7/2/06, Pentecost 4-B

You Excel in Everything!
II Corinthians 8: 7

"Now as you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you, so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking."
(2 Corinthians 8: 7, NRSV)

ypically, Church Council meetings are somewhat boring. Folks sit on metal folding chairs in rows and listen to a long boring string of reports. However, I attended my first Church Council meeting with you last Wednesday evening here at St. John Church and it was fabulous! Excited and quick minds sat around a large table and shared openly about their leadership areas and took an active interest in the ideas of others. I was somewhat surprised, as the one-week-old new pastor, to hear the wide and exciting programs that we offer to people of all ages. A deep love and commitment to this great church was obvious. However, unlike the Church of Corinth, to whom this text was addressed, our Church on Mount Paran Road is well aware of our few needs and great opportunities.

In a real way this same spirit of expansion and improvement was the secret of American expansion west and the notion that we could found and maintain a free nation under God. This spirit came mainly from Christian beliefs that permeated our forefather’s ideals and ours.

Actually, every church and local, state and national budget has had to take seriously the need for funding challenging hopes and dreams. One of the miracles of history has been the awesome expansion of the Christian Church throughout the world. Sure, there are still some places where our efforts have been thwarted by politics and other religions, but when we look at our track record we can believe that, if the Lord tarries in His return, His Church will someday be successful in carrying the Good News of Salvation to everybody, everywhere. However, our immediate concern and responsibility is this church and community. If local churches like ours, would take seriously the need to introduce individuals and families to faith in Christ, a greater part of the world could be evangelized.

I have always believed that any church can grow. This has proven to be a challenge in some situations. County Line was my first station appointment as pastor in charge. It was located in west Cobb County on the Paulding County line. However, there were committed people in that church and we soon started to grow. We built a Sunday School annex and soon the membership had doubled. The keys to church growth there was that we began to expand our borders. We would distribute the used bulletins in mailboxes, back when that was allowed, and we made a special target of new homes. And folks came out of the woodwork.

Next was Asbury in Augusta which had a fine building but was a “family church.” There was some resistance from the current members to invite “outsiders.” However the church was in a safe city area where houses were close together and I was able to walk around with church invitations. Some of our youth got involved with this. I was happy when the old families opened their hearts to new visitors. And the membership doubled there too.

Belvedere Church had once been recognized by the Southeastern Jurisdiction as its “fastest growing new church.” It, along with the Belvedere Shopping Center, was once a pearl, but had hit upon hard times. Belvedere had lost members every year for many years but we were able to have a gain every year, although one year we had a gain of one. Our next appointment was to Stone Mountain First where rapid subdivision growth was already happening. It was about all I could do to keep up with visiting the visitors and trying to get the “backsliders” to come back home. We grew from 727 to over 1700 in six years, and our family remembers those years as about our best time ever.

After the struggling churches we inherited several in which the members did not realize that they were in a declining situation. Several suffered from the problem of being settled in and had lost their zeal for winning persons to Christ. It is true that a church either grows or it dies. All of life is that way. Every cell in our bodies is replenished every ten years. We either grow or die. 

My Uncle Sam had a small fish pond dug on a creek in the back of his property. He dammed it up and released many fish into the clear water; however, home builders and new roads soon redirected the stream and his pond died. It had lost its source of life giving water. 

But our church community has an abundant supply of life, new members and hope. Every one of the fine homes that surround us in Atlanta’s prime neighborhood is filled with adults and children who need to draw closer to God. All we have to do is to learn how to fish in this stream. The AJC “Weekend NorthSide” supplement each week seems to have room for news from our church. Let’s invite every resident to V.B.S. July 17-21, FREE! Or we could place used bulletins in their newspaper boxes. The F. R. A. N. plan reminds us to invite folks. It’s hard to invite friends to visit your church at first but soon it’s a part of your talk.

I hope you are with us? Not all will get on board just yet. Once upon a time a Duke University fraternity hazed its pledges by dressing them in rubber Blue Devil suits and taking them out into the country and turning them loose on an unpaved road. They groped along until they saw a light. When they got there it was a little church having Revival. All ten devils barged through the door at once and the people were so scared that some jumped out the windows, except for one lady who stood tall and said, “O Mr. Devil don't harm me, I've been a member here all my life but I have been on your side all along!”

We may excel in many ways, but we all have some room to grow.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
7/2/06, Pentecost 4-B