Who Needs Us?

Does the Church make a difference in our world?
Is it necessary? Is there really a purpose for the Church to fulfill in our society?
Yes, and No.
The world doesn't need a church that's focused on itself. Churches, just like people, can get a little selfish at times. They sometimes focus on their own activities, their own preferences, their own agendas all the while ignoring the needs that surround them.
The Body of Christ needs to be searching for people who need to receive the love of God. This attitude puts the Congregation's focus on others rather than just on its own wants and "needs" or even its favorite political agenda. God wants us to focus on who needs His love the most, not on who can benefit the Church the most.
The mission field in Bell County is those who are hurting.
There are people all around us who need the love of God. The drug addict trying to beat his addiction, the poor family working and struggling in a difficult economy, the outcast who feels nobody loves her, the lonely who need a friend, the caregiver exhausted from caring for a spouse or parent, those who don't know about the hope and strength that come from Christ; all these need the love of Jesus as it is expressed through His Church.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 that the Church is to "go" and reach the world. Our focus must be on going. Churches need to ask themselves if anyone would notice if they suddenly disappeared. Would the community suffer if your church suddenly ceased to exist or would its passing go unnoticed? Are there needs that would go unmet if the church you attend suddenly closed its doors?
The Church needs to be impacting Bell County with the love of God. Let's not get it backward by focusing on what we need or desire but reach out and find those who God wants us to transform with the news of His Salvation.

Buddy and the Blue Jay

We have a dog whose name is Buddy. He's a great dog, a dachshund. He's friendly with us and a good guard dog because he'll bark at strangers. He's pretty intimidating for a weiner dog, you don't normally think of them as protectors, because he's medium sized and he's really muscular. That's all good.
Buddy has developed a bad habit, though. He goes into the back yard to take care of business and he hunts. He's found moles and killed them, he found a snake and killed it; that's all fine, no problem. He's also found turtles and tried to kill them. We like turtles. The other day, he actually caught a blue jay at our bird feeder. I was shocked because birds are pretty fast, skittish, and hard to catch. I rescued the bird and sent Buddy into the house but it was clear the poor Blue Jay was hurt. It couldn't fly.
Wanting to help, I reached down to pick it up. This caused it great stress and it started screeching. I tried to calm it down by stroking its back but when I tried to pick it up, it bit me. It didn't hurt at all but it surprised me. It was obvious the bird didn't understand.
That's the way we are sometimes. God tries to do things to help us but we don't understand His ways and His cure seems threatening to us.
I'll be 50 this coming January. I'm just starting to feel my age a little bit. There are things starting to hurt that didn't before, my energy isn't quite as high, I can tell things are just a little different. That's hard. But I know that those things are preparing me for something better. My body has to wear down so that, eventually, I can be made new by God for all of eternity. It's hard to understand and sometimes I feel like that Blue Jay, it doesn't make sense and it's frightening.
I know, though, that God can be trusted and He wants to help me. I know that God loves me and all of us and His ways, though we don't understand them, are always best.
There is a verse in Jeremiah that talks about this idea of trusting God because He wants to do good for us. It's a verse commonly used at graduations because it talks about the future. It speaks to all of us, though, about God's plan for every one of us no matter what stage of life we're in. Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
God has plans to do good things for us. He does not want to bring pain or disaster on us. His plans for us are to do good, not to bring us harm. That's a verse we need to remember. The problem is that we, like that Blue Jay, don't always recognize His plans. We don't understand why certain things happen to us or why God doesn't intervene in a certain situation. We want God to get rid of all our pain but He doesn't work that way. He knows that isn't what's best for us. Sometimes we need to struggle in order to reach the next phase of our spiritual growth.
Cathe and I were married when we were 19 and 18. It was a struggle being married that young. We had a lot of growing up to do together. Those struggles made us stronger and brought us to the next place God wanted us to be. It was hard and we didn't always understand but God had plans to help us and he did even though we didn't recognize it.
God brings us to the place he wants us to be. It can be a painful journey, like suffering the effects of our bodies wearing down so that we can be prepared to meet Him in eternity. We can trust that He will help us no matter what and that His plans for us will bring us good.
I was talking with an older gentleman who was telling me how blessed he was by God. He explained how God had been with him in so many occasions during his life and he was so grateful for what the Lord had done for him. His comments were so sincere. God had obviously been very active in this man's life and he was grateful for that. He looked back on his life and saw where God had been helping him even during the hardest of times. He recognized God's handiwork even though he didn't understand it at the time. God was always with him.
God does this for everyone who trusts Him.

The Elders

Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, "If you'll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven."
The boy replied, "I don't think I'll be there... You don't even know your way to the post office."
Billy Graham is quite an influential leader in the church and has been for decades. He deserves tremendous respect for his ministry. There is a group of people who work in the church day in and day out in the trenches doing the everyday work of God's Kingdom who deserve as much if not more respect. They make the church run. They meet the people where they are and spend time with them over years of ministry. Graham spends a week or two at a time in one city preaching to thousands but these people spend years in the church working with people on a very personal level. They eat with them, laugh with them, cry with them often, rejoice at the birth of their children; they are there every day. That's something Graham can't do. They are the elders and deacons of the church.
Jesus is the head of the Church, it is His body, His bride, His spiritual temple. This body needs human leaders who are present in the flesh someone who can determine what Jesus' will for the congregation is. God has determined that the elders are to fulfill that commission.
Acts 20 is a record of the Apostle Paul's last sermon to the leaders of a church he held very dear. Paul had a special relationship with the church in Ephesus. He and they had great affection for each other. At this time in his life Paul is on a journey that will take him to Jerusalem. He knows that when he arrives there he will be arrested and handed over to the Romans. He had incited such hatred among his enemies that they wanted to kill him.
He had to go there because he had an offering of money taken up for the poor and oppressed Christians in Jerusalem and he was going to deliver it no matter what. He wasn't going to be diverted from this task.
This chapter of Acts records for us Paul's final farewell to the elders in the church in Ephesus. It is a powerful and emotional sermon and in it he gives these elders a charge. He tells them to take care of God's flock as both overseers and shepherds.
These two words, overseers and shepherds, describe the responsibilities of the elders. They are to oversee the direction of the church. Their duty is to pray intently seeking the will of Christ for the church. Each congregation is different and the elder's duty is to seek Jesus' guidance to determine His will for their specific congregation. They are then to oversee its implementation. They decide on the direction then make sure that the church is fulfilling its mission properly.
In their role as shepherds, the elders are to care for the needs of the people. Shepherds take care of their flock by feeding them, caring for them, protecting them, and loving them. A shepherd in Christ's church does the same. He feeds the flock from God's Word (one of the main qualifications to be an elder is the ability to teach from the Bible). He cares for their needs by encouraging them, grieving with them, rejoicing with them, and helping them in times of trouble. He protects them from false doctrine. He loves them by being personally involved in their lives.
The office of elder is a servant position. It involves prayer, study, and a tremendous desire to love the people of God.

The Deacons

I read an article that described both good news and bad news for a pastor in a local church. It went something like this:
Good News: You baptized seven people today in the river.
 Bad News: You lost two of them in the swift current.
Good News: The Women's Group voted to send you a get-well card.
 Bad News: The vote passed by 31-30.
Good News: The Elder Body accepted your job description the way you wrote it.
 Bad News: They were so inspired by it, they also formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.
Good News: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons.
 Bad News: Mrs. Jones is also wild about the "Gong Show," "Beavis and Butthead"
Good News: Your women's softball team finally won a game.
 Bad News: They beat your men's softball team.

Not good news for any pastor! Pastors are the leaders of their churches but they can't do it all by themselves. God, in His wisdom, established early on a leadership structure for the Church so that its mission could be carried out. There are two separate leadership offices mentioned in the New Testament, elder and deacon.
The deacons were first recruited in Acts 6.
The early Church had a problem, Jewish widows and Greek speaking widows weren't receiving equal care. This was a problem for the Apostles who wanted everyone to be taken care of but who had other duties to perform. They recruited seven men to be "deacons" in charge of making sure all the widows were cared for properly. The word deacon literally means servant. Their duty was to carry out the physical work of the church, in this case making sure the widow's needs were met.
The office evolved over the years but the title and the function remained the same. These individuals were charged with making sure the everyday needs of the church were met. Today, the deacons serve the same function. They are recruited as workers in charge of the various ministries of the Church.
Romans 16:1 even mentions a woman who served in the role of deacon, her name was Pheobe. Paul, the writer of Romans, refers to Pheobe using the same term as the original seven deacons in Acts 6. She was a Deaconess in the Church of Cenchrea. Many theologians think she was actually the individual who delivered the book of Romans to the Church in Rome. Many churches limit the office of deacon to men only but this was not the case in the early church.
The qualifications for men or women serving in the office of deacon are strict, according to I Timothy. Deacons are to be men and women of character who are exceptional examples of what Christians are to be. They must follow the example of Jesus.
Deacons are essential for the success of the Church. The Body of Christ needs men and women whose loves are devoted to carrying out its mission. Without devoted servants, the church languishes and cannot accomplish the Will of God.

Pastor Rob's Blog

rmortonPastor Rob Morton

Pastor Rob is a contributing writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. Each week you can find his articles here, Middlesboro Daily News newspaper or website or via FCC's Facebook pages