I need your help to preach this sermon. First, listen to my request. Major renovations have occurred in the auditorium, in the foyer, and in the annex.

If you have assisted in these renovations in any way; if you helped paint, carpet, brought food to the workers, cleaned up, provided supplies or equipment, removed pews, hauled pews, helped in any way in the annex, helped with any phase of the planning or building, or did anything else, I need your help right now.

The congregation has no way of knowing how much work has been done by the members. It has no way to know the thousands of dollars saved because so many are willing to get involved.

This is what I want. When I ask, I want all who have helped in any way to stand. I want you to remain standing until I ask you to be seated. By standing, you can say something that I cannot say with words. Would all of you who have helped in any way please stand. [Let them stand about 15 seconds. As they are standing, thank them.] Please be seated.

  1. In this congregation, nothing just happens.
    1. This morning you came with definite expectations.
      1. As you came, you did not say, "This is my list of the things I expect today."
      2. But in your mind you carry that list with you every time you come.
        1. You rarely use your list unless something fails to meet your expectation.
        2. For example, how often have you said, "The temperature in the building was perfect today!"
        3. How often have you said, "I burned up today," or, "I froze to death today."
        4. We say something only when the temperature fails to meet our expectation.
      3. Our list of expectations is long.
        1. We expect:
          1. The doors to be open.
          2. The lights to be on.
          3. The foyer to be clean and attractive.
          4. The class rooms to be clean with enough chairs (even if we don't come to class).
          5. Teachers in the class rooms prepared to teach.
          6. Nursery attendants in the nursery prepared to care for the children.
          7. The pews to be clean and uncluttered with song books and Bibles.
          8. Communion to be prepared and on the table.
          9. Some one to preside over the communion service, and we have specific expectations about how that should be done.
          10. People to serve communion, and we have specific expectations about how that should be done.
          11. Someone to lead singing, and we have specific expectations about how that should be done.
          12. Songs to be sung that meet our approval, and we have specific expectations about that.
          13. Some one to preach a sermon, and we have specific expectations about how he should do that.
          14. A projection script that helps but does not distract.
          15. Prayers to be prayed, and we have specific expectations about how that should or should not be done.
          16. That is not the whole list of our expectations, but we do see that we all come with our lists of expectations.
    2. Do you think all of that "just happens"?
      1. Do you ever think about what it takes to "make it happen"?
      2. Do you ever think about how many people it takes to "make it happen"?
      3. Do you ever think about being a part of "making it happen"?

  2. I want to challenge you to think about the fact that "good things don't just happen" in another area of consideration.
    1. Last Sunday's Southwest Times Record contained an article entitled "Making Churches Family Friendly."
      1. The article noted these things.
        1. Baby boomer parents grew up in homes that professed the slogan, "The family that prays together stays together."
        2. Many baby boomer parents believe that it is good to take their children to church.
        3. But, taking the kids to church is not producing the results they expected.
        4. The studies produced by George Barna's surveys reveal that there is little difference in the morals of young people who attend church and young people who are unchurched.
        5. In behaviors such as lying, cheating, and sexual intercourse, only a small percentage separates the "churched" from the "unchurched."
      2. Paul Allen stated that parents have wrongly assumed that they could take care of their children's spiritual training by taking them to church.
    2. What should the congregation expect of families, and what should families expect of the congregation?
      1. In spiritual training, can the congregation replace the family? Absolutely not.
      2. Can the family replace the congregation? Absolutely not.
      3. Can the congregation as God's spiritual family help families? Absolutely.
      4. Can families help the congregation? Absolutely.
      5. There is a desperate need for a powerful partnership between God's family and family units.

  3. In crucial ways, this congregation's strength is dependent on the stability of its families.
    1. The greater the turmoil, strife, and failure in our families, the greater the instability of the congregation.
      1. That is true of turmoil and strife:
        1. In the husband-wife relationship.
        2. In the parent-child relationship.
        3. Between the family and its in-laws or its extended family.
      2. Can turmoil and conflict in the home become an avenue to the spiritual strength and maturity of individuals?
        1. Absolutely!
        2. When? When those problems cause us to rely on God instead of relying our ourselves, it produces strength and spiritual maturity.
        3. Troubles are frequently the incubator for a faith that depends on God.
        4. Trials commonly give birth to a faith that builds a relationship with God.
        5. Hardship often matures faith.
        6. That is not new; the Bible makes it clearly evident that this has always been true.
    2. In building a powerful partnership between the family and the congregation, we immediately confront a very serious problem.
      1. "What problem?"
      2. Many people do not know how to be a family.
      3. Because we do not know how to be a family, we don't know how to be a spiritual family.
      4. Please understand that I am not trying to put anyone on a guilt trip; I am not trying to offend anyone or discourage anyone.
      5. But please also understand that we must examine reality if we are going to change reality.
      6. Too many of us grew up in a family where:
        1. Father or mother was a workaholic.
        2. Father or mother were materialists.
        3. Father or mother were dependent on alcohol or medication.
        4. Father or mother did not show emotion.
        5. Father or mother was an abuser.
        6. Father or mother never had time for the family.
        7. Father or mother either neglected or resented us.
    3. "There you go again; always putting the blame on someone else."
      1. I am not putting the blame anywhere; I am not talking about blame.
      2. I am not giving any one of us a reason to reject personal responsibility.
      3. Every one of us is the product of our family of origin.
        1. Every one of us had our emotions, our expectations, our self-concept, and our relationship skills shaped by our family of origin.
        2. Every one of us are reproducing at least parts of our family of origin within the families that we establish.
    4. Relationship skills in our society are pitiful; relationship skills in our families are pitiful; relationship skills in the church are pitiful.
      1. In far too many instances, family relationships are public performances with little private substance.
      2. Both in our physical families and our spiritual family, our relationships are extremely shallow.
      3. We don't know each other, and we don't understand each other.
      4. Much too often we do not know how to be husbands, or fathers, or wives, or mothers, or brothers, or sisters, and we are scared to death to learn because learning means we must be vulnerable.

  4. Someone says, "The solution is obvious: we would solve all our family problems if we would just study the Bible."
    1. At one time in the past, I worked a lot with people who had been abused.
      1. Much of that work was with Christians who were trying to build an adult life after surviving severe emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as a child.
      2. Every person I worked with could trace abusiveness back at least two generations, and some could trace it back three generations.
      3. If just studying the Bible eliminates the problem, it would have been eliminated in the 1950's when we were so well known for Bible study.
    2. We absolutely need to study the Bible, but if we do not understand how to apply the principles there will be little improvement in our lives or our families.
      1. A frustrated Christian recently said, "I understand the problem; I understand the need; I just don't understand what to do."
      2. Let there be no mistake: this is a spiritual matter. If you have a husband, wife, or child:
        1. Addicted to alcohol or drugs, you have a spiritual problem.
        2. Destructively depressed, you have a spiritual problem.
        3. Physically or emotionally abusive, you have a spiritual problem.
      3. If we, as a congregation, do not effectively help Christians deal with those problems, we will self-destruct.
        1. You doubt that?
        2. Consider just one obvious problem: where will we find leadership?

  5. Last Sunday we had an exceptional mission's Sunday.
    1. I am deeply grateful for our missions program, and I pray that our greatest missions outreach is yet before us.
      1. An important key to greater mission work is the increasing health of this congregation.
      2. There is an umbilical cord tying missions to the health of this congregation.
    2. Having been a missionary living in a third world country, and having worked with the church in this society for decades, may I make these observations.
      1. It is easier to do mission work in a strange culture than it is to practice godliness in your own culture.
      2. It is easier to teach about Christianity in a strange culture than it is to demonstrate Christianity in your own culture.
      3. In a foreign culture you teach people what they should believe.
      4. In your own culture, you teach people how to live.
      5. It is always easier to teach what to believe than it is to teach how to live.

Romans 12:1,2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

[Have someone read Romans 12:9-21.]

Do not do this. I just want you to think. If I asked everyone who has endured a significant family problem or who has been personally damaged by a serious family problem to stand, would you need to stand?

The first step to improving your relationships in your family is to improve your relationship with God.

We need greater faith in Jesus than we have in ourselves.
Become a Christian. Come to the Savior who can lead us to life in eternity and in this present life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 November 1998

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