe I'd even end up on Oprah! I'm sure my experience in that is not unique. I would even go so far as to say that we are wired to want those kind of accolades. How amazing would the Church be if we were one hundred percent, all the time, community minded? To truly engage in our churches in such a way that we didn't want people to talk about our individual greatness in a thousand years, but to talk about the church we attended.

The key points in this week's sermon were what this church was. Our pastor defined this church as a great church and as our example to strive for in bringing our church to greatness. The five things he identified the Roman church as having are: courage, constant and ceasless prayer, no superstars, a willingness to be stretched and a priority in preaching.

The Roman church was bold as it lived in a way to transform it's culture. The floodgate of thoughts that erupted in my mind when this was said was enough to distract me from the rest of the sermon. To live sold out and unshakable to the truth in an era of compromise and with the attitude of 'you do what works for you and I'll do what works for me' ,(which has a word but I am drawing a blank). I know there are lots of people trying to do that, but to do so in a unified way and with a genuine Christlike attitude. I get shivers just thinking of the possibilities. Yet those shivers chill as my cynical side says it's not something we'll see in my lifetime.

In Romans 1:9 we are drawn to the importance of prayer and as our pastor put it, the only way the church will go forward is on it's knees. I can't think of a better way to say that.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 Paul talks in a great detail about the Church being made up of many parts. It is alluded to here in Romans 1:12. This is where I learned that no one remembers the individual(s) who founded the Roman church. They didn't have a superstar. Not a Sidney Crosby or a Gretzky or a Billy Graham. They were a group of people each using their own gifts to build each other up. It's a sad statistic, (the exact number I don't know), but something like 20% of a church congregation does the work while 80% just show up. I know it's used many times to try and guilt people into volunteering, but just imagine how many gifts are going unused! Imagine how many prayer warriors are called but struggling with consistency, or how many people have a heart for youth that never gets put to good use, or how many creative people don't think their gifts have a place in the church. We are missing out today in a huge way. I wonder why that is? Where did we go astray in our thinking of the community of the church?

Our pastor, (whose name I'm not using cuz it's Paul and that would get confusing with the Paul in the Bible whose teachings are focused on in Romans), talked a bit about the priority of preaching. Not in that we should place our pastors on pedestals, but rather that they are entrusted with an incredible gift of passing on the teaching of Christ. They need to be constantly lifted up in prayer so they don't give in to the temptation to make their messages sound more 'user friendly' or 'culturally acceptable'. They may say things that offend us, but instead of getting huffy we should be listening to what God is telling us through them. Preaching is a gift and it's not taken lightly by anyone called to do it. I know from watching Nick go through preparing his sermons while on Internship. He began working on them a few months in advance, praying and practicing, researching and rewriting. It's not as easy as public speaking. Could you imagine God giving you a burning bush moment in which he tells you to talk to the people for him? YIKES.

Perhaps the hardest part of the sermon for me to hear was when he talked about how the church was willing to be stretched. Our church is a good church, as are so many, but we're not a great church. We have a long ways to go to become one. The biggest obstacle to getting there will be the fact that we are a good church. The enemy of greatness is goodness. Let me say that again. The enemy of greatness is goodness. All my life I've felt that I'm good at a lot of things, great at nothing and that's just the way it is. I completely understand getting caught in the trap of goodness where apathy and contentedness lie. I'm sure a lot of our churches are also content with goodness. Could you imagine if we fully engaged ourselves in the process of Christlikeness. Constantly striving to change our method without compromising our message to bring about God's glory here on earth?

Could you imagine what our world would be like if we too were compelled, gripped and enamored by God the way the Roman church was?


motherinlaw said...


motherinlaw said...

I told you that you are a terrific writer!

Angella said...

Great post, Amanda :)

T said...

Very thought provoking...and studious sounding!

I am amazed that you had the time to put this all down in a post so thoughtfully (simply because I have a hard time even posting about surface stuff with the 2 boys around!). I look forward to hearing more=)

karen said...

good post, Amanda!