As I considered what I would talk about for my final sermon before the Antrim Church…well at least for now…never say never 🙂
As I considered what I would preach about I had multiple options. First, I could have just continued my “Dear Least Important Church…” series, and you could be listening now to “Don’t Be a Sucker.” However, that would be an odd way, short of being unexpectedly being called home by the Lord, to end a ministry.
Or I could do the equivalent of a television series finale…where either we every open question is answered…or everybody is given a happy ending…or things are left in a permanent dissatisfying cliff-hanger. Well…
- I don’t have all the answers (only the Bible, and the One behind it does).
- I can’t give everyone a happy ending—we all have to wait for “a cry of a command,” “the voice of an archangel,” and “the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
- As for leaving you with a permanent cliffhanger…well…that would be cruel wouldn’t it?! 🙂 Beyond that, I’d have to make it up…unless, of course, instead of moving to California for my new job I just disappear. 🙂
Another option would be retrospective…again…like those that the sneak into television series. I could replay clips from my sermons…and then we could tell by you nodding…or sleeping…how many you remember the originals. 🙂
Or, I could be a bit more biblical in approach, and I could mimic Paul and the Ephesian elders…where, seeing them the last time, he gave that church he loved so much words of advice.
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Advice & Reminders
Well, I’m going to do a bit of a combo…some advice…and some retrospective.
More first bit of advice come from Romans 8:28 and Matthew 6:31-33:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:31-33).
Why our God is taking your preacher away from you…and taking me away from my brothers and sisters…I cannot tell you…no more than I can explain why my good friend and your previous minister was called home at such an early age.
What I can tell you is that whatever our Lord is doing, it is for your good…because you were called according to His purpose.
I can also tell you you shouldn’t be anxious, asking “What shall we do?” or “Who is going to preach?”…your heavenly Father knows what you need.
Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
And, all these things will be added to you.
That was advice, now for a bit of a retrospective. I still have a VISION for the Antrim Church of Christ, and I hope that my departure doesn’t lessen the commitment of everyone who nodded, letter-by-letter, agreement to my VISION:
- V — Values — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that you will only get your values from the Bible and that you will value heavenly things more than earthly ones.
- I — Integrity — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that you will always have integrity.
- S — Seriousness — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that you will take your calling seriously.
- I — Intimacy — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that you will have greater intimacy.
- O — One — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that you will be one.
- N — Nucleus — My vision for the Antrim Church of Christ is that Jesus will be your nucleus.
I will admit, it pained me…after copying and pasting those from my kick-off VISION sermon…to change “we” to “you” and “our” to “your.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have…there will be a part of me that will always be a member of this church. But please don’t forget those 6 letters and the sermons behind them.
My next piece of advice is thanks to Acts 20:26-27, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and 1 Corinthians 2:1-2:
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27).
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
As you figure out how you are going to fill this pulpit…both long term and short term…please consider those verses and insist on only having speakers that fit their implicit advice (and the qualifications of an elder you can find in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9).
In a related note, on February 4 one of Traditores Radio’s listeners tweeted:
I luv how you back up everything u say with scripture & it’s not out of context to prove a point! I’m close to packing my bags & heading for Antrim Church of Christ
[ Yes that’s over 140 characters…they used TwitLonger. ]
I know sermons would be a lot more interesting if they were “lofty speech and wisdom” instead of a whole bunch of scriptures weaved together to try to deliver the whole counsel of God while always pointing to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Please don’t allow it.
Yes, a charismatic preacher will fill these pews much more successfully than I did. You might even look forward to sermons every Sunday morning and get caught up in the excitement in the growth…
But, the church will be built on sand instead of rock, and when that minister moves on…and he will move on sooner or later…the congregation will collapse.
I never wanted you to trust my words…I wanted you to look them up yourself in the Word of God.
And I always, always…always…wanted you to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Don’t accept anything else from anyone else, no matter how appealing their words may be.
Now back to a little bit of a retrospective…
In the next Limrik my article notes how Rick suggested two goals for us this year…Commitment and Encouragement. I’ll let him have the honor of explaining them in a sermon, but the commitment part reminds me of how, in many respects, I have not shown the proper level of commitment to my faith or to all of you sitting out there. I ask your forgiveness and encourage you to slow down a bit and think about how you spend your time. I am convinced that one of Satan’s most effective tools in diminishing the effect we Christians have on the world is keeping us so busy on other stuff we have no time to show the proper dedication to the royal priesthood we’ve been given (see 1 Peter 2:9) .
And as we review how we spend our time…how much of it we spend on certain things…and the types of things we spend it on…let’s consider two things I said in my Halloween sermon, “Of Witches and Goblins and Big Black Cats”:
If you think it’s okay to celebrate Halloween, do so acting like a Christian.
Otherwise your true costume may be your Christianity.
If you celebrate Halloween in a manner not befitting a Christian, then…
Perhaps your true costume may be your Christianity…
Let’s fill our days like a Christian would…otherwise our true costume may be our Christianity.
If we spend the vast majority of our free time doing secular things…no matter how innocent they are…then our true costume may be our Christianity.
Now, I’m not saying that I think you are bunch of false Christians…you are quite the opposite. But, speaking of retrospectives, think back to another one of my sermons…”We Are Comfortable in Our Misery”…and let’s not be “by the skin of our teeth Christians”…
Love One Another
After finishing the sermon I pondered what I had put in it a bit. Was it too negative or “preachy”? Should I spend more time telling you about all your positive characteristics? Was I focusing on the wrong things?
For instance, there is a tradition about the Apostle John that I heard this week that might have made sense to include…but I’m going to share it with you for an odd reason. The Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints had a really nice and concise rendering of it:
St Jerom [sic] relates (40) that when age and weakness grew upon him at Ephesus, so that was no longer able to preach or make long discourse to the people, he used always to be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples with great difficulty, and every time said to his flock only these words: “My dear children, love one another.” When his auditors, wearied with hearing constantly the same thing, asked him by he always repeated the same words, he replied: “Because it is the precept of the Lord, and if you comply with it, you do enough.”1
The “odd reason” I am sharing it now with you is so I can tell you why I didn’t originally.
Yes, it is awesome counsel, and you should follow it.
But, I didn’t originally include it because love is one thing the Antrim Church of Christ doesn’t seem to lack. Can we get better at it and should we have more of it? Of course! But, I didn’t put “love one another” on my short list of pastoral advice because, at worst, all I need to do is tell you not to stop doing it. 🙂
Now…as my final piece of advice…
In the first sermon of the “Dear Least Important Church…” series I had noted how that some felt that what finally dissolved the church at Colossae was an earthquake. Well, I suppose…more than just the church…the whole city.
Whenever a minister leaves, it is an earthquake for a church.
Don’t let it destroy you.
Because your foundation is a rock.
Don’t even let it slow you down.
Because your foundation is a rock.
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Because your foundation is a rock who knows what you need.
As For Me…
I wish I had time to finish my series on Colossians before moving…I really do feel that we are a “least important church” and that much of the advice that Paul had for the church at Colossae is perfect for us.
But since I am not going to be able to finish the series here, I’d like to go back to that book one more time…to a verse that we didn’t focus on when we reached it, but that is especially apropos when it comes to my feelings for you. Let’s turn together to Colossians 2:5:
For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
In a week I will be 3,000 miles away…but with the Lord their is no distance. Yes, I will be absent in body…
But I will be with you in spirit.
I will be with you in spirit.
Because I love you. You were God’s gift to me…as is the love He has given me for you…and as is the love that you’ve shown to me. All blessings I didn’t deserve but I thank our Lord for.
More important…Jesus is here…because “For where two or three are gathered in [his] name, there [he is] among them” (Matthew 18:20). Compared to Jesus, with my departure you have lost nothing.
Yes, I will be with you in spirit…but, more importantly, He is here. Praise God, He is here!
You were God’s gift to me, but now it is time to return you to the Giver…
“Dear least important church, I may be departing, but I leave you in far better hands…His hands…”
1Butler, A. And Butler, C. The lives of the primitive fathers, martyrs, and other principal saints. Retrieved February 12, 2012, from here on books.google.com