The Burden Continues

After writing my blog for Monday I contemplated an interesting way to get the attention of our wandering sheep.

Let me know what you think of this idea.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church he spends the first few paragraphs describing his Romans imprisonment. He also takes time to encourage and instruct the church. As with all of Paul’s letters, this letter was read before the church. Before I describe for you what happens next, I want you to picture the setting.

The church learns that a letter has arrived from Paul. The people gather with excitement because they have not heard from him in a long time. They sing a few songs. They pray. Then the pastor reads Paul’s epistle:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

The people nod in agreement with his salutation. A few whisper to others how they appreciate his love for them.

The pastor continues:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Many in the room are saddened to hear of his imprisonment. Some begin to weep. All are encouraged by his great faith.

The Philippian pastor continues for several more minutes in reading the letter. The people continue to shake their heads in agreement. The people are excited. The pastor stops periodically to re-read certain statements. Paul’s words are a breath of fresh air for the church.

The crowd is emboldened by what is said next. Paul challenges his audience:

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents.

Back and forth this goes. As each word is read the people are drawn closer and closer together and to the Lord. This letter is definitely speaking to them.

As the letter draws to a close Paul says,

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Again, the people are encouraged by Paul’s love for them. They feel special to be in such good company with such a godly man.

Then, out of nowhere, Paul drops this bomb:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

A deacon in the church whispers to another deacon, “Did he just say what he thought said?” Someone else says to themselves, “Wow, there is no hiding this issue now. Paul just called out those two women.”

Can you imagine what Euodia and Syntche were thinking? You better believe they were shocked. I suspect they were embarrassed. We do not know what was causing this disagreement between the two of them, but it was big enough for Paul to hear about it in his Roman prison cell.

This is not new for Paul. He does something similar to this in all of his letters. He unashamedly calls people by name either to encourage them, thank them, or even correct them. You have to admire Paul. He wanted the church to function in a healthy manner. And if something was awry with the body, Paul addressed it head on.

Move forward to Sunday, April 29, 2007. Imagine what this would be like.

CrossPoint gathers for worship. We sing. We pray. The time for my message begins, and I stand to preach:

I have in my hand a list of families that have every appearance of no longer being committed to CrossPoint. I do not know if they are sick or if they are looking for another church or if they are disgruntled. But one thing I do know, they have not expressed their commitment to the Lord here in several, several weekends and now I would like to call out their names in order for them to settle this issue immediately.

If you know any of these families please contact them today and tell them we called their names in worship. Let them know if they want to continue to call CrossPoint their family of faith they are welcome to return next weekend and recommit themselves to Christ and His church. If not, then they must send word to us they are no longer committed to Christ through CrossPoint.

WOW! Can you imagine the stink that would cause? I am actually laughing out loud as I type these final few words. The irony of doing something like this would be dramatic. I suspect there would be more people upset with me in calling them out in worship rather than being upset with these people for not expressing their public commitment to Christ.

Just so you will know, I only thought about doing this. The odds of me actually following through with my plan are very slim…I think!

4 Responses to “The Burden Continues”

  1. 1 Bill Walker
    April 24, 2007 at 8:41 am

    I think we all signed a covenant when we joined the church. In order to remain a member in good standing, we need to fulfill our side of the covenant also. After all, that is what a covenant is.

    A church I used to be a member of (no, I wasn’t kicked out — I moved) would actively review the list of members, and if they had not been active for a certain period of time, would attempt to communicate with them, and if they were unable to, would remove them from the roll. This didn’t impact the attendance or the church growth. If anything, it made the membership more active. We had a membership of about 1,100 – 1,200 and attendance at worship of about 3,300. But, everyone thought long and hard about what membership in the church meant prior to joining.

    If it is good enough for Paul, why not CrossPoint? By the way, I missed last week and will miss next week — please don’t call my name out in worship.

  2. 2 Lisa Blakesley
    April 24, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I say BRING IT!! It needs to be done! People demand accountability in the workplace, in government and in our school systems. But bring it into the Churches where it ought to be to build strong Christian families and those same people start to crying! Jerry and I may be somewhat new Christians, but what we find the most refreshing and edifying about CrossPoint is that there is no gray area. On Sunday you get Jesus, plain and simple. And it is one of the few places we have found that isn’t afraid to move a congregation back towards accountability in many ways. Men need it and women! So Ryan, you would definitely curl some hair if you did it, but we’d support you 100%!!
    Love ya Pastor! (Sorry for the long post :oD )

  3. 3 JenB
    April 24, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    I believe you’re totally right in assessing that those who “skip” church for weeks at a time have little or no commitment to CrossPoint. But, sometimes, “life” gets in the way, and may keep a family out for a few weeks. I know families who are just plain lazy (their words, not mine!), and get in a rut after missing several weeks, and months of attending, thus diffusing their fire for attending & serving God in church. Some families may be out of church a time or two and if no one contacts them to let them know they are missed in fellowship, and needed in their place of service, and then they also have room for feelings to get hurt (even though we don’t “allow” hurt feelings, it will still happen). Unfortunately, these are just a few of the many deceiving ways Satan uses to make us ineffective in furthering the Kingdom of God. The responsibility is two fold here: One on part of the Christian church member to make attendance and service a top priority for themselves and their families, but also for the leaders of the church to reach out and STAY IN TOUCH when they notice someone missing. Think how you would feel if you missed a week or two and no one ever called, emailed, sent a card, or showed any kind of interest in the fact that you were missing. I think this post has just reminded me of the importance of my job at CrossPoint. It doesn’t matter how many times I have tried contacting an inactive member, I need to keep it up, even if I’ve not seen them in YEARS!

  4. 4 Anonymous
    April 25, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I am all about purging the membership list. If you are not committed to the church, then why should you have your name on the list. This is not a social club. This is all about HIM. (You know pastors for the most part don’t like to purge the numbers). It ruins their image with the association and their peers. But I always tell the pastor where I have worked that HE knows the numbers so who are they trying to fool. I haven’t looked the last week or two, but we were still sending the visitor list to someone who left a year ago. I know we haven’t even made him inactive. I think we do need to look at the list while we are still small enough to know who is who. I would love to see us get to where we are accountable for what we do. Bring it on. I love my church. GAY

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