WORSHIP
THE FIRST-CENTURY WAY

Those Boring Announcements
                  
                     Famous Theologians  

About 450, Augustine - PRE-CATHOLIC:  "...that not the voice alone may praise, but the works too....So, too, do thou whensoever
thou singest 'Halleluia,' deal forth thy bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the stranger: then doth not only thy voice sound, but thy
hand soundeth in harmony with it, for thy deeds agree with thy words.  (
Expositions on the Psalms:  Psalm CXLIX)  

About 1370, THOMAS AQUINAS - CATHOLIC:  "To assist a man against any distress that is due to an extrinsic cause comes to the
same as the ransom of captives."
(Summa Theologica, Secunda Secundae Partis)  

About 1536, JOHN CALVIN - REFORMED CHURCHES:  "The closer the relation the more frequent our offices of kindness should
be...more duties in common between those who are more nearly connected by the ties of relationship, or friendship, or neighborhood.  
And this is done without any offence to God, by whose providence we are in a manner impelled to do it" (
Institutes of the Christian
Religion
, Book II, 8:44).  

About 1682, JOHN BUNYAN - BAPTIST:  "If thy faith be not accompanied by a holy life, thou shalt be judged...a sounding brass and a
tinking cymbal.  For, they say, shew us your faith by your works, for we cannot see your heart....This is the man also that provokes others
to good works.  The ear that heareth such a man shall bless him....What do men meddle with religion for?  Why do they call themselves by
the name of the Lord Jesus?...God, therefore expecteth fruit....Let them work, or get them out; the vineyard must have laborers in it....A
church, then...not place where the workers...may hide." (
The Works of John Bunyan, "Christian Behavior" and "The Doom and Downfall
of the Fruitless Professor").  

About 1721, MATTHEW HENRY - PRESBYTERIAN:  "Those that are not able to help...with their purses should help them with their
pains...lend them a hand....Lazarus in his distress had nothing of his own...no relation to go to, nor did the [church] take care of him.  It is
an instance of the degeneracy of the Jewish church at this time that such a godly man as Lazarus was should be suffered to perish....He
was hard-hearted to God's poor, and therefore he...has judgment without mercy and falls under a punishment" (
Commentary, Vol. V,
Luke 11:19f and Luke 10).  

1859, 1872, 1875, CHARLES SPURGEON - BAPTIST:  "The worst part of the Christian church...lost their hearts.  Step into your
churches and chapels, everything is orderly and precious; but where is the life?...You cannot pray well for those you know nothing
about....They fuss about that wonderful point in the fourth verse of the fifteenth chapter of this and that, but no soup kitchen brings down
upon them the blessings of the poor....We think our nose detects the faintest possible smell of hypocrisy in all this....To sunder ourselves in
sympathy from our fellow-men is certainly inhuman, and therefore it can hardly be divine" (
The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons pg.
277,
Sermons in the Metropolitan Pulpit pg. 258,  The Sword and the Trowel pg. 328).  



   Oh Jesus, you did so much for me.  You didn't have to leave heaven, but you did for me.  You didn't have to take the
persecution for being so good, but you did for me.  You didn't have to die such an excruciating death, but you did for me.  You
didn't have to descend to hell and then break out again, but you did, for me.  How can I ever repay you?  

  Our wedding was part of the closing announcements one Sunday night.  We had both been widowed and decided that, in this busy
world, we did not want to inconvenience our friends who struggle even to make it to young people's first weddings.  

  During the closing announcements, we disappeared into a couple of side rooms along with our best man and matron of honor (an elder
and his wife).  Meanwhile, when the man was through with the ordinary announcements, he just told everyone, "Dick and Kathryn are now
going to get married, so you may be seated if you'd like to stay and share in their joy."  

  Nearly everyone sat back down.  What an exciting announcement!  And they were part of it.  The podium was moved, an old fashioned
wedding song was sung, then we walked out and got married in front of probably 300 friends.   

  See there!  Announcements don't really have to be so bad after all.  

  Come on now, you may be thinking.  That was different.  Announcements?  How boring can you get?  For the rest of us, there is no way
you can ever make the regular announcements interesting.  Tolerable maybe.  But never interesting.   

  They're a waste of time, anyway.  Nobody pays any attention to them.  It just gives a job to one of the men so they can do something in
public.  That's all.  

  We have all experienced the frustration with the announcements.  Often, all this person does is stand in front of us and read the bulletin.  
Ever feel like he should just say, "Let us all together stand and all together read the announcements"?  

  Get ready for a surprise.  A surprise like you've never experienced before regarding Christian worship.  A delightful surprise!  A surprise
full of serendipity, fascination, victory.  

  All that?  Get real.  

  But that's been the problem all along.  We've never gotten real.  The announcements mean nothing to us.  Nothing because we've never
participated in them.  

  God, I think things would be much more holy in worship if we didn't break the spell, so to speak, by talking about each other.  
Putting in the bulletin who is sick is enough.  Don't you agree?  

                     Where's the Beef?  

  Why do we gather together with other Christians in the first place?  Technically, we could do everything alone that is a part of our
worship services.  We could sing alone, read the Bible alone, pray alone, listen to a tape of someone preaching alone, even keep the
Lord's supper alone.  People who say they can worship God just as well walking through the woods would be right if these are the only
reasons for our gatherings.  

  But there is one thing we cannot do alone.  It is explained in Hebrews 10.  It is the reason we are told to gather together.  

WHO?             CHRISTIANS - VERSE 22:  "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts
sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."  

WHAT?           REMAIN FAITHFUL - VERSE 23:  "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."  

HOW?             ENCOURAGE - VERSE 24:  "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."  

WHEN?           GATHER - VERSE 25:  "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one
another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  

WHY?             SALVATION - VERSE 26:  "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no
sacrifice for sins is left."  

  Have you ever wondered why so many congregations are relatively inactive out in the world around them?  The plain answer is that
we're teaching by example that Christianity is an inactive, passive state of being.  

  We teach, by our example, that Christianity is (1) going to a building, (2) listening, (3) talking, (4) going home.  For all the world knows,
they see us entering a building and coming out again.  We are not any different, and they are not any different.  No wonder people of the
world think Christianity is boring.  If that is all we do, then it is.  

  We must show each other how to express love and be filled with good works (God said that!), and then encourage each other to
actually do them (God said that too).  Otherwise we sin wilfully (and God said that); there no longer remains a sacrifice for our sins but
rather a terrifying judgment.  Remember, the devils know all about God and believe and tremble (James 2:19), and it does not benefit them
anything.   

  We must put behind us always being a learner.  Just being at the church building "every time the doors are open" is being a "hearer of the
word and not a doer...like unto a man who beholds his natural face in a glass; for he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway
forgets what manner of man he was" (James 1:23, 24 KJV).  

  Sacrifice was part of worship under the Law of Moses for the Jews.  It is still part of worship under Jesus' law for Christians.  There we
"offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name."  But this is not all, for we are also urged to "not forget to do
good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased"; (Hebrews 13:15, 16).  

  The worship service is only the beginning of our service.  Romans 12:1 tells us to "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing
to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." The King James Version states that it is "your reasonable service."  It is only reasonable to
expect a Christian to be full of acts of kindness and to encourage others to be also.  This is the fulfillment of worship to God.   
   Matthew 7:16 and 20 both quote Jesus as saying, "By their fruit you will recognize them." John 15:16 says Jesus' followers were
appointed to "go and bear fruit - fruit that will last."  

  Romans 7:4 and 5 explains the difference in what we use our bodies for as Christians compared with non-Christians:  "So, my brothers,
you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead,
IN ORDER
THAT WE MIGHT BEAR FRUIT TO GOD
.  For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law
were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death."  

  Is our congregation bearing fruit?  Do we claim to be Christ-like?  Jesus said in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a
man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."  Is our congregation apart from Jesus?  Has it
been accomplishing nothing in the name of Jesus?   

  Jesus went on to warn in verse 6:  "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches
are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."  Jesus said we must bring forth fruit.  He commanded it.  

  Let us not be one of those to whom he said,"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he
who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in
your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers'
"(Matthew 7:21-23).  

  Right or wrong, we are in an instant society.  We have instant potatoes, instant cataract removal, instant weather forecasts, instant
startup of our cars, instant music at the flick of a switch, instant microwave cooking.  

  Right or wrong, people want what they are searching for in church instantly also.  People are church hopping, looking for an instant
feeling of being accepted by the congregation and of being accepted by God.  They may give a congregation one week or one months, but
they won't stick around much longer if they're really serious about their search.  

  The only problem with this is that they become tired of always being the visitor and never belonging, and so most eventually settle for a
congregation that will turn them into a clone, or they quit searching altogether and stay home on Sundays.  

  God, I'm glad we have a preacher who talks to us about our good works.  Most of us don't have time to do them, but we can slip in one
or two every once in awhile.  We know our preacher means well.  

               From the Horse's Mouth  

  In his book, What Americans Believe:  An Annual Survey of Values and Religious Views in the United States,  George Barna
reported that less than half of Americans strongly believe the Christian faith is relevant to the way they live.  More disturbing is the fact that
this figure applied equally to people who are regular church attenders.  [1]  

  Since some people separate the Christian faith with the church, the same question was asked about the church:  Do you strongly agree
that the churches in your area are relevant to the way you live today?  

  Startlingly - or maybe it shouldn't surprise us - only 28% of the entire population agree that the churches are relevant to their lives.  Of
regular church attenders, 34% think churches are relevant to the way they live.  Of those who never, ever attend church, only 10% think
churches are relevant to the way they live.  [2]  

  On the average, regular church attenders miss attending church about half the time; that is, only half the membership of any congregation
is likely to be there on any Sunday morning.  

  In Barna's survey, of people who said they had not attended church in the past month, 63% had not attended for a year or more.  [3]  

  So, why do people attend church?  Less than half of regular church attenders attend to worship God.  The next most important reason
given for attending church was to become a better person.  [4]  

  Of those who regularly attend church, only half believe the preaching impacts the way they live.  Also, only half of regular attenders
believe the congregation is friendly. [5]  

  In his book,
A Generation of Seekers:  The Spiritual Journeys, Wade Clark Roof reported throughout his book the religious
questions that people are typically seeking to be answered by the church:  

1.         Where is God when I need him?  

2.         What is moral and immoral?  

3.         Aren't my parents' values good enough?  

4.         Can't I be a Christian in my home?  

5.         Why aren't churches concerned with social justice and community problems?  

6.         Why are churches so boring and lifeless?  

7.         Do churches have to be so prejudiced against women?  

8.         Can I find a more fulfilling life with the church?  

9.         Can I exercise my individualism in church?  

10.       What is truth?  

11.       Can the church help me understand myself better?  

12.       Can the church help me fulfill my potential?  

13.       How can I trust the church?  

14.       Why doesn't the church get involved in the community more?  

15.       Why is the church so impotent?  

16.       Why shouldn't I be suspicious of the church?  

17.       Why so much ritualism which it is so death-like to the spirit?  

18.       Is there a church anywhere who can make a difference in people's lives?  

19.       Can I have immediacy in my religion?  

20.       Can I encounter God and people on the feeling basis?  

21.       Are there any churches that exist in the real world?  

  Mr. Roof summarizes, "Just showing up and going through the motions is what many boomers abhor about churchgoing." [6]   

  Highly active seekers are trying to find a church where they are personally involved and feel fulfilled with their involvement.  One third of
seekers said, "I feel the need to find more excitement and sensation in my life." [7]  They want a church to be a warm, supportive place
over against a world that is very dangerous and corrupt." [8]  

  People who dropped out of the church in their youth, tend to return for the following reasons:  

1.         To have a family experience  

2.         To provide moral standards for children  

3.         To work out marital and family problems  

4.         To ease some of the suffering in the world  

5.         To fill feelings of emptiness  

6.         To fill the need to belong
[9]  

  One minister said this:  "I think people are lonely.  I think people's lives feel empty and dead for a lot of people, no matter how much
money they have.  I mean we haven't developed a middle-class theology to address our emptiness....then we stick them on a
committee....There's a gap in there." [10]  

  Another minister said, "What really matters is how you treat people in the here and now, because that's really the only thing, despite what
religion teaches you, that you can ever really know about.  You don't know why you're here, and you don't know what happens when you
die, and so you sort of have to make the best of what you have now."  [11]  

  Church dropouts and those who hold back from affiliating with any congregation put great stress on getting their personal needs met as
the reason why they'd go back to church.  They want the emphasis to be on feelings, awareness of needs, freedom, and spirituality. [12]  

  People are saying they dropped out of church and even quit looking elsewhere because of boring and uninspiring worship services, stiff
people in the pews, lifeless programs, cold and unfriendly atmosphere. [13]  

  When people refer to a church they can relate to and feel a part of, it is nearly always in relation to what goes on in the church
"basement" - small groups sharing and doing things.  

  People feel churches have lost "spirituality" which they generally define as genuine connectedness between religion and everyday life.  
"The struggle is to get beyond the facade, the external shell of religion, to its 'embodiment,' or the link between spirituality and responsible
action....Boomers are willing to make commitments that express their deepest convictions; what they have difficulty doing is giving of
themselves to programs and causes that do not connect with their own lives." [14]  

  Forty-eight per cent of liberal protestants and 76% of conservative protestants say that churches have lost spirituality.  The
disillusionment is indeed widespread.   

  "Boomers will commit themselves to religious activities and organizations, including traditional congregations, where they feel there is
some authentic connection with their lives and experiences." [15]  

  You know, God, I think the same way.  But there isn't a church anywhere that is like this.  It's impossible in these days when people are
always rushing.  An hour on Sunday can't include everything.  

               A Few Moments in Time  

  Oh, we know what you're leading up to, you may be thinking, not sure you want to keep reading.  Forgetting our own craving for
"feeling" our religion and making a difference in the world with it, we turn right around and say, "Well, don't expect me to put any time into
this.  I'm already overloaded.  Up at 5:30 every morning, to bed at midnight.  I can't handle any more obligations."  

  So, what we're basically doing is saying, "I want what takes time to do, but I don't have the time to do it.  I want instant spirituality.  I
want it automatically by osmosis."  That, in turn, adds to our feelings of guilt over a religion we cannot spend time with.  

  This is a busy rush, rush world full of time savers that our ancestors never had; but still they ended up with more leisure than we have.  
Indeed, Christians in previous generations had a sense of "feeling" their religion more than we do.  In a few moments a modern solution to
this problem will be suggested; but first let us look at how previous generations found time to "feel" their religion.  In those generations most
women stayed home whether or not they had children (unless, of course, they were the sole bread winner).   

  So, what did the women do during all that time?  Those who went to church got involved in "church work."  They went to ladies Bible
classes once a week, often combined with luncheons and a group project for the needy.  Before, during, or after those classes, they
discussed the needs of their own congregation and anyone in the community they knew about.  Those, by the way, were the
"announcements."  But there was more than just talk.  

  On their own or in twos, these women went out into their community and busily met those needs.  That was then.  This is now.  Things
are different now.  Indeed they are.  Time is at a premium, and we're so caught up in all there is to do, we sometimes get lost in the forest
and just wander, not even knowing we are.  

  Well, that's the kind of world we've created.  So, rather than jump into drastic changes, let's work with what we have - a few moments
in time.  Those moments will be on Sunday....  

  Okay, we've gotten up when our neighbors were still in bed or at least still in their pajamas.  We got into the car, stopped at a fast-food
place for a donut and coffee to go, and slipped into the church parking lot just before worship begins.  So far, so good.  

  Now, what are we going to spend this time in worship services doing?  Let's look at it from the point of view of visitors.  They walk in
and watch and listen.  For an hour they watch and listen.  They don't feel any different about the life they're going back to.  They haven't
been convinced in that one hour that anyone really cares about each other, let alone about the strange visitor.  

  That instant sense of belonging they crave from the congregation is not there.  That instant sense of connecting with God and that God
really cares about what's going on in their daily life is not there.  They arrive and they leave in their perpetual lonely vacuum.  

  According to Hebrews 10 above, we must spend a majority of our time when we meet together encouraging each other to have love
and good works.  

  "Like when?" you may be asking, rather impatient by now.  "The singing and sermon take up most of the time we're together."  

  Perhaps we need to reduce the singing.  After all, when Jesus established the Lord's Supper, the most important and divine part of
Christian worship, the Bible says they say one hymn (Matthew 26:30).  

  There are things we can do on the spot while we're still with each other.  Wouldn't that break up the formality?  Oh, yes, it would.  But is
that bad?  Who said we have to be formal?   

  A trend that keeps growing in the religious world ~ whether Christian, Buddhist, or whatever ~ is more emotionalism.  People want to
feel their religion.  They want immediacy in it.  So they raise their hands, turn around and around, sway, clap their hands, shout, put on
dramas ~ anything to feel.  

  Even after this, however, many people finally give up, because it did not really and truly fill that emptiness in their heart, the part of them
that wants to feel and experience religion.  

  Why not substitute all the time spent in emotionalism and formalism for some real experiencing?  Experiencing the love of God by giving
it and receiving it?  If we don't have time the rest of the week for love and good works, why not do it while we're together?  Are you
serious?   
          Harmonious Notes of Encouragement  

  Let the person in charge of announcements get up and say, "Here are some people that could use some expressions of love."  

  On the back of each pew have a supply of the following:  (1) Plain white bond paper, (2) envelopes, (3) a directory of members and
hospital addresses, preprinted messages on colored bond paper done by a member who writes poetry or prose.  

  Then the announcer says, "These are the people from our congregation who are in the hospital.  Sister Smith just had surgery.  Who
would like to send her a note?  Any volunteers?  Okay.  And Brother Jones is still in the nursing home.  Who would like to write him a
note?  Any volunteers?  Okay, now, the Greens just had a baby girl.  They named her Candy.  Any volunteers to send them a note?"  

  A few people who want to can raise their hands, and then begin immediately writing their note, or finding a pre-printed get-well note,
thinking of you note, sympathy note, or congratulations note.   

  But it need not stop with the obvious.  The announcer can then open up the newspaper.  "Last week there was an accident on South
Main which resulted in Hal Haley and Bryan Bullard going to General Hospital.  Who wants to send them a note?  Any volunteers?  

 "On the next page is a story about the Discount Pharmacy being robbed.  The clerk's name was Yvonne Yelton.  The robber's name was
Bubba Black.  Who would like to write Yvonne a note expressing our thankfulness that she was not hurt?  Any volunteers?  We have her
address in the office, so you do not have to address an envelope.  Any volunteers to send Bubba Black a note telling him that God loves
everyone regardless of what they have done?  He is out on bail bond and we have his address in the office also.   

 "On page 5 is the story of the parking garage murder last June.  The man was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  We do not know where
he is going yet, but we have his family's address.  Who would like to write to them a note of encouragement?   

  "On the obituary page, these are from our neighborhood:  George Green age 62, Holly Hamilton age 3, and Fannie Fatima age 91.  
Who would like to send a note to the family of George Green?  Any volunteers?  How about Holly Hamilton's family?  Any volunteers for
Fannie Fatima's family?  

  "The birth announcement pages contains these from our neighborhood:  A girl to Mr. & Mrs. Daniel Davis and a boy to Mr. and Mrs.
Bevis Blue.  Who will send them notes of congratulations?  

  "The engagement pages contain the announcement of Gloria Gonzales to Edward Effingham from our neighborhood.  Who will send
them notes?  Also married were Harriet and Harry Hendrix.  Who will send them a note?  

  "Now then.  We obtained the following names from the electric company that Mr. & Mrs. Victor Varnish have just moved into our
neighborhood.  Who will volunteer to send them an invitation to church?   

  "In our congregation next week we will have two birthdays.  Cards to these people are being passed down the aisles now.  Be sure and
sign it and pass it on quickly.  If the card is addressed to you, pretend you haven't seen it yet.  

  "In the nursing home down the street, there are three birthdays.  And in the orphan home we send money to there is one birthday.  Those
cards are now being circulated also.  Sign them quickly and pass them on.  Oh yes, a Loretta Young off at the university is having a
birthday next month and her card is being circulated, along with Harold Shaw who is stationed with the Army in Fort Freight on Mount
Ararat.  Be sure to sign their cards."  

  Then allow some time to write.  Five minutes of silence should do it.  If some who are not talented with writing notes would like to begin
singing softly during this time, that might be good.  

  Don't discourage the children.  If they want to use some of the paper on the back of the pews to draw on, let them.  Then turn in their
picture to be sent to one of the people who has been announced.  What a wonderful opportunity to teach encouragement to your child.  
                       Benevolence  

  But this is not the end of the announcements.  There are other things that need to be done that may require use of the fellowship hall or
some classrooms briefly after church services.  

  
HUNGRY:  "Next week, we are requesting that everyone bring cans of green beans to place in the barrels in the lobby.  Now, there
was a young father who stopped by the building this week who is between jobs and has a family.  He lives over on Second Street.  We
have his address.  Do I have any volunteers to go into the pantry after services, bag up what they need, and deliver it and a Bible to them
on your way home?"  

  
COLD:  "On page two of the newspaper is a family who was burned out a couple nights ago.  We have a list of clothing they need.  Do
I have any volunteers to go into our clothes closet and select a few basic items for them?  Anyone?  Raise your hand.  Okay, we have the
address of the motel they are staying it.  Can you deliver them along with a Bible on your way home from church?  Anyone with furniture
they don't need?  Call us this week with what you have and someone will call them to ask if they need it."     

  
BEREAVED:  "We have contacted the families in our neighborhood listed on the obituary page.  One of them does not have any
arrangements to feed the funeral attenders afterwards.  We are volunteering our building.  Who can come at 11:00 next Thursday with
some food?  How many volunteers do we have?"  

  
DISABLED:  "Sister Conrad is home from the hospital, but is unable to cook for her family.  Do we have any volunteers who will take
dishes of food over there this week?  How about Monday?  Tuesday?  Wednesday?  Thursday?"  

  
ORPHANED:  "The orphan home we support is in need of toys.  We have had some good donations.  But we need to fix them now.  
Any volunteers to stay an hour after services and go to the basement to paint and repair?  Come on, men.  We've already lined up dinner
for you.  Any volunteers?  Or if you're good at wood carving, sewing, or some other craft, please join the group and spend an hour
making new things.  Who would like to help in this way?"  

 
 WIDOWED: "Several of our single ladies need the oil and other things checked on their cars.  If they will take their cars immediately
after services to the west end of the parking lot, some men will be there to help out.  Okay, men.  Do we have any volunteers to help these
ladies?"  

  
FATHERLESS:  "We have two young men who want to be included in a father-son banquet at school on February 1.  Do we have two
volunteers to go with them?  Raise your hand.  There's one.  We need two.  One more volunteer, guys?  And we have a young man who
got a 100-pound bow for Christmas.  Do we have an archery buff who will take him out sometimes?"  

  CELEBRATORS:  "As you know, Scott and Janice are getting married next month.  They would like to have some love songs sung by
some of you.  Whoever likes to sing on key, meet them in classroom 4B after services.  They will hand out the sheet music to what they
want.  They have pizza available to eat.  Then you can go through the songs a couple times.  Who can volunteer your time to practice
every Sunday after church for a month?"  

  ABSENTEES:  "In the telephone room are sandwiches and coffee.  While the telephoners are eating, we need people to put our
attendance cards from this morning in alphabetic order and determine who was absent.  Then they can eat while the telephoners call to see
if there's a problem we can help with, the filers can eat.  Okay, any volunteers to put the cards in order?  We need two.  And volunteers to
make phone calls.  It'll only take an hour.  Who can help out there?"  

  TEACHERS:  "In the teachers' work room will be three elementary level teachers needing help cutting out visual aids for next Sunday's
class.  Also, one adult class needs help collating and stapling some handouts for next Sunday.  Do we have any volunteers to help out
these teachers?  It'll only take a few minutes.  Anyone?" [16]

                       Soul Saving  

 Are the announcements over yet?  No, not yet.  Remember, according to Hebrews 10:25 says the reason we are to meet together is to
encourage love and good works toward each other and toward others.   

  But we can do all the good works in the world and not be any different from good moral people who never go to church.  The reason
we do good works is to open up the hearts of people to let them know God loves them.  Christians need constant reminding of this.  
Non-Christians need to learn this for the very first time.  Until they are approached about their salvation, our work is not yet done.   

  Romans 10:1-3 says we can have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge, and therefore be lost.  So where do we get
knowledge of God?  Romans 10:17 says knowledge which leads to faith comes from the Word of God.  We need to get God's word out
to people.  Otherwise our work is not done.  

  A poll taken several years ago revealed that 9% of people chose a particular congregation because of the architectural beauty of the
building; 3% made their choice because the minister came to visit them; 18% chose on the basis of their prior denominational ties; 22%
were influenced to attend because they knew and respected certain members; 34% because they were invited by a neighbor or friend.  

  Every Sunday morning, the strongest emphasis must center around the unsaved, the seekers.  Other assemblies, such as Sunday night,
Wednesday night, or Saturday night, can emphasize the needs of the regular members.  

  Every Sunday morning, someone needs to stand up and say, "Have you brought a visitor with you today?"  Do not make the visitors
stand and embarrass themselves.  But just ask the members if they have.  Then welcome the visitors.  

  But we can even go farther than this.  The congregation can be divided up in groups of four or more (one for each week of the month).  
Each Sunday that group holds a potluck dinner in the fellowship hall for newcomers.  Visitors and new members of the congregation are
personally invited to the dinner.  Also people in the community are called and invited - possibly along with the telephoners calling
absentees.  The rest can be done from someone's home or by the church secretary.  

  Before you say you don't have time, everyone has to eat, including the members.  If you eat at home, you have to consider cooking time
as well as eating time.  If you eat out, you have to consider ordering time and waiting time as well as eating time.  

  At your newcomers dinner while they are eating, you can explain the types of work the congregation is involved in.  Perhaps a few of the
members who like to sing can entertain them while they eat.   

  After their meal, you may wish to show the first five minutes of a Bible survey film or a film proving the Bible is true, or so on, and have
sign-up sheets available for people who would like to see them in their home.  You may also wish to give a Bible to every family who
would like to have one.   

  You could also have a skit about someone deciding to become a Christian, or about someone in the Bible.  

  Some larger congregations have information centers for visitors in their lobby.  This is a more personable form of accomplishing what the
information center tries to do.  You can have at each place last week's bulletin, a list of good works the congregation is involved in, and
even a budget.  In the chapter on giving, surveys are explained showing that money and the suspicious use of money is the main reason
people leave churches or never go in the first place.  Individual members who are business owners could have discount coupons at each
place.  

  The idea for new people is to give, give, give, not take, take, take.  They are a little suspicious.  Let them know they do not have to be.  

  Another way to reach out to souls is to offer Bible correspondence courses.  This may be a world-wide evangelistic outreach, or a local
outreach.  At any rate, people's courses need to be graded and their questions answered.  In another classroom a few members could
gather to eat sandwiches they've brought, then grade lessons together.   

  Another outreach may be in yet another classroom.  This would be the prayer room.  Some people have a special gift of prayer.  It is
meaningful to them and they have no trouble with it.   

  On the other hand, there are some people who just do not have a long attention span.  They didn't in school growing up, and they still do
not.  It just isn't one of their gifts.  Rather than hold the congregation hostage with long, drawn-out prayers, the people who are
comfortable with prayer can meet together after services.  They may not be there long enough to need a meal.   

  They are needed to pray about everyone who was included in the announcements.  Also they may have confidential access to the names
of people who are studying the Bible and are showing an interest in becoming Christians.  

  On the attendance cards may be private prayer requests.  Those can be referred to and prayed for at this time.  Prayers of thanksgiving
are also vital.  And prayers of praise.  

  People wishing to contribute extra money to a special cause, or who have low incomes, may wish to gather after services once a week
to fast together and use the money they would have spent on dinner for a worthy cause.  They could do any number of things during their
hour or so together.  
                             Why?  

  But, you may object that the announcements during the services would take too much time.  There wouldn't be any time left for the
preacher.  

  Perhaps the preacher would like to incorporate the announcements into his sermon.  Or perhaps the preacher would like to spend his
time presiding over the Lord's Supper, or prayer requests, or reading the scriptures (all discussed in other chapters).  

  Or perhaps the preacher really wants to spend more of his time teaching the Bible on an individual basis during the week to these new
people who have begun worshipping with your congregation.  Even though they finally feel religion makes a difference in their lives, they
may still not be sure how to become Christians, or they have a multitude of philosophical, moral, and theological questions they need
answered.  

  Or perhaps he really wants to spend more time following up on the contacts made in the community through the newspaper outreach of
the congregation.  

  Preaching a sermon he must make general applications.  Talking to people individually, he can zero in on certain spiritual questions
people have and, after finding God's opinion of them in the Bible, help people find applications to their own lives.  

  Well, isn't that what the clergy is for?  To preach a sermon every Sunday?   

  In the church as set up in the Bible, there is no clergy and laity.  In Revelation 2:6, Jesus from heaven praised one congregation because
"you have this in your favor:  You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."  

  Then in Revelation 2:15-16 Jesus warned another congregation, "Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the
Nicolaitans.  Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."  

  The word Nicolaitan comes from the combined words Nicholas and laity.  Nicholas means victory, and laity means people.  Therefore,
what we have here is power over the ordinary people.   

  Actually, we are all priests.  Peter said, "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ....You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people
belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (I Peter 2:5, 9).  

  As spiritual kings and priests (Revelation 1:6), we have crowns.  Over and over in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus sent his messages
to the congregations and said, "I know your deeds."  Then in chapter 3, verse 11, our Savior admonished, "I am coming soon.  Hold on to
what you have, so that no one will take your crown."  

  We are reassured about our Christian works in 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 58:  "But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our
Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain"  

  And Galatians 6:9 and 10 encourages us by saying, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a
harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family
of believers."  

  In the last day when our eternal destination is pronounced, we can depend on the righteous judgment of God who "will give to each
person according to what he has done.  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal
life" (Romans 2:6-7).  

  "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help
them.  We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to
become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:10-12).  

  When, after a long hard week, and a weekend where you have rushed around to get your grocery shopping done, the lawn mowed, and
the myriad of other things necessary, but you get up on Sunday morning and worship and serve, you may sometimes wonder if you can
stick it out another ten years.  Think of Revelation 14:13:  "'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'  'Yes,' says the Spirit,
'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.' "  

  Does this, then, mean that we earn our salvation?  Definitely not.  We can never be good enough to be saved, ";for all have sinned and
fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:23-24).  

  Why, then, do good works?  It is to imitate Jesus whom we have grown to love.  He said in Mark 10:43-45, "Whoever wants to
become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not
come to be served, but to serve."  

  God, that's scary.  I'm going to be judged partly on my good works?  I don't have time.  I care about all those hurting people, but I really
don't have time.  Could you change you mind about this one thing, God?  

               I'd Rather See a Sermon....  

  Edgar A. Guest wrote a poem entitled, "I'd Rather See a Sermon than hear one any day."  
                                              

SERMONS WE SEE

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear.
Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear.

The best of all the creatures are the men who live their creeds;
For to see good put in actions in what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do.
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live. [16]


  How hard would we work for the church if we were paid $500 for each soul, $25 for each person visited, $20 for each visitor brought
to worship, $250 for each home Bible study you conducted?  

  God came to us in the form of a man.  When Jesus walked the earth, God too walked the earth.  Jesus left.  God's Spirit remained.  God
still walks the earth.  Through those who have God's Spirit.  

  What would our lives be like today if God hadn't taken the time to come to us?  What would our everyday lives be like if God took as
much time for us as we do for him?  

  E. Stanley Jones, missionary to India, wrote in his
The Christ of the Indian Road:  [17]  

   "Jesus was never in a hurry.  He never ran, never fussed, never worried.  But he was always busy, so busy that sometimes he didn't
even take time to eat.  But he always had time for that next person with that next need.   

 "At the end of Jesus' day, he was fresh and adequate.  Why?  He was not worn out with inner conflicts.  He was inwardly adjusted to the
will of God.   

 "Modern advocates of  'spirituality' put too much emphasis on introspection, too much emphasis on absorption with oneself.  Eventually
we must dismiss ourselves from the focus of attention, and get on with the work of God.  That, ultimately, will bring us the leisured heart.  

  "Jesus did not argue that life was a growth, and character an attainment.  He 'grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and
man.'  

  "He did not speculate on why temptation should be in this world.  He met it straight on.  And after forty days' struggle with it in the
wilderness, he conquered and 'returned in the power of the Spirit' to his home.  

  "He did not discourse on the dignity of labor.  He worked at a carpenter's bench and his hands were hard with the toil of making yokes
and plows, and this forever makes the toil of the hands honorable.  

  "He did not try to prove the existence of God.  He brought him.  He lived in God, and men looking upon his face could not find it within
themselves to doubt God.  

  "He did not argue, as Socrates, the immortality of the soul.  He raised the dead.  

  "He did not teach in a didactic way about the worth of children.  He put his hands upon them and blessed them.  And setting one in their
midst he said, 'Of such is the kingdom of God.  

 "He did not paint in glowing colors the beauties of friendship and the need for human sympathy.  He wept at the grave of his friend.  

  "He did not teach in the schoolroom manner the necessity of humility.  He girded himself with a towel and kneeled down and washed his
disciples' feet.'  

  "He did not discuss the question of the worth of personality as we do today.  He loved and served persons.  

  "He did not discourse on human equality.  He went to the poor and outcast and ate with them.  

  "He did not prove how pain and sorrow in the universe could be compatible with the love of God.  He took on himself at the cross
everything that spoke against the love of god.  And through that pain, tragedy and sin, he showed the very love of God.  

  "He did not discourse on how the weakest human material can be transformed and made to contribute to the welfare of the world.  He
called to him a group of weak men, transformed them, and sent them out to begin the mightiest movement for uplift and redemption the
world has ever seen.  

  "He wrote no books.  Only once are we told that he wrote anything, and that was in the sand.  But he wrote on the hearts and
consciences of people about him, and it has become the world's most precious writing.  

  "He did not paint a utopia, far off and unrealizable.  He announced that the kingdom of heaven is within us, and is 'at hand' and can be
realized here and now.  

  "He did not discourse on the beauty of love.  He loved.  

  "He told us that the human soul was worth more than the whole material universe.  And when he had crossed the storm-tossed lake to
find a storm-tossed soul, ridden with devils, he did not hesitate to sacrifice the two thousand swine to save this one lost man.  

  "He did not merely ask men to turn the other cheek when smitten on the one, to go the second mile when compelled to go one, to give
the cloak also when sued for the coat, to love our enemies and to bless them.  He himself did these very things.  The servants struck him
on one cheek, he turned the other, and the soldiers struck him on that one.  They compelled him to go with them one mile from
Gethsemane to the judgment hall.  He went with them two, to Calvary.  they took away his coat at the trial and he gave them his seamless
robe at the cross.  Then, in the agony of the cruel torture of the cross he prayed for his enemies, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do.'
 

  "He did not merely tell us that death need have no terror for us.  He rose from the dead, and told the world we could too.  

  "Many teachers have tried to explain everything, yet changed little or nothing.  Jesus explained little and changed everything.  

  "Many teachers have tried to diagnose the disease of humanity.  Jesus cured it.  

  "Many philosophers speculate on how evil entered the world.  Jesus presented himself as the way by which it shall leave.  

  "He did not go into long discussions about the Way to God and the possibility of finding him.  He quietly said to me, 'I am the Way.'  

  "The philosophical, the mystical, the spirituality-centered person is weak.  The mere practical person is weak.  But Jesus, glowing with
God and yet stooping to serve, is Strength Incarnate."  

  I have read somewhere of a wild duck on migration that came down into a zoo where tame ducks were feeding.  This one particular
duck liked the food so well that he stayed a day, a week, a month, then the whole season.  

  One day he heard a familiar honking high overhead and he recognized the call of his erstwhile companions winging their way home.  His
eyes sparkled, his heart beat faster, and he rose to join them.  But he had fed too well and could get no higher than the tops of the zoo
trees.  

  So he said to himself, "Oh well, what difference does it make?  I like it here."  So he spent the rest of his life in the zoo.  The day came
when his old companions passed over and he never even heard their call.  

  Reader, did you once mount up with the wings of eagles, but are now content to live in the zoo?  Does your heart sometimes beat a little
faster and your eyes be filled with tears?  

  But have you fed too well on the feasts of the Word in the church building?  Do you like it too well there until you have finally reached
the sad state that you no longer respond to the call from on high to go and share and tell those around you?  

  An unknown author once wrote this:  

WHAT THEN?

When the great plants of our cities have turned out their last finished work;
When our merchants have sold their last yard of silk;
And dismissed the last tired clerk....
When our banks have raked in their last dollar,
And paid the last dividends;
When the Judge of the earth says, "Closed for the night"
And asks for a balance ~ WHAT THEN?

When the singers have sung their last anthem,
And the preacher has made his last prayer;
When the people have heard their last sermon,
And the sound has died out of the air,
When the Bible lies closed on the pulpit,
And the pews are all empty of men,
And each one stands facing his record,
And the Great Books are opened ~ WHAT THEN?

When the bugle's call sinks into silence,
And the long, marching columns stand still,
When the captain repeats his last orders,
And they've captured the last fort and hill,
When the flag has been hauled from the masthead,
And the sounded afield check in,
And a world that rejected its Savior
Is asked for a reason ~ WHAT THEN?

When the actors have played their last drama,
And the mimic has made his last fun,
When the film has flashed its last picture,
And the billboard displayed its last run,
When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished
And gone out in darkness again,
When the trumpet of Ages has sounded,
And we stand up before Him ~ WHAT THEN?


  Have we set proper priorities in our life?  Read Ecclesiastes.  Solomon tried everything possible to feel fulfilled in life, but felt complete
emptiness in everything he did except where it concerned his God.  

  What kinds of plans do we have?  Do our announcements at church center around getting it over with so we can go on to the important
parts of the worship?  Do we discuss in our classes and sermons how much good we should be doing?  But it is always rhetoric?  Then we
go home unchanged?  And our friends untouched?  


TOMORROW

They were going to be all that mortal could be tomorrow.
No one would be better than they tomorrow.
Each morning they'd stack up the letters to write tomorrow.
It was too bad indeed they were too busy to visit,
But they promised to do it tomorrow.
The greatest of workers they would have been tomorrow.
The world would have known them had they ever seen tomorrow.
But the fact is they died and faded from view,
And all that was left when living was through
Was a mountain of good they intended to do tomorrow.


Some day our life will be over.  It may be fifty years from now.  Or five years.  Or one.  Or less.  How do we want to be remembered?  
For what will people remember us?  For building the largest building?  For going the fastest?  For being the best?  


First I was dying to reach my teens,
Then I was dying to graduate from college,
Then I was dying to get married,
Then I was dying to have children,
Then I was dying to get on with my career,
Then I was dying to retire,
Then I was dying.
And I suddenly realized
I had forgotten to live.




              The Second-Century Church  

   Some of the quotations below refer to money gifts, but can also be applied to working toward helping in other ways.  

  Clement of Rome about 96 AD wrote in 55:2, "We know many among us who have given [sold] themselves into bondage in order that
they might ransom others.  Many delivered themselves into slavery and taking their price provided food for others."  [18]  

   Aristides, a Christian from Athens wrote the earliest surviving explanation of Christianity and addressed it to the emperor Hadrian about
AD 125.  In his
Apology 15 he said:  "They love one another.  They do not overlook the widow, and they save the orphan.  He who has,
ministers ungrudgingly to him who does not have.  When they see strangers, they take him under their own roof....  

 "And if they hear that some are condemned or imprisoned on account of the name of their Lord, they contribute for those condemned
and send to them what they need....And if there is any that is a slave or a poor man, they fast two or three days, and what they were going
to set before themselves they send to them, considering themselves to give good cheer even as they were called to good cheer.  [19]  

  In the
Epistle to Diagnetus by an unknown writer, 10:4,5:  "But whoever takes upon himself the burden of his neighbor - he who wills
to benefit another who is worse off in respect of those things where he is better off, who taking the things which he has received from God
distributed them to those who are in need - this one becomes a god to the ones who receive.  He is an imitator of God." [20]  

  Lucian of Samosata, a pagan author of satires, was born about 120 AD, and wrote in
The Death of Peregrinus 12-13:  "At dawn there
were to be seen waiting at the prison aged widows and orphan children, and their [church] officials even slept inside with him....Varied
meals were brought in, and their sacred words were spoken....They exhibit extraordinary haste whenever one of them becomes such a
public victim, for in no time they lavish their all....For these poor devils have altogether convinced themselves that they will be immortal and
will live for all time; for which reason they despise death....Therefore they despise all things equally and consider them a common
possession." [21]  

  Hermas of Rome, wrote in the early 2nd century,
Similitudes V.ii.7, 8:  "On that day in which you fast, you shall taste nothing except
bread and water.  Of the foods which you were going to eat, reckon how much the food of that day when you fast was going to cost, and
give the amount to a widow or orphan or one in need.  

  "Therefore instead of fields, purchase afflicted souls, as each is able.  And visit widows and orphans and do not neglect them....For the
Master made you rich for this purpose that you might perform these ministries for him."  [22]  

  Justin, who lived about 150 AD, said in his
Apology I, 67:  "We always remember one another.  Those who have, provide for all those
in want....for the orphans and widows, those who are in want on account of sickness or some other cause, those who are on bonds and
strangers who are sojourning." [23]  

  
Barnabus, who lived about 190 AD, said in his writings 4:10:  "You are not to retire by yourself and live alone as if you were already
righteous, but you are to come together in one place and seek the common good." [24]   

  Sextus lived about 190 AD wrote in
Sentences 47; 217:  "Kindness to men on behalf of God is the only suitable sacrifice to God.  God
does not hear the prayer of the one who does not hear men in need." [25]



                         
                           Endnotes

[1].  Barna, George, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, Calif., 1991, pg. 182  

[2].  Barna, pg. 185  

[3].  Barna, pg. 234-235  

[4].  Barna, pg. 257  

[5].  Barna, pg. 277-279  

[6].  Roof, Wade Clark, A Generation of Seekers:  The Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993, pg.
78  

[7].  Roof, pg. 81  

[8].  Roof, pg. 91  

[9].  Roof, pg. 157-160  

[10].  Roof, p. 183  

[11].  Roof, pg. 187  

[12].  Roof, pg. 193  

[13].  Roof, pg. 204  

[14].  Roof, pg. 235-236  

[15].  Roof, pg. 246  

[16].  Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest, Contemporary Books, Inc., Chicago, 1934.  

[17].  Jones, E. Stanley, The Christ of the Indian Road, 1925, p. 122  

[18].  Ferguson, Everett, Early Christians Speak, Sweet Publishing, Austin, 1971, p. 208  

[19].  Ferguson, p. 207  

[20].  
Ibid.  

[21].  Ferguson, p. 208  

[22].  Ferguson, pg. 208-209  

[23].  Ferguson, pg. 81-82  

[24].  Ferguson, p. 69  

[25].  Ferguson, p. 210