Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Retired Preacher's View from the Pew

The story is told (you’ll have to use your imagination for this one) of a small country church in Michigan that discovered Michigan crude under church property. If you’ve ever traveled through north central Michigan you might have seen some of those small oil wells pumping slowly but steadily away. A well was dropped and soon all the church’s bills were paid. Then a new church was built and a parsonage. The pastor got a raise and a church secretary was hired. The church doubled and quadrupled the money it sent away for mission work and to help the poor. And the well kept pumping.

A church meeting was held. What to do with all the money? A motion was made that when all the bills were paid, when all the mission money was sent away, whatever was left would be divided among the members. Motion carried. As the meeting was about to be adjourned old

Fred, a lifelong member of the church stood up and made another motion, “I move that we take in no new members until the well runs dry.”

I doubt there are many, if any, churches that don’t want to take in new members. It was and continues to be the directive of Jesus, “Go ye therefore…“ Matthew 28:18. It’s part of the Christian life, to bring others to know Christ and to be a part of the Holy Christian Church. Not only that, if a church doesn’t take in new members it probably won’t be around very long.

There are over 100 churches listed on the church page of the Bolivar Herald Free-Press (and many listed in local newspapers in Nebraska, as well). Thirty-nine of them have a Bolivar address. All different kinds: Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, Bible Baptist, Berean Baptist, Assembly of God, Nazarene, Church of God, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Episcopal, Roman Catholic. There’s also a Community Church, a New life Community Church and a New Heart Foursquare Church, a Freshwater Church. (Forgive me if I left someone out.)

And last of all--Zion Lutheran. Zion is Missouri Synod Lutheran. There are also Wisconsin Synod Lutherans and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and other smaller groups of Lutherans.

Many of us go to the denomination we grew up in or married into. We go because that’s what we do. But what about those who don’t have a church, those we are called to reach out to? It must be pretty confusing to them. “There’s a Church of God and a Church of Christ. Isn’t Christ God?” “There are several that call themselves Christian Churches. Does that mean the others aren’t Christian?” “There are several Community churches. Do you have to live in that town to go there?” “There’s a Bible Church and an Open Bible Church. Don’t they all use the Bible?”

What’s in a name? Not much when it comes to churches. We all know what the name of our church means (at least I hope we do) and what we believe in our denomination. But how about someone who’s new to it all? And I remind us all again--these are the people we are to reach out to.

A friend of mine said, “When we go to heaven our denomination falls off and when we go to hell it burns off.”

No matter what denomination of Christianity, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We all have the same responsibility of sharing our faith and spreading the Gospel. It is especially important that our pastors equip us so we can effectively explain what we believe and what our church has to offer as Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, and whatever denomination of Christianity we are.

Peter put it this way: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15b.

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