Here Comes the Nominating Committee… Everybody Run!

people running away1 Corinthians 12:4-7

It’s that time of year again for most churches.  The fine members of the local church Nominating Committee are making their rounds.  They are phoning folks, flagging members down in the church parking lot, sending out letters to inform the church about open positions, and are trying to catch your eye across the crowded worship center on Sunday morning.  They have a huge task before them:  to answer the question… “Who is going to serve this church in 2014?”

For those not skilled in the art of nominating committee dodging, (you have to be a Christian a while to get really good at it) you have to come up with a suitable answer when asked… an answer that doesn’t use the word “no” but communicates it just the same.  A favorite answer is:  “I will pray about it.”

Now,  I wonder what it is they are praying about.  If it is for them to make an informed decision about where to serve…  to teach a class or become a youth sponsor or serve as an usher,… then that is fine.  What I hope they don’t mean is whether or not they should serve at all.

The Bible is already clear on this:  Every member is to be a minister.  Paul writes to the Corinthians:  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Paul is saying, “Sure we aren’t all gifted in the same way, sure not every ministry is going to be our cup of tea, and yes, some ministries have greater impact than others… I will give you all of that.  But EACH ONE of you have been given a gift!  And note that the gift is for the “common good.”

The “common good” requires everyone to contribute.  If we don’t all chip in for the pizza… somebody will be left holding a hefty bill.  (This has happened to me… I have been a youth minister.)  If we don’t all bring our instruments to the recital… Beethoven‘s 5th is going to sound pretty awful instead of pretty awesome.    If we don’t all bring something to the potluck… not everybody is going to get fed!

I had a lady in a former church that came to the pot luck without a covered dish.  Nobody was going to say anything to her, but she offered this excuse anyway:  “I was going to make a fruit salad, but God told me not to.”  Really?  God wanted there to be less food at the fellowship meal?  The logic here escapes me.  But this is the same logic for believers that won’t minister because they need to “pray about it.”  Whatever your reason for a ministry vacation (time off for yourself… the desire to draw closer to family… to spend more time with God… etc.), know that the Bible is clear… the common good outweighs the good of the individual.  God has called you to a family!

Do something for me this Sunday.  When you see that Nominating Committee member in the Sanctuary… approach them and ask:  “Where can I best serve in 2014?”  You just might be the fruit salad they are looking for.

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Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

A Christian Response to EvilGalatians 6:9

This is the third in the series “A Christian’s Response to Evil.”  In this series we are looking at common responses in a season of terror and how we as believers need to be responding.  Last post I wrote that the common first reaction to evil is rage… but how our response needs to be Godly anger or resolve.

In this post I want to address the common response in the wake of tragedy of weariness or compassion fatigue.  The last 7 years in American history have shaken up all of us.  Clackamas Town Center, Oregon shooting (12/11/12)… Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin (8/5/12)… Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting (7/20/12)… Cafe Racer Espresso shooting in Seattle, WA (5/29/12)… Oikos University shooting in Oakland, CA (4/2/12)… Chardon High School shooting in Chardon, OH (2/27/12)… IHOP restaurant shooting in Carson City, NV (9/6/12)… Safeway shooting in Tucson, AZ (Rep. Gabby Giffords shot in the head) (1/8/12)… Fort Hood Shooting (11/5/09)… Virginia Tech Shooting (4/16/07)… Amish Schoolhouse shooting in Lancaster, PA (10/2/06)….  that is just seven years back… and I didn’t include all of the mass killings in the list.

If you are like me when you heard about the Boston Marathon bombing last week your first thought was:  “Again?”  It is so easy to want to give up on caring… to get tired of helping.  Because the tragedies don’t end.

Last Monday in Boston someone literally blew up the finish line.  Weary runners that had been on the course for 4 hours… exhaustionwith the end in their sights watched as chaos ensued.  Have you ever felt that way about life?  You help and help and there seems to be no keeping the darkness back.  Then… there goes the finish line.  You want to sit on the track and cry.  You reach the point that your heart shrinks and you want to go back to caring for  “me and mine” and leave all that saving the world stuff for somebody else.

The Scriptures teach that as believers we are not to “… lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

Jesus taught us to go an extra mile.  Some of the runners at the marathon crossed the finish line and didn’t stop running until they ran to the nearest hospital to offer blood.  Some dehydrated runners in medical tents with IV’s in their arms, ripped them out to clear the tent for the wounded.

Let me ask you, believer… “What extra mile are you running?”  For the hurting, the downtrodden, the exploited, the lost in this world.

Romans 12:17 & 21 teaches us: 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. …21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  The goodness that comes out of you thwarts the efforts of the “terrorists.”  So give, help, serve and love.

How can I help a city that is 1,100 miles away?  You can start by helping your neighbor across the street.  Don’t lose heart… instead offer  a compassionate “extra mile” kind of compassion.

Mark Buchanan in his book, The Holy Wild, shared an excerpt from a letter written by a missionary couple in Brazil:

“Driving through the Christmas traffic, fighting the drizzling rain, I chanced on a four-year-old little girl.  She was wet and cold and shaking.  Her clothes were ragged, her hair was matted, and her nose was running.  She walked between the cars at the stoplight, washing headlights because she was too short to wash windshields.  A few gave her coins, others honked at her to get away from their vehicles.

As I drove away only some fifty cents poorer, I raged at God for the injustice in the world that allowed the situation.  “God, how could you stand by, helpless?”  Later that evening, God came to me softly with that still small voice and responded not in like kind to my rage, but with tenderness, “I have done something.  I created you.”  (The Holy Wild, pp.  86-87.)

God hasn’t moved the finish line.  The finish line is Christ-like character.  And every crisis is another chance to grow in His grace.

The Incredible Shrinking Treasure

James 5:1-6              

In 2006 Bob Kitts, a contractor,was tearing out the walls of a bathroom he was renovating and just below the medicine cabinet he found two green metal lockboxes hanging from a wire.  Inside was $182,000 in Depression-era currency.  He quickly alerted the homeowner Amanda Reese and great was their excitement!

In the end, however, both only got a few thousand out of the find.  What happened?  They began to argue about how much each got.  Amanda offered him 10% and Bob wanted 40%.  It got ugly from there.  Eventually their legal battle gained public attention and the legal heirs of Patrick Dunn (who had hidden the money to start with) sued as well.  In the end everybody got a little… the treasure dwendled to nothing.  “If these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it,” said attorney Gid Marcinkevicius, who represents the Dunne estate. “Because they were not able to sit down and divide it in a rational way, they both lost.”

In today’s passage James issues one of the sternest warnings about hording wealth in the Bible.  While we tend to think that being filthy rich will make us deliriously happy, James says it should be an occasion to be miserable.  Why?  To begin with, stored up riches tend to evaporate.  Rich foods rot, fine clothes become moth-eaten, and gold and silver corrode.  Last to go is YOU!  (v. 3)

Jesus offers the alternative:  “Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)  And where does one store such a winfall?  “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where theives do not break in and steal.”  (Matthew 6:20)

Strive today that you will live a life of generousity.  It will come back to you… in good measure.