Pastor Dan – Transcription:
“Thank you Jodi for that song about God’s grace. As we turn, and continue in the book of Acts, we are going to discover that for a church to function and stay together they’re going to need a little bit of grace.
You know, when I was age thirty, I thought that I had seen all that I really needed to see about the sort of the underbelly, or the inner workings of the church.
I was fortunate enough at age nineteen to get a job at a local church and so I had been serving the church for you know around eleven years by the time I turned thirty and I thought I had had seen all there really was to see about the church.
But then when I turned thirty, our denomination, our Presbytery came to me and they asked if I would be willing to serve as the chair of the Ministerial Committee in our Presbytery.
The ministerial committee’s primary task is to examine pastors, to screen them, to make sure that their theology and things were a good fit for the denomination, and you know to make sure that they really were supposed to be a pastor, etc.
Hopefully you guys can appreciate the fact that there’s a screening process, right?… and some of you thinking, “How did he get through all that?”…right?
But anyways I snuck through, and then eventually they let me be the chair of the committee that was examining other people.
And so, that was our primary task, but our secondary task was to handle any church conflict between the church and the pastor.
Now I bet you want to sort of imagine that that never happens, right? But it turns out it happened several times in our Presbytery while I was the chair of the Ministerial Committee.
So I would be the first person that they would call, and they would let me know, “Here we’re having this sort of problem… we’re having this difficulty.”
And so I remember one day I was there, and I was at my desk, and I got a phone call from a church that was like eight hours away, and they said, “You know, we got a problem.” I said, “OK… what’s the problem? They said, “Well our pastor resigned suddenly.”
Now anytime a pastor resigned suddenly, just completely unpredictable, this may be an indication that something went wrong. And I said, “OK, but what’s the problem? You know, pastors resign, so what’s the real problem that you’re calling me for?
And he said, “Well, we asked our pastor, what church they had accepted… what church they were moving on to.”
Usually pastors don’t quit one church until they found another church. And the pastor said to them, “Well, I haven’t found another job… I’m hoping that you guys can continue to let me be the pastor here until I find another job.”
And as you can imagine not everybody at the church was really excited about that idea. So they called and asked if I would help; I made the eight hour drive over there, and I knew I wasn’t stepping into a perfect situation but I had no idea just how hostile it was.
I showed up, and not only was the session gathered together to meet with the pastor but a whole group of people from the church were gathered at the session meeting as well.
Did you know you’re allowed to come to the session meetings, and observe, and sit in, and see what happens.
But not only was a group of people from the church there… but the session then voted to give all of them “voice” as well. So now I’m moderating not only a session meeting, but a partial congregational meeting.
The people from the church, didn’t actually have pitchforks and axes in their hands, but I mean they might as well have had (LAUGHTER)… it was that strenuous and difficult of a situation.
By the time I left, I don’t know what I did, but the church wanted to hire me as their next pastor, and the pastor wouldn’t talk to me anymore…(LAUGHTER).
So I think I think I did something wrong (laughter).
But anyways, after three years of doing this, I saw the underbelly of the church, and God opened my eyes to the reality that all churches are capable of having problems in them.
And we’re going to discover this morning as we continue through the book of Acts, that’s true even of the early church.
I want to invite you to the Book of Acts Chapter Six. Acts is in the New Testament; it’s the fifth book that comes after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And it is the history or the recording of the early church. And here we are now, Acts Chapter six, it’s our sixth week in the book of Acts together. And we’re going to be looking at these first seven verses of Scripture together.
As some of your Bibles are entitled, “The Choosing of the Seven”.
By the way since we’ve been challenging you to bring your Bibles to this new series, I’ve been finding a few of them in the Lost and Found which actually is a good sign for me… that because you’re bringing them, you’re losing them. (LAUGHTER)
Now when you don’t call looking for it weeks on end, we start to worry about you a little bit, but anyways thank you for bringing them, keep it up.
Acts Chapter six; we’ll have the Scripture on the screen as well. Here’s what it says.
The Choosing of the Seven
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip,…
You know, as I’m reading this I realize that I dominate reading all the time. Would someone like to volunteer to read the next verse of Scripture for us? (LAUGHTER).
Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Now friends I want to point out four marks of a healthy church, when we look at Acts chapter six. Not four marks of a healthy church from the whole Bible, just from this passage. I think it gives us four indications, four marks that we can pull away from it, of what a typical healthy church my have.
Now, hopefully when you walked in the room, you got this kind of a handout. We really hoping you have this handout, or at least close enough that you could scooch next to somebody and look at it.
On the back side of it, you will see these “Four Marks of a Healthy Church”:
Four Marks of a Healthy Church:
1) Every church has problems, no Church is perfect. (v.1a)
2) Everyone gets a little of what they want, no one gets everything they want. (v1b)
3) Everyone does something, no one does everything. (vv2-3a)
4) Everyone needs to fill the right role, no one fills the wrong role. (3b-4)
The first one I want to point out to you from Acts, chapter six – “Four Marks of a Healthy Church“:
1) Every church has problems, no Church is perfect. (v.1a)
Now that might seem like an odd mark of a healthy church, but what we’re doing from the outset here, is we’re just establishing, embracing the reality, that no matter how healthy or unhealthy the church is, every church is going to have some problems.
Let’s look at the passage of Scripture. Let’s look at this first half of this verse, (1a) one ‘a’ if you will,
“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing”.
This is a church that has a problem, we’ve already read about the problem, but, what’s to understand is, that this is not a dying, struggling church, that’s barely hanging on, that’s incredibly unhealthy, for many different reasons.
For all practical purposes this is a vibrant, growing, healthy congregation. And yet, that’s what it says, they’re growing, “in those days that they’re growing, they’re increasing rapidly”… and yet they_still_have_a_problem.
We might even label this first mark as being,
“Even growing churches have problems”
Every church has problems. No Church is perfect. It’s a great thing for us to understand.
You know there are many churches out there that have been declining in attendance for ten, twenty, maybe even thirty years or so… and they’re so focused on turning that around, they’ve got this sort of fairy tale idea about what that would look like.
“That if we could just stop declining, and just start growing, then all of our problems would go away.”
Not so. Not true at all.
Right now here at Kirkmont, we’ve got about seventeen folks who are going through our Discover Kirkmont Class, and one of the things we do, is we look at what we call The Essentials of our Faith here in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
We look at the seven pillars that we really stand on, and listen to what this number five says about the church; we discussed this at our last class. It says this:
“The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect expression in local congregations.“
The Church finds her visible, yet imperfect expression in local congregations. In other words, the Church is an imperfect place.
One of the things we said to our Discover Kirkmont Class is, “Look, if you are the kind of person, who the first time the pastor says something that is going to offend you, you’re going to leave, or the first time someone disappoints you in the church, you’re going to leave, then don’t join the church… because that’s going to happen.
I’m a human being. I’m full of shortcomings and failures, and if you get to know me long enough, I will disappoint you.
And the rest of the members of this church, if you get to know them long enough they will disappoint you as well; and guess what? If you hang out here long enough you’ll disappoint us.
We’re broken people, we’re imperfect; we have imperfect expression of the local church–that’s what God has called us together for.
Let’s get this understanding right out front so our expectations are right. If you’re here and you’re maybe on the fringe of the church. Maybe someone’s invited you here and you’re still just sort of thinking about the role of church in your life… I think you should know this ahead of time, that we make no claim about being a perfect place; that we are broken people.
It’s a very broken place, and that’s why we don’t put any one of us up front and start worshiping us. But we have a Cross that’s front and center to remind us that the one who died on the cross for our sins, He was the perfect second Adam, he was the only one who lived the way that he should have lived–the perfect life Jesus Christ, He’s worthy of our worship not us… we’re broken.
Every church has problems, no Church is perfect. Even this Early Church that was growing and increasing in its number.
Let’s continue on, we will look at the problem again here. It says,
the Grecian (Hellenistic) Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
I cannot think of an example of the early church fighting about something that you and I probably can relate less to. I mean, “Who are the Hebraic Jews, and the Grecian Jews? I mean, we don’t distribute food to each other, I mean what’s going on here, I can’t even relate to this problem that they were having.
But the early church was made up of Jewish people and non Jewish people and this seems to be an argument within the Jewish community of Early Christians. There were different groups of Jewish people that became followers of Christ. The Hebraic Jews were people who are most likely sort of native to Israel.
I mean Judaism was steeped in their culture. They might have been viewed as the people who lived in a culture and a society that was more faithful to God and His ways.
The Hellenistic or the Grecian Jews, are the Jews that might have been more influenced by the Roman Empire, and the secular ways of society.
And so there were these differing groups of people.
The best comparison, although it’s not a perfect comparison might be: “Old Timers vs. “New Timers” you know. You look at a church and say well these people have been here for fifteen years or more and these people have been here for fifteen years or less.
Like there’s sort of two different groups of people that are a part of the church, same church, but they’re different too in a way–there’s this line.
And what we discover is that we don’t know whether it was on purpose, or whether it was an accident, but apparently the concern is valid… that the Grecian Jews felt like their widows were being neglected. And they were being neglected; they weren’t receiving the proper care of the church.
Now while we can’t relate to this, there’s a principle in this passage which I think we can very much relate to. The principle of this passage is,
Here you have a church that is filled with competing interests. One group of people saying, “Well what about this group?” Another group saying “Well what about this group?” And there’s only so much food. So if we take the time to start caring for these people with the food. Then it’s probably going to affect the other people and how much they got… right?
There’s this principle of competing interests. And every church has a principle of competing interests. Every church that’s ever existed has had competing interests that existed in it.
Do you think that our church today has competing interests?
So we see a number two…
2) Everyone gets a little of what they want, no one gets everything they want. (v1b)
That’s the second mark of a healthy church I’m going to pull out from Acts Chapter six. Everyone gets a little bit of what they want, no one gets everything that they want.
Any church that desires to have multiple different groups of people in it, is going to have to embrace this principle.
Here at Kirkmont, my understanding is that we have a commitment to be a multigenerational church. We find value in multiple generations. But you know what that’s going to mean in all likelihood, is everyone’s going to have to get a little bit of they want what they want, but no one’s going to be able to get everything they want.
Churches might gather around different socioeconomic backgrounds, or whatever it might be, there’s competing principles.
So I want to invite you to take this Handout, with the this second point in mind, and flip it over to the backside.
On the back side you see Multigenerational Worship Profiles. I want to be clear from the beginning, what this does is it takes four major (actually five), but four major Adult Age Groups, and it breaks down their different opinions about different things.
The reason I brought this out over anything else is because we’re not fighting about or having issues about who should get the distribution of the daily food or not, but I do think that this area has the potential to impact Kirkmont the most, of competing interests. Because we are committed to being a multigenerational church.
So let’s look at this generational thing. First we need to embrace the reality. “There are exceptions to this chart” of course. There are some people who are are Bridgers who really like Builders style; there are some people who are Builders who really like Bridger style.
But generalizing here,
– Builders be considered like seventy or older. This is sort of a just generalization.
– Boomers people might think of his fifties and sixties.
– Busters perhaps thirties and forties.
– Bridger’s perhaps late teens and twenties.
So it’s just some sort of generational component, and here are some of the various things that they’re interested in.
Now let’s look at this Principle of Competing Interest here at Kirkmont and other churches that want to be multigenerational. Let’s go all the way down to music, the SONG row; and we’ll start under the BUILDERS column:
We’re not going to look at all these, but the BUILDERS (70’s and up) it says:
- Familiar hymns;
- Objective content
- Acoustic instruments
In BOOMERS (50’s and 60’s):
- Music with beat
- Performance Oriented
- Subjective Experiential content
And for BUSTERS (30’s and 40’s) – I’m a Buster:
- Variety of styles
- Emotional depth
- Can include lament
You know, when people first started hearing me talk about music changes, one of the biggest concerns was. “Because he’s young, the pastor’s going to want to try to make a rock band out of this church. But if you look at the BUSTER description, there’s nothing about that at all.
In fact that the movement from our generation is stripping things down a little bit more, some of the songs are slower, and more reflective; it uses the word lament.
We sang the song “Holy Spirit“. For some of you, that’s just a dreadfully long song… with unnecessary repetition… you just do not connect to it at all. But I’m up here like… just praising, loving the song, because I can pray in the midst of it.
So you start to see some of the differences played out generationally.
OK… back to the chart: let’s talk about the SERMON row; under the BUILDERS column it says:
- Outline- organized
So that’s why we go back to the days, when we had people who were accustomed and comfortable with the pastor standing behind the pulpit, using some form of outline so that his message is “simple, direct, outlined, and organized”.
Then you get to the BOOMERS:
- Practical application
- Emphasis on great themes.
And then the BUSTERS:
- Practical messages
- Answers real questions
- Real people
- Healing hurts
- Real stories.
And again, I’m a BUSTER, so I can identify in that area.
You know, it’s interesting, you see that word ‘narrative’ and ‘real stories’… that I had someone who attended the first service, they weren’t members of the church, but they wrote me, and informed me that they are going to be worshipping somewhere else.
They were BUILDERS and they do not did not appreciate my anecdotal style of delivery–they’re not into that.
But, look at this chart, and this shouldn’t surprise anybody here.
This helps us see some of people’s differences of opinion, laid out.
Finally go up to the STYLE row, and we’ll just look at one quickly there.
Again, I relate with STYLE under BUSTER… so you see:
- Casual dress
- Relaxed feel
- Variety of expression
- Rugged, and
I do want you to look at the BRIDGERS (teens and twenties) style though. The Bridgers style is an interesting one.
A few weeks ago some of our worship team, went to Cedarville University for a worship conference. And we walked into a room with stadium style seating. No natural light… where they could darken the room, they had multiple LED colors, and big screens and all that kind of stuff.
And I went to our group and was like, “Hey don’t you guys think this looks good?” And they were like, “No, not at all.” (pastor laughs). And I was like, “Oh, OK.”
And I realized, here we go we have a difference of opinion here… but look at the BRIDGERS column, STYLE row:
- Technology a “must”
- Symbol & Image driven
So you see that there is a description… a worship experience on a college campus, aimed at targeting BRIDGERS (teens and 20’s). OK. So we see that.
Alright, so I want you to see, this is just a positive opportunity for us to understand that if we’re going to be a Multi Generational Church, then we’re going to have some competing interests.
And we’re going to have to find a way to carry out Principle Number Two:
“Everyone gets a little of what they want, no one gets everything they want.”
All right let’s go to number three; go back to our passage of Scripture then. The Scripture tells us this in verse two,
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you…
Now let’s just pause there; there’s no period, but let’s just pause there. So essentially the apostles say this, “You’ve raised the need for us, but we already have a responsibility here. We’re already maxed out, we’ve got it. We are busy. We’re doing our responsibility. Now what we need to do is, ‘Why don’t we identify some people in the church who aren’t doing anything. And ask them to do it.'”
Implied in the request was, “Hey apostles… why don’t you do this also?” and they’re like, “Wait a second, we’re already doing something, so let’s find some people in the church who aren’t doing anything.”
Which brings us to our third principle on the other side of the sheet:
3) Everyone does something, no one does everything. (vv2-3a)
I bet I could ask you to raise your hands, I wouldn’t do this because it’s very insensitive… but I could ask you to raise your hand and say. “If you’re here this morning and you feel overwhelmed at times because of the level of commitment that you’ve made to Kirkmont, raise your hand.”
And I bet we’d have some people raise their hand.
Then if I asked you to be honest and I say, “Now if you’re here and this is your home church and you haven’t volunteered to really do anything at all, raise your hand.”
And some of you would raise your hand. Right?
So what we have is this dynamic of the healthy church, where everyone does something, but no one does everything… and that’s a mark of the early church.
Apostles are like, “Hey… this is a need, it’s valid but we’re not going to take it on… there’s people who aren’t doing anything. Let’s ask them to step up and do it. And to make it happen.”
You know in this area of caring for people. We’ve made strides here at this church, long before I ever got here. We have a part time, Member Care Coordinator, Joan, who coordinates the care of our members.
If you join the church, or you come here regularly, you are put into a care group, or a parish, is the term that many of you are more familiar with, based on where you live… so it’s Geography. And then each parish has a parish leader, or a care group leader.
How many Care Group leaders, are there any care group leaders here this morning? Any Parish leaders? OK. All right, we’ve got a handful of them who are here this morning.
And so you’ve likely received a call from these people, or an email, or if someone in your parish gets sick and goes the hospital, they might ask you to help bring meals.
We organize our care for each other that way by inviting everyone to participate in those efforts. Because we are trying to operate on the principle where, everyone does something, but no one does everything.
Then let’s look at our last principle. The Scripture goes on… and we stopped with,
…choose seven men from among you.
Now if there had been a period there, it might have seemed as if the Apostles were saying, “Go ahead and choose any seven people; it doesn’t really matter. Just find seven people who aren’t doing anything or who are willing, we’ll ask those people.”
But that’s not what the Scripture says… the Scripture says,
Go choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom; then we will turn this responsibility over to them.
So there’s some qualifications for who does this.
Some of you have heard The Principle of Leadership – good leadership is not about just getting people on the bus, but it’s about knowing what seat to put them in as well.
And so, here the Apostles are saying we need to involve more people but we need to involve the right people for the right task.
It’s an ugly thing, when you see someone having to serve outside of their gifting. And many times people have to do that, because the person who is gifted in their church to do that, isn’t willing to do so.
This is the importance of having everyone involved so that we can put people in the right seats.
At my last church, as we were assimilating new people, for the first couple of years, we did a good job of getting them on the bus. We did a good job of saying “Hey look, if you’re going to be a part of Riverside, we need you to help, and to serve, and here’s the different areas.
And we found we were doing pretty well at getting people on the bus. But about two years into that we discovered that we had sort of been an organizational nightmare as far as who was doing what in the church.
What was happening is, we had Children’s Church at our church, as we do here. And we relied upon volunteers, as we do here. And my wife Amanda is the one who kind of got children’s church started. And then she did it until she was done, just burnt out.
Then we handed the baton to someone else. And they did it until they were done, and burn out. And then she handed it back to Amanda, and said “Maybe you’re rested by now”, and then she got burned out, and then back to the first girl.
Then finally the two of them came to us and said, “Look , we can’t do this anymore. We’re done. This is not healthy.” And I’m glad that they did because it forced us to look and say, “Wait a second. We have enough people working, they’re just not in the right roles.”
So we would identify someone who’s willing to teach children’s church, and would be good at it, but when we asked them they would say ‘no’ because they’re busy passing out bulletins, or making coffee on Sunday morning.
That doesn’t make any sense.
So we kind of created a sort of a pyramid — like a “pyramid scheme” I think actually (LAUGHTER)…
We created this pyramid and would say, “OK at the top, here’s the most difficult task that people might volunteer. And all the way down to the one that we think people would be most willing to do.
And we asked our people, “Start at the top of the list and go down… put your name as high as you’re willing. Because as you go lower there’s more people who are willing to do that.
Let’s just illustrate this… “If you were given the choice between passing out bulletins, or… leaving the service, and going and teaching thirty kids the children’s sermon… how many of you would choose Passing Out Bulletins?”
And just to be clear, to illustrate better, “How many of you would have chosen Children’s Message? (LAUGHTER)
OK. So you get the idea. That’s why, this pyramid thing, it doesn’t do any good to have people–the few people who are willing to do the harder task, doing the other ones that more people would be willing to do.
It’s not that they’re less important. Passing out Bulletins is important.
Have you ever walked in church, and they’re just like, (downcast voice), “Hey how’s it going?” …you know, they’re unfriendly I mean we need friendly people. (LAUGHTER).
I’m not saying it’s not important… I’m saying, more people are willing to do it.
So part of being a healthy church is understanding that,
4) Everyone needs to fill the right role, no one fills the wrong role. (3b-4)
Let me ask you church this morning:
Are you doing something?
And do you think you’re doing the right thing?
Are you doing something? And do you think you’re doing the right thing? Because when the church gets organized well, we’re about to discover, that what it can do is a beautiful thing.
And verse seven. We’re going to skip over all these names and just close with the last verse.
7 So the word of God…
So. So the Word of God … do you see that… the connection. They had a problem. They got organized around the problem. They dealt with it. They involved more people. It didn’t consume them. And they moved on; they had a problem, and now the Scripture says, as a result of that, “So the Word of God,
spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly,
I love Luke’s willingness and ability and focus to make sure that we always end with one of his accounts–remembering what the church is all about.
Here it is–back to people. It all comes back to people.
Let me tell you something. That this chart here… all these different styles, music, the way the pastor dresses, the way the building looks… all those types of things. There’s nothing in here that’s more important than people.
So the word of God spread. The number of followers of Christ increased rapidly.
That is the mission of the church.
You see these things (chart) are not the mission of the church. They’re the means, maybe the method… but they’re not the real mission of the church.
The mission of the church is to be about the business of drawing people closer to God.
The best way to stay out of a mess as a church, is to stay focused on the mission of the church.
The best way to stay out of a mess as a church is to stay focused on the mission of the church. By God’s grace and mercy may he help us continue to do that.
Thank you so much by the way for your willingness to continue to embrace the reality that this is not the mission. And you’ve helped us to embrace the culture, where not everyone gets exactly what it is that they want.
As we are making strides to see to it that a larger group of people get a little bit of what they want, we’re learning to compromise and adjust together. Thank you for your patience as we do that.
“Father God we thank you for your word as always. And Father God we pray just a prayer of forgiveness for any time that our actions or behavior have kept the church away from the mission of what we’re supposed to be all about.
I pray for those who are gathered here who feel overwhelmed or busy because they’ve been asked to do too much and are stressed that You would help them maybe to let go of some of the things that someone else could be doing and to take hold of the thing that you have most gifted them to do.
For those people who are here this morning who have yet to identify how they could serve Kirkmont, I pray that you would speak to them, that you would allow us to speak to them… that those of us who are looking to find names who would think broader and wider… and that you would encourage them to carve out the time to come alongside of Kirkmont and help us on our mission.
And pray that people are in the right roles. And we all thank you that we could be a church that is used by you to spread the Word of God, and increase the number of followers of Christ.
In Jesus Name we do pray. Amen.
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