After Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner at North

The Community Services Department had an After Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Dinner at North Church today. We have a very active Adventist Community Services program at the church. They feed homeless people, people who live in shelters and others several times a month as well as give out groceries on a weekly basis.

This one was special. They had sent out nice invitations ahead of time inviting people to come to this special meal. And it was special. They had real turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce . . . and everything else you would have had at a Thanksgiving dinner. Yep! They even had macaroni with REAL cheese and sweet potato and apple pie with whipped cream. The folk are always treated with dignity. When I walked through the room it was just a wonderful sight to behold. Some of them didn't smell too good, but no one was looking at them as if they didn't belong. They served them as if they were paying patrons at a three- or four-star restaurant.

I am not exactly sure how many of my members were working with the Community Services team, but there had to be about 35-40 members there. It was just awesome to see them working together: men and teens and new members working right along with the "typical" Community Services ladies you would picture in your mind's eye to share the love of Christ in a practical way with his children who are a bit less fortunate than most. They served 133 people from the community today. I don't need to tell you that I'm proud of the work that the Community Services Ministry is doing under the leadership of Sis. Joyce McCulers.

Brother Arthur Chapman is slated to take over that ministry next year as Sis. Joyce McCulers moves into another very key position at North as the Personal Ministries Leader.

When the dinner ended I went up to my office and a young man named Khaleel who took his stand for baptism yesterday asked for a few minutes of my time. I was a bit tired and was trying to get out of there, but it was worth the time. He's made some bad decisions that have landed him in some rough spots, but he's back on track. He told me about the passion he has for sharing the gospel. He said that he wants to do door-to-door ministry. And he also shared that he really believes that Jesus is soon to come.

As we talked I was able to share with him that I too believe that Jesus is soon to come, but I don't focus on that in my preaching and teaching because it's net effect is to scare people. I don't talk of Jesus's soon coming as a motivation because -- for those who are unsaved -- it is a scary event. And fear only brings temporary changes in behavior. Rather, we try to emphasize the length and breadth of the love of God as one's motivation for serving him.

As we were talking, it gave me a chance to review with him yesterday's sermon on the Three Hebrew "Worthies" in Daniel 3. The question that was raised was, "What made them so quick to answer King Nebuchadnezzar with a 'We will not bow down and we don't need to be careful to answer you, King' answer?" The answer was that they KNEW their God and loved Him too much to turn their back on him. How do I know? Read the preceding chapters. God had brought them from Babylon and they weren't tortured. God intervened to allow them to maintain their diet and then made then ten times better than those who ate the king's meat and drank his wine. And then when the King wanted to kill his counselors because they couldn't (1.) tell him the dream he had nor (2.) give its interpretation, they PRAYED to God and God gave Daniel the answer. They KNEW how good God had been to them. THAT WAS THE MOTIVATION TO STAND FOR HIM IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. And I was able to remind Khaleel that that will be what will help us to stand for Christ in our times of trial now and on THE Day of Judgment.

I told him that I don't talk about end-time events as motivation to serve Jesus Christ. Rather, they are confirmation to those of us who believe that we are on the right track.

Then we talked a bit about this business of going door-to-door. That's a ministry he's interested in. And I wanted to make sure that he didn't feel that that was everyone's ministry. Studies show that only about 10% of a congregation has the gift of evangelism. We referenced 1 Corinthians 12 on the Unity of the Body. God puts every gift in the body as He wills. And we need some folk to go get the folk and bring them to the church. But we need other gifts resident in the body to help teach, nurture, stabilize and support them when they get to the doors of the church.

I used the illustration of he and I going fishing. All of a sudden it made perfect sense that we can't just pull fish in on the reel and toss them into the boat. We need to be prepared for the fish we catch. We need a knife so we can clean them. And we need a cool or an icebox and ice on which to put the fish.

Then I was able to share what's missing in the Adventist Church. We lack "functional structures for assimilation and discipleship."

But we're working on them for 2007! We want to establish systems that are so tight that when people come to visit the first time, they get one kind of treatment. (Treatment is probably not the right word, but we want them to get a follow up "thank you for visiting letter.") And when they decide to join, we want them to know EXACTLY what it takes for them to actually become a member with all rights, responsibilities and privileges.

There was more, but I'm tired of typing. :-)


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