There is a lot happening in my life right now that is making it difficult to write posts for this blog, but I am trying. However, during this period, I've had another opportunity to preach, and that is now available below! Video captured by Stephen Hemenway, audio edited by Quenton Chestang-Pittman, video edited by me.
I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a point in the sermon that I am aware I did not adequately clarify when delivering it, regarding church membership and participating in mission. I stated at one point in the sermon that if the mission God has called an individual to and the mission of their church do not align, they should ask if they are at the right church. I stand by that statement, but I did not give any indication on what to look for when considering that issue, which feels irresponsible of me in hindsight. I do, however, have more room to explore that issue here than I would have as a tertiary point in a sermon, and I intend to take advantage of that fact.
What I mean by that statement is this: if God has called a person to a specific work, and called a person to a specific church body, then the person is also called to contribute to the specific mission that church is tasked with, and certainly not to hinder it. Likewise, the church is called to contribute to the specific mission the person is called to, and certainly not to hinder it. The Biblical statements about every member of the church needing every other member and every part of the body having a necessary function attest to this. If that is true, then it must also be true that a person who feels called to a mission that hinders, or is hindered by, the mission of their church is either on the wrong mission or at the wrong church or, in some hopefully more rare occasions, the church has the wrong mission; and it is vitally important that they find out which it is and correct it. The question is how to do that.
The first step is always going to be prayer and scripture, by the way. Going to God for wisdom and clarity, digging into the Bible for anything that may grant that wisdom and clarity, and earnestly listening for Him to speak will be necessary if you want an honest, usable answer. Every piece of advice that follows assumes you are only implementing it after spending some time in prayer and the scriptures. Also remember that this is only advice; the Bible does not give us a check list for this, and I can only share as much wisdom as I have so far.
The mission for which you are called is one which you, powered by the Holy Spirit, can do. This doesn't necessarily mean it is one you can finish, but it is certainly one you can perform for the season in which you are called to it. This simple statement gives us a few key things to look for:
Consider Moses. His gifting and skills enabled him to lead a large body of people, to judge fairly and honorably, to write the texts they would need going forward, and to face great trials. His interest in protecting his fellow children of Jacob enabled him to see their need and desire to find some freedom for them. His life experiences gave him access to Pharaoh, knowledge of the Midian desert, the skills he used leading Israel, and an unshakable faith that God would do exactly what He said He would do. His difficulty at speech meant he needed always to lean on God for his words and on his brother to deliver them, and his willingness to run when things got hairy meant he had to rely on God to be the example of strong leadership Israel needed.
Note first that this advice is only about mission compatibility. Nothing said in the sermon or here should be taken as an encouragement to leave a church over differences in style or preference. There may be times when you must leave a church for other reasons, and some of what follows may help in those situations, but this section is for a specific issue and should not be generalized.
Some initial questions:
If none of these resolve the issue (and sometimes even if they do), you need to talk to the church leadership. The exact person will vary based on your church's leadership structure and your relationships to them, but identify someone in a position to handle your questions and who you feel comfortable receiving honest answers from. Ideally, you will have been already talking to this person while analyzing your calling.
Personal mission and church mission do not have to be identical to be compatible. Our church hosts a growing food pantry which some members feel strongly called to lead or participate in; the mission statement of the church does not include that, but it does serve the church's mission goal of serving the community in a Christ-centered way that enables opportunities for us to share the gospel. Take the time to find out whether or not your calling and the church mission are actually incompatible. It is entirely possible that the church leadership will know about directions the church is going, ministry opportunities, or just detail about the mission that you don't know for one reason or another, and they can point you to a way to do what you are called to do under the umbrella of the church's mission. It is, in fact, entirely possible that what you are called to do is something that doesn't exist at the church yet because they are waiting for someone called to do it.
Seek ways to serve. Use your spiritual gifts under the guidance of the church and for the building up of the body. As much as possible, seek ways to be an active, contributing part of what your church is doing. But if all of this is not working, and it becomes apparent that you are simply not built for what the church is doing, then it may be time to prayerfully look into places where you can be active and invested.
Look, regardless of the church leadership structure where you are, the fact is that God puts leaders in His churches for a reason. The actual task of analyzing this matter should be handled primarily by the church leadership. By calling them to leadership, God has also called them to see the mission and push forward in that; and by becoming a member of a church, everyone else has submitted themselves to trust the leadership to do exactly that. There are times when questioning or even challenging the leadership is necessary, but if it is a habit or something you feel no hesitation to do, going to God about your relationship to leadership should come before your challenge is delivered.
That being said, when the leadership revisits the church mission, it will generally follow pretty similar steps to those for analyzing personal calling, with the additional understanding that church missions are generally paired with church visions; the latter being where the church is going, and the former being how it will get there. Wise church leaders will look at how the people God has called to that body can do a work that uses the available gifts, skills, and interests to engage with the church's context to participate in a work that only God can bring to fruit.
This Sunday I had the pleasure of preaching John 1:14-18 as part of Advent. I'm experimenting with some video editing for other projects, so this video will have more going on than usual. Audio is taken from the Highland Baptist sermon podcast, with music and editing by Quenton Pittman.
Near the end of last school year, I shared a very short sermon I gave in class called Living the Life. I knew at that time that the topic would need more time than the parameters of the class allowed, so I stated I would be returning to it when I had the opportunity to preach at my church. That sermon was called Snapshot of the Christian Life and was delivered at Highland Baptist Church on June 9, 2019.
Today, I delivered the third and final sermon as part of my final for Homiletics. This was probably my weakest of the three, partly because I picked a passage that really needed more time than I had available to give it. I marked it as abridged not because I've removed anything from the presentation, but because I hope to expand on it and then revisit this text in a longer sermon in a church environment some time.
The assignment was for a twenty minute sermon, and I was asked to try to use as few notes as possible. As such, it ended up being shorter because I was trying hard to avoid going over. Passage is Jude 20-25, and touches on some of the same issues as I addressed in my General Epistles series.
The second sermon delivered as part of my Homiletics final was a 10-minute sermon. My text is Malachi 3:7-11, reading from t he NASB.
It's coming up on finals week which means I have had a lot on my plate and haven't done any writing here. But! In my Homiletics class, being a class about how to prepare and deliver a sermon, the final project involves delivering three sermons. I delivered the first of those three today.
The passage is Acts 1:6-11 and I'm reading from the NASB. The assignment was to do a 15-minute sermon, and so I had to trim some stuff on the fly to fit into my time, but I got high marks so hey! I guess it worked!
The other two sermons will also be uploaded after they are delivered over the span of the next week or so. And in the meantime, keep an eye out for my final project in New Testament II, a survey of Paul's description of Christ!
This site has been quiet for a little while because there has been a lot of things keeping me away. I apologize.
While I've been gone, however, I preached a sermon. This was the last in a series on the differences between our perception of certain spiritual matters and the Biblical reality of them. I was asked to preach on the reality of Heaven and Hell and, due to the circumstances that day, was asked to keep it shorter than usual. I almost succeeded. At any rate, in trying to shorten the message, I decided to focus less on the details of both places and questions that arise about them, and more on the point of both places.
It was also the last sermon given at our church plant before we merged with an established church in town. Please keep that transition, and the mission we're bringing to that body, in prayer! I'm sure I'll have more to say about that another time, but for now, let's focus on the sermon.
The Sabbath is a tricky subject. God clearly takes it seriously, but with parts of the New Testament seeming to suggest it is primarily just a sign of the rest we have in Christ, what do we do with it? Why do some Christians observe a weekly Sabbath while others don't?
Yesterday, I preached an overview attempting to navigate the major points the Bible gives us about the Sabbath and what it means for the Christian life. This sermon was delivered at the Haven Church of Fitchburg in Fitchburg, MA.
Church planter and ministry student with a bad habit of questioning authority and writing too much.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation