Posted tagged ‘victory’

World Series Spiritual Revival

November 6, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 5, 2016

                                   

Pastor Fred was shocked when he walked into the sanctuary of his church, the Northside Free Temple, and witnessed an overflow crowd. His congregation, which usually ran about 45 to 50 in attendance on any given Sunday except Easter, was jam packed with close to 200!

What was going on? His first thought was that it was November 6 and Daylight Savings Time had ended early that morning. In the past, however, any time people had a chance to move their clocks back an hour did not translate into more people in the pews on that Sunday. Now people were packed in like sardines! So many new faces he had never seen, and many that he hadn’t seen in church in ages.

Perhaps someone was having a family reunion in town and the whole family came to church as part of the festivities. Probably not, however, since he could see a handful of ethnic groups represented.

And there was his butcher, Clyde, who was number one in cutting up a side of beef but about as crass and crude as they come…and that was around Pastor Fred!

In the back he could see his long-time barber, Phil. Was this the Bears’ bye week or something? Phil was usually either in Soldier’s Field on football Sundays or planted in front of his TV. He even had a haircut named “Ditkut”, named after Mike Ditka!

Then he noticed a red-haired middle-aged lady sitting halfway back with a Chicago Cubs baseball jersey on, and it hit him! Were a lot of these people here because of what had happened last Wednesday night in Cleveland?

Edith Pride rushed up to him before he could get to the pulpit. “Pastor, isn’t it marvelous? I’ve been praying for a spiritual revival for our church for years and God has answered my prayers! Look at all these people seeking spiritual understanding and guidance! I’ll be praying that God will inspire you with his words that need to be said this morning.” Edith usually was of the opinion that Pastor Fred was uninspiring. In fact, a couple of years ago she had tried to gain a following to have him removed as the pastor. Any problem, any time someone left the church or stopped attending for a while, she blamed Pastor Fred. In her opinion “scapegoat” was part of his job description.

“Pastor, there are souls here today that are hungry to be brought into the Kingdom!”

“Lord,” thought the pastor, “save me from Edith!”

A family with four young children had been funneled into the third pew on the left. The young ones had matching t-shirts, all with a Cub on the front. The mom decorated her neck with a thin scarf that also sported the name of their city on it. The dad modeled a polo shirt with the Cubs logo over his heart.

“Could these people be here because of the Cubs winning the World Series?” It was starting to sink in.

The service started and Pastor Fred read the Call to Worship from Romans 5. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into out hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Amen.”

A hundred “amens’ echoed through the sanctuary, mostly from the new faces present. Gladys Watson came to lead the gathered saints in a hymn, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.”

The singing was loud and sung with heartfelt emotion. The pastor thought he heard someone in the second row complete the phrase “My hope is built on nothing less” with “Rizzo’s bat and Lester’s arm!” 

      After the last verse Pastor Fred invited people to greet some people around them. He walked down to the family in Row 3.

“It’s good to have you with us this morning.”

“Thank you, Pastor! We had to live up to our promise.”

“What was that?”

“The wife and I both prayed to the Lord on Wednesday that if the Cubs won Game 7 we’d go to church on Sunday.”

“Oh, really?”

The wife resumed the explanation. “We figured that if we believed in God enough to pray to him about the Cubs, we should believe in him enough to come into his house.”

“Well, it’s good to have you, and it’s great the Cubs won!” He wondered how the part of the service where people shared their praises and concerns would go? He found out about ten minutes later.

“Are there any praises and concerns today?”

Edith jumped up like a turned loose spring. “I just want to praise the Lord this morning. I can just feel the Spirit’s movement in our midst. God is so good, and faithful!” Edith took her seat, smiling smugly.

A hand was raised in the back and Pastor Fred encouraged the person attached to the hand to stand and share with the congregation.

“Pastor, I just want to give God the praise for Anthony Rizzo. What a first basemen he is, praise the Lord!”

“And, Pastor Fred!” The voice came from the pew in front of the Rizzo-lover. “I got on my knees in the top of the tenth and unashamedly shouted, “Lord, if you are who people say you are I know you can move mountains! So I’m asking that you move the runners along so our beloved Cubs can win this game. If you do that for me I promise to be in church each of the next seven Sundays- one Sunday for each game of the World Series.”

The amens thundered through the congregation.

A smaller voice rose from the left. It belonged to a little girl who couldn’t be any more than seven years of age. “Pastor, I love the Cubs and I think God does too! And I think Kris Bryant is cute!”

There was laughter throughout the church, except for Edith! Her revelation about spiritual revival did not have the Cubs as part of the vision. She’d be talking to the deacons this week about repentance and getting right with the Lord.

The Cubs’ spiritual revival sharing went on for another fifteen minutes. Everyone from Jack Brickhouse to Ron Santo was mentioned. By the end of the service Pastor Fred was beginning to think that this spiritual renewal, at least for one Sunday, WAS because of what happened four nights earlier. He started wondering if God could use the end of a 108 year drought to bring new life to a dried up church. One thing was for sure! He was going to the nearest department store and buying a World Series Champions t-shirt. He might even wear it under his suit and tie next Sunday.

Go Cubs Go!

Easy Victories and Long Journeys

April 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 April 13, 2016

                    

My friend, Steve Wamberg, and I are sharing the Sunday speaking duties at a very small church in a small community on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. Wonderful people, simply incredible! Steve and I have come to realize that this small congregation is, for lack of a better term, stuck. They don’t have a pastor, and they are an aging congregation in the midst of a community that is declining in population.

What’s a church to do?

This Sunday they’ve asked us to help them “talk”, to brainstorm, and create a little bit of congregational movement. One of the first things we’re going to help them figure out is what might be a couple of easy victories. For instance, one of the church signs has been leaned up against the building for several months. Perhaps an easy victory for this congregation would be to put the sign back up, make sure it’s in good shape, and even plant some flowers around it.

That might be an easy victory that the whole congregation can get behind. One easy victory can be the primer for another victory.

Most congregations need easy victories that can be applauded by all. Let me emphasize the “by all” part! There is a danger in many churches of a “victorious superiority” to surface as a result of one ministry/program having success. However, when a whole congregation agrees on an initiative the whole congregation can applaud itself.

Easy victories are within reach of any church. It just needs to be willing to see them. Here’s a few examples of what could be easy victories:

-Children are encouraged to be involved in the ushering duties of Sunday worship. A mentor usher trains, demonstrates, and encourages them.

-The church sponsors a “Thank You Breakfast” for teachers and administrators from the local school sometime during the school year.

-The congregation adopts a flower bed somewhere in the community and cares for it.

-A monthly gathering of senior citizens is begun for fellowship and presentations from different professionals in the community who have resource information relevant to the lives of the elderly.

– One Saturday morning paint the hand railings outside the building.

 

At some time, however, a church needs to identify a direction for the long journey. If an easy victory is like a trip to the local supermarket to purchase items for dinner tonight, the long journey is comparable to a trip across country that needs to incorporate lodging, meals, road maps, and reliable transportation. Whereas one can be accomplished with little effort, the latter takes more thought and discussion.

If a church experiences a few easy victories it prepares itself…motivates itself…to take on a long journey. For example, in Denver there is a large population of Karen people from Myanmar. A couple of churches have committed to the long journey of helping the Karen get settled, find employment, and establish a Karen church and/or worship service where their native language is spoken. It is a very long journey and the churches that have been traveling it are very committed to international missions and ministries.

Long journeys require congregations that are willing to stay the course, and staying the course is not something that our culture has a tendency to be willing to do. The hunger for success too often derails the journey.

Easy victories encourage and motivate churches, but the long journey shows the depth of a congregation’s commitment. Recently I was the starter for a middle school track meet. The participants in the girls’ 100 meter hurdles race were lining up. One young lady was looking down the track at the rows and rows of hurdles. With a concerned facial expression she asked me, “Do we have to run the whole way?”

Seems like a silly question, but that’s the question that many churches have to ask themselves as they look at the long journey. Do we have to go the whole way? Does a church that says it is committed to helping struggling families in a changing community that is experiencing more violence stay the course, or go halfway and then flee the scene?

The question for any congregation is “what is that long journey for us?”

I would tell you that is varies from church to church, but always involves three things: relationships, sacrifice, and transformation. The long journey will always involve all three, never just two out of three!