Tuesday morning a person called me at the office. I answered enthusiastically. The person said, "You sound different." I laughed and said, "I guess I do. I just came back from vacation and I feel rested."

I love going on vacation. It is the one time all year that I can turn the "alert button" in my mind off. I love coming back from vacation because I love what I do.

I want to attempt something that I never remember trying. This attempt has a specific purpose. I want to try to give you some insight into my work.

  1. Let me begin by interviewing me. "Why do you love your work?"
    1. First, I love God.
      1. I stand in awe of what God has done and is doing in my salvation.
      2. I stand in awe of what God has done and is doing in my life.
      3. I stand in awe of what God is doing in the world around me.
      4. I am in the last section of my work life; I do not believe that there is any way that I could have used my life that would have been more fulfilling.
    2. Second, I love people.
      1. I love to help people and to watch them grow.
        1. In Luke 15:7 Jesus said that there is more joy in heaven over a repenting sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.
        2. I find that incredibly exciting.
        3. Jesus did not say that the ninety-nine righteous people did not cause joy in heaven.
        4. He said there was even more joy when someone who has really made a mess out of life decides to redirect life.
        5. The most exciting thing I see is not the person who has it all together: I deeply appreciate such people.
        6. The most exciting thing I see is someone who finds the faith in God and the courage in Christ to turn life around.
        7. If you find that difficult to understand, think of your own family.
          1. Do you really appreciate the family member who "has it all together?"
          2. How excited would you be if the person who made a mess out of life turned his or her life around?
      2. I love the challenge of teaching in ways that help people better understand God, Christ, and Christianity. The key to life is Jesus Christ.
        1. Long ago Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6).
        2. I find it exciting beyond explanation to teach people with hungry minds and hearts.
    3. "Basically, what do you do?"
      1. For over forty years I have heard the old joke that preachers just work one day a week.
      2. I work on a weekly deadline every week--there are certain things that must happen every week without fail.
        1. What would you say if I told you one Sunday morning that it was a tough week and I just did not have time to prepare a sermon?
        2. Or if I got up one Wednesday night and said that I was not prepared to teach because there just was not time?
      3. "What are the weekly deadlines you must meet?"
        1. On Mondays I write the bulletin article and care for things I set aside the last week because I could not get to them.
        2. On Tuesdays Brad, Ted, and I have a staff meeting first thing that morning. We also meeting throughout the week on a "need to" basis. If at all possible, Tuesdays I need to prepare Sunday morning's sermon.
        3. Wednesdays I need to produce the Sunday morning projection script and prepare to teach the Wednesday night auditorium class, and teach in the 7 p.m. assembly.
        4. Thursdays I need to prepare the Sunday evening sermon.
        5. Fridays I need to prepare Sunday evenings projection script and prepare for my Sunday morning class.
        6. Those things must happen while I have secretarial help.
      4. While those things must be done, these are some of the things that I must fit around those deadlines.
        1. Four months a year I prepare and tape the television program.
          1. I tape 26 or 27 programs.
          2. Those programs are repeated.
          3. I change the format for each year's programs.
        2. I try to be available for any crisis situation that arises, and it is rare to have a week that there are not crises.
        3. There is correspondence to be answered.
        4. Ted and I are preparing special class materials for adult classes for the year 2000 on the themes of serving and whole life stewardship.
        5. I try to do some hospital visitation.
        6. Then there is a significant list I would call "unusual needs," and it is rare to have a week that something in that category does not arise.
      5. "What is a Sunday like?"
        1. I get up at 6 am Sunday mornings, and all available time until Joyce and I leave for the building is spent in:
          1. Prayer.
          2. Focusing on Sunday morning's sermon.
          3. Focusing on Sunday morning's Bible class.
          4. Studying the church directory.
        2. I teach the young adult class at the 9:30 assembly and preach at the 10:20 assembly.
        3. I greet people as much as I can when we dismiss; Joyce and I usually get home around 12:30 to 1 p.m.
        4. Unless there are meetings that I need to attend or appointments that I have, I try to relax for two or three hours Sunday afternoon.
          1. I focus on Sunday evening's lesson.
          2. I preach in the 6 p.m. assembly.
          3. I greet people, and Joyce and I often go out with a group to eat.
          4. We ordinarily get home around 9 p.m. Sunday night.
        5. Then Monday morning schedule begins again. And it never matters how good last Sunday's lessons were.
      6. In addition to these things:
        1. Joyce and I try to attend four to five fellowship group meetings a month, which we genuinely enjoy.
        2. We accept personal invitations unless there is a conflict.
        3. We assist with the Discovery Dinner program, Joyce works with the inner city program, the jail ministry, the Wings Bible class, the quilting group, and substitute teaches in the first and second grade Bible classes.
      7. It is very important for you to understand that we enjoy everything that we do.

  2. About two weeks ago, Bill Dickey, Earl Flood, Mat Griffin, Bob Null, and Sam Roberts (our elders) met with me for the purpose of discussing my work.
    1. It was a very constructive meeting, and I really appreciated their focus and the discussion we shared.
      1. One thing they emphasized to me was the fact that I cannot do everything.
        1. The demands of teaching two classes and preaching two sermons on a regular basis was too much.
        2. They told me that I need to give up one of those responsibilities because they did not want me to "burn out."
      2. That is really tough for me to do.
        1. I love to teach the young adult class.
          1. They are the immediate future of this congregation.
          2. That class is the only meaningful contact I have with that age.
        2. I love to teach the Wednesday night auditorium class.
          1. Many people in that class are the reason West-Ark has the opportunities of right now--they sacrificed; they paid the prices.
          2. That class is the primary contact I have with these people.
        3. I love to preach.
          1. I believe preaching can be a powerful teaching and motivational tool.
          2. I believe the primary purpose of preaching is to build faith in the individual's life.
          3. No person can get the spiritual education he or she needs to survive in this evil world from 104 thirty-minute sermons a year.
          4. But people can be challenged to awaken to their spiritual needs.
      3. The elders are right: I cannot do everything.
        1. What I do places three basic demands on me: time demands, physical energy demands, and emotional energy demands.
        2. I enjoy what I do.
        3. But I confess that my schedule and my work drain me at times.
    2. My suggestion for consideration:
      1. Let my Sunday evening lessons assume a teaching format.
      2. Let those lessons basically be a direct study of the text of scripture.
      3. Do not use projection scripts on Sunday evening.
      4. Incorporate special times on Sunday evening.
    3. Having said that, we need to look at some realities.
      1. For most of you who attend regularly on Sunday evenings, that will be fine.
      2. For many who do not attend, that will not create interest or desire.
      3. Reality one: people learn differently.
        1. I am not trying to convince you of anything; I am just sharing.
        2. From one-on-one involvement, from small group involvement, from large group involvement, from preaching, I can tell you a fact: people learn differently.
        3. A method that is interesting and effective to one group with one background is ineffective and uninteresting to another group of another background; I live and work with that reality every single week.
        4. Some people are very visual, some are very verbal, some are very interactive, some are very passive.
        5. Knowing and respecting those differences is extremely important when there is nothing compulsory about attending or learning.
      4. Let me give you a specific illustration.
        1. "Why do you use a full sentence outline for you sermons?"
          1. Personal discipline: I take my teaching very seriously; that makes it necessary for me to study and prepare; I don't use old material; I don't coast.
          2. Longevity: at one time in Mississippi statewide the average stay for a preacher in a congregation was six months.
            1. If you knew what it was in Arkansas, it would astound you.
            2. It is not uncommon for preachers to move every two to three years.
          3. Opportunity: I do not just preach to those who attend, but to all who read or use the lesson.
            1. Before I moved here, Duane Walker told me he had 500 of my sermons on his computer.
            2. He copied several and gave them to the elders.
            3. Some of the elders read them and Sam Roberts called me.
            4. Every month I receive letters from preachers and teachers who use the material I share with you.
            5. I approach my lessons as mission work.
          4. Protection: that kind of preparation protects me from substituting emotions for substance.
      5. The two practical purposes of preaching are teaching and building faith.
        1. I have not taught unless people learn; teaching involves more than presenting material.
        2. If I do not help you discover the difference between sincere prejudice and genuine faith in God, I fail you. I fail myself. I fail God.

I do not work any harder than a number of you do. While many of you would not change places with me, I would not wish to change places with you either.

But some of you do not understand why I work as I do. You will understand when we all stand before God. I fervently pray that you will understand long before that occasion. In all of life, nothing is as important as being alive in Jesus Christ.

When we understand who Jesus is, what he has done for us, and what he is willing to do for us, we understand an essential truth. Becoming a Christian is not just a matter of assuming some responsibilities. Becoming a Christian is learning to live a specific life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 26 September 1999

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