According to Peter, all are called to the Priesthood, the family of God is a Royal Priesthood. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV)

The congregation had once been a vital ministry. It had grown to be the largest congregation in that part of the state. But over the years they had shrunk to the point where people were beginning to be concerned about the church’s survival. Finally, their bishop sent a representative to talk with them about their future. Unless they made some real changes in how they viewed the church, their future was bleak.

A team of leaders was selected and a new pastor arrived on the scene. This new leadership team went to a retreat in Baltimore to begin training. The time was intensive with heavy attention paid to the leaders’ spiritual journeys and God’s vision for their lives and the life of the congregation. The event facilitators used art, journaling, videos, small groups — everything that they could to get the participants outside of their shells and to explore God’s call to them.

After a night of planning the leaders were to come back to present their vision for the congregation. Sandra, one of the leaders, had tears in her eyes. “I guess I never really knew that God had so much for me to do,” she said. “I always thought that I was to serve the church. This is the first time I ever really understood that I am the church. God uses people like us to make his kingdom happen. I just never knew….”

It is the place of the people of God to be the church. To be witness to what God has done in our lives. Some are called to the classic priest or pastor role, but the entire church is called to tell others about Jesus Christ and how He has affected our lives. We are not called to save people, we are called to introduce them to the Savior, He will take care of the rest. That is why the scriptures talk about the gifts of the Spirit, it is through these gifts that we are empowered to be the church, to be the witness God has called us to be.

Our witness may just be a listening ear, sometimes, folks just need to know that someone cares enough to listen to their pain. Perhaps it might be in helping someone find services they need, perhaps by visiting someone in the hospital or nursing home, having a word of prayer with that person. Teaching young children about Christ and His love for them is another form of witness. There are truly many ways to bring an awareness of God into the lives of those around us.

The story is told of a young woman who was being prayed for: “A student at a Catholic college was hospitalized after a car wreck. A group of nuns from the college visited her. They said they had been praying for her. A priest had mentioned her at morning mass, and at afternoon chapel, and the sisters said they prayed for her all the time. She said to the nuns, “Thank you very much, but will it count? You see, I’m not Catholic.”

The oldest nun touched her hand and said, “Don’t you worry, dear. We just say the prayers. Then God can do whatever he wants with you.””

We are not called to do more than use the gifts we have received from the Spirit of God to introduce others to God.

We are also called to live to a high moral standard. Jesus died sinless, we too are to die to sin and to live moral lives. It pains me greatly to hear about priests and pastors who have affairs, or who have abused children. I do hope and pray that this will be taken care of responsibly by the Roman Catholic Church, but also with an eye toward redemption. Those who have sinned in this way must never be put into positions where they can again be tempted to abuse children, but God’s Son died for these sins too.

Having said that, let me also say that there is a tremendous amount of temptation out there, we are all tempted to sin, and the real problem is, sin is fun, at least as the world looks at it. Whether it is the trip to Las Vegas, the lottery tickets, or a fling with someone not your spouse. These can all be sins. There is nothing wrong with Las Vegas, there is when you go to gamble, there is nothing wrong with Lottery Tickets, unless you think that they are your way to easy street. We always manage to get ourselves tangled up in scandals of one type of another, but we also seem to manage hiding the stuff we do, or excusing it because it isn’t a big sin. So the church is tangled up with all this pedophilia, and rightly so, but there is not outcry about the sin of theft, of multiple divorces of pastors. There is no scandal about the use of pornography among Christian men either, yet, this is a huge problem in our society.

All aspects of our lives should be morally correct, lust, theft, idolatry, false witness, all of these things must be done away with, they are not acceptable in a  Christian home, nor are they acceptable in the church. We also must be ready to work toward reconciliation with one another, we pray to God, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I don’t believe we mean it though, we need to work toward reconciliation. The kingdom of God is not a kingdom, nor is it a family, if we are bickering and fighting, backbiting, rumor mongering and gossiping.

E. Carver McGriff tells this story: “A friend of mine, a woman I have known for many years, attended a fine Methodist church through her growing up years and through the early years of her marriage. The preacher was a gifted speaker, and my friend always looked forward to worship on Sunday. One day word leaked out that the preacher had been involved in an affair. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that he was leaving his wife and was moving to another state along with his secretary. My friend has never, so far as I know, attended a church again. She was so totally disillusioned she never recovered. That may not speak well for her, but it shows what a priest, ordained or not, can do to others when he or she betrays the standards of the faith.”

She was not willing to forgive and to move on, and the pastor, through his sinfulness, ended up hurting the kingdom by chasing away one of the family. Sin, even if we want to say it is a “victimless” sin, is never done in a vacuum, there is no such thing as a “victimless” crime or sin. When you begin to follow the way of sin, you hurt yourself and those around you.

We are called not to tear down, but rather to build up the family, the church of God. There are those who have on occasion said to me, “D.  James Kenedy preached on those same verses and did so much better than you.” There was one person who was always trying to get me to watch this or that television preacher, because they had such wonderful styles, or wonderful ideas. I’m sure that is so, but they have their ways and they do what works for them, in their setting, what works for them doesn’t work here where I am. Someone once said, “If you can’t have Robert Schuller as your pastor, try to be happy with old what’s his name.” Probably good advice, even though many in our churches today, church hop to find the Robert Schuller’s that they can be happy with.

The church, believe it or not, has all the detractors it needs. There are plenty of folks out there ready at the drop of a hat to tear at the church, to try to destroy what it is, and the one it stands for. There are plenty of fault finders out there, plenty of critics. We are not called to tear down, we are called to build up. There is much too much tearing down one another, too much unwillingness to look at the good and bring them to the fore so that the church may follow those things that are good. Like the secular world around us, if it is sensational, we want to hear about it, the juicier the better. If a Church is doing something good, we don’t want to hear about that, but we will go out of our way to hear the latest gossip, and spread it on to the next person no matter who it may hurt. That is not building up the church, that is helping to tear it down.

There are also those who think they are good Christians, when they rip into a fellow Christian for not reading the proper translation, or for not looking the way they look when they come to church. I wish we could all be  the same, all look alike, all dress alike. The truth is we are not the same, we don’t have the same levels of income, nor do we read the same version of scripture. My personal favorite is the New King James version. I also enjoy reading the New Living Translation. If I want to check what something says, I don’t go to the King James Authorized Version, I go to the original languages and do a word study. I have found though that my NKJV is quite good in most instances.

Brethren, we need to be careful of what we say to others. Sometimes what we say, gives the impression that Christianity is not a good thing, that it is restrictive and hateful. The truth is, we are not gatekeepers, you see, God already knows who is written in the Lamb’s book of life, it is not your choice who is or is not in the book. If you feel the urge to correct someone in their Bible version, please don’t, as long as it is not the Book of Mormon, the Watchtower, or Islam, they are probably reading the same thing you are, it just sounds different. I would suggest that the old saw, “You catch more bees with honey.” Works much better than caustic remarks will ever work.

The church needs those who will be positive, good-spirited and faithful members. Those who will be there when there is church, who attend Bible Study, Prayer Meeting, Sunday School, and Worship services. The church needs those who are ready and willing to build her up, by their prayers, presence, gifts and service.

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