Posted tagged ‘Grecian Jews’

Muttering and Complaining About Church

July 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 20, 2018

                         

My friend, Ed Stucky, recently preached a sermon on the “First Church Business Meeting.” Coincidentally, the small town small tiny congregation where the two of us speak and worship was scheduled to have a church business meeting that morning after the worship service. 

Ed used the text from Acts 6 that tells of the crisis that the first congregation in Jerusalem had to contend with: the taking care of a group of widows who were “different from the rest of us!” These widows were Jewish, but had come to Jerusalem from other cultures and regions. At some time and place they had become followers of Jesus. One of the repercussions of that was the loss of a care system that the Jewish synagogue provided to its widows. The Jews took care of their own. Now…what about the new Christian church? And these women weren’t even native born! They were transplants…immigrants, if you will!

And there’s a lot of them! 

And the group of immigrants that the widows are a part of are “murmuring and complaining” against the native Hebrews. That is, the newbies are complaining about the people who have always been there! Today we’d describe the native Hebrews in this story as the people who would say something along the lines of “This is OUR church!”

It is the fertile soil for a cultural battle. I can hear the excuses.

“We’ve only got so much food.” 

“We can only do so much.” 

“We’ve got to take care of our own first!”

“Y’all eat different kinds of food than we eat!”

“It’s not our responsibility!”

And so the Grecian Jewish Christians muttered and complained, and the Twelve said let’s figure out a solution to this problem! 

The process was quickly defined. 1) A meeting was called of all the disciples. 2) The problem was identified. 3) It was determined that what was happening went against the core values/beliefs of the church. That is, it needed to be solved, not neglected! 4) The solution was found, put into practice, and the way the church functioned was changed accordingly. 

Huh! How ‘bout that!

The thing is this first century crisis could have torn the church apart. Just imagine a new church plant today that has half of its attenders wanting to meet on Saturday night and half who are firmly anchored to Sunday morning. Or half the people who mutter and complain about having a woman as the lead pastor for the congregation and half who believe she is who God has called to be the leader, that gender has no bearing on God’s calling.

The disciples decided that the widows of the Grecian Jews had a legitimate complaint and took care of the matter. They didn’t let it fester. Shortly before this they had witnessed the “drop dead” experiences of Ananias and Sapphire. That was an awakening moment for the Jesus followers, just as the two deceivers crumpled to the ground. It was a moment when the church got serious about this Kingdom business.

Let’s be honest! There have been numerous churches in recent times that have exploded because of muttering and complaining attenders/members who don’t feel they are being heard; and there’s churches that have people rushing for the exits because of complainers who want it their way or the highway. 

We live in a culture of entitlement, and that has filtered- sometimes like a flash flood- into the church. Some followers of Jesus feel entitled, while others are prone to discount anyone who differs from them. 

We’re like a bunch of dysfunctional Baptists! Oh, wait! Dysfunctional is not a term that has to be used with Baptists these days. It’s now just implied!

And yet the first church was able to figure it out! Huh! How ‘bout that!

Oh, and by the way! Our church business meeting right after Ed’s message that Sunday was productive, punctuated with laughter, and…short!

The Premium of Hospitality

June 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 1, 2016

                                

Yesterday I had a “Free Breakfast Burrito” coupon for Chick-fil-A. It was expiring soon…and I hadn’t had breakfast yet…so I went to the location closest to us and ordered my free breakfast, plus a glass of water. The young lady, Sarah, who waited on me was as courteous and hospitable as possible. And not in a “put on” kind of way! She was genuinely interested in serving me and making my brief dining experience positive even though Chick-fil-A made exactly “zero cents” from my visit.

She even asked me if I wanted any kind of sauce packets, and would two be enough? Chick-fil-A is, without a doubt, at the top of the fast food establishments in the category of hospitality. Even in the midst of crowded, noisy establishments their employees seem to enjoy their labors. I’ve taken our five year old granddaughter, Reagan, to a different Chick-Fil-A and an employee named Josie was incredibly engaged in what Reagan had been doing that day.

Notice that I remember the first names of both employees!

On the other side of the spectrum are two different phone experiences that my wife Carol had yesterday where she felt devalued and idiotic. Whereas I left Chick-fil-A feeling like I mattered, she felt like she was simply a number in a couple of impersonal systems, a faceless person who didn’t know anything.

We’ve all had experiences that are at both ends of the hospitality rating line. It’s interesting that encounters that leave us muttering to ourselves stand out in our minds as clearly as the exceptional encounters.

Personally, I am drawn to hospitality and courtesy. Darla cuts my hair, not because she’s cheap, but because she takes care of me. I want my barber to be kind of like Floyd from Mayberry…relational, friendly, and not draw blood!

My optometrist, Dr. Bettner, takes time to see how things are going with me, tell me about his kids, and explain things that I am clueless about.

My massage therapist, Jackie Landers, makes me laugh even as she is inflicting pain on my body. I joke with her about the fact that I’m sure she sharpens her elbows before I come in. She is a 5 foot tall bundle of giggling energy. She hugs me when I arrive and hugs me when I leave.

Common themes in all of those people are a warm relationship and extraordinary hospitality.

In recent months I’ve been able to visit a few different churches of various flavors. Whereas preaching/teaching and the worship music becomes what gets focused on by those who are connected to those congregations, the hospitality of the people who greet you and the heart-felt interest of those sitting close to you AT THE END of the service are what impresses…or depresses…me.

After the benediction it is noticeable how many people rush for the doors, because their duty or worship experience has been fulfilled. The churches where people who have greeted you during the earlier “bulletin-mandated” greeting time, but then continue the conversation after the benediction…those are the experiences that stand out.

That hospitality was a significant focus of the first churches. The deacons in the first church in Jerusalem served the Grecian Jewish widows (Acts 6). The church had a reputation for extraordinary caring and service. They reflected Jesus, who was genuinely interested in all people, especially the ones who were devalued by the culture.

Back to Sarah! I’ve got a yearning to go back to Chick-fil-A tomorrow, and even spend some of my money!