Christlike Servants: Key to Growth

Series: Preacher: Date: April 22, 2018 Scripture Reference: --

Report of the Presbytery – Don Mayberry 

Today, we have three individuals who are being ordained to serve as Deacons: Mary Ann More, Tom Garin, and John Lewis to serve God’s church here at Redland. Each one has been questioned by means of the Deacon Presbytery to determine his or her spiritual maturity and willingness to serve as a deacon. As a result of this examination, each one has been unanimously recommended by the Presbytery to serve as a deacon. Additionally, we have three other individuals who have been previously ordained by this Church, years Deacons and who will be serving during the next two years: Rimma Dean, Patrick Germain and Dale Smith. I ask that you pray not only for our three new deacons, but for all other deacons who will be ministering to this church, in the coming years.

Deacon Testimonies:

Mary Ann Moore 

My family and I have been members of Redland for 15 years.  I joined along with my husband, Mike, and my daughters, Emily and Erin, when the girls were in early elementary school. Emily is now 24 and in medical school, and Erin is 23 and working on her master’s degree in speech pathology. I work in the public school system as a para-educator in a special education kindergarten classroom. I was raised in a churchgoing home.  My parents, brother, sister and I attended the local Catholic church every week and were active in many programs there. So, not being Baptist, some traditions were quite a bit different. My childhood “Sunday school” class met on Saturday mornings; and we didn’t go to church on Wednesday night, but we did go to Bingo on Friday evenings. At church I learned a lot of information about Jesus. The emphasis was on attending church and being a good person, and most of what I heard was filtered through the priest. I believe that the Holy Spirit was working in my heart as I grew older, since when I was in middle school, I developed a real desire to read the Bible for myself. At my public high school, I began attending weekly meetings of the Christian ministry Young Life, where I first heard a clear presentation of the Gospel message. I heard that being a Christian isn’t something you inherit from your family, nor is it something to be achieved by regular church attendance.  Rather, a Christian makes a personal commitment to Jesus and follows Him daily as Lord. I realized that I needed to make this commitment and did so during my high school years. For me, becoming a Christian was not following a new and different doctrine, but rather it was a logical next step growing out of many teachings I had heard all of my life—teachings that had provided a good foundation in many ways, but which had never clearly explained to me the Gospel message. During college at the University of Maryland, I attended a non-denominational Bible church that emphasized Scripture and its practical application to daily life. After that, I joined a Presbyterian church and was active in its ministries; and since being married to a Southerner I have belonged to 2 Baptist churches—the second of which is obviously Redland.  I mention these various church affiliations to show that my denominational background is quite varied, like that of many people here at Redland. During my 15 years at this church, my family and I have been active in many aspects of church life and ministry. This year, I felt a strong call to serve the members of Redland as a deacon. I believe the role of deacon is summarized by Galatians 6:2, which says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”   I also believe that the care we show within the church provides an invaluable witness to the community around us.   

As John 13:35 says: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  It will be an honor to serve the families who are assigned to me, and the church body as a whole.  I look forward to caring for, encouraging, praying with, and being blessed by the new friends I will be meeting through my calling as a deacon.   

John Lewis

I watched the movie “the Greatest Showman” and it ended with a quote from PT Barnum: “The noblest art is that of making others happy.” Well, I agree that to make others happy is a good thing. But the job of serving the King is far greater. Happiness is only a fleeting notion; but to honor our King is for all eternity! I was born and raised in a Christian family in New Jersey. My parents were not wealthy but were insistent on one thing: that God was to be honored in our home. We began each day with bible reading and devotions and ended each day by gathering around the couch in the living room and kneeling and praying. As an only child, I was afforded many opportunities: a Christian home, attend a Christian school, Sunday School, church attendance on Sunday morning, Sunday evening—and also on Wednesday evening; even now I can still recall the power of the preaching and the prayer services and the impact which they have had on me. I gave my heart to the Lord at a children’s evangelistic meeting one Sunday night when I was 6 years old. I certainly didn’t understand it all but I knew that what he said was true and I needed God. Being a child, my growth in Christ was rather slow. I enjoyed worshipping the Lord with a musical instrument since I was very young.  But I don’t think I became serious about serving the Lord until my early teens. Yes, I enjoy making people happy but it is more than that.  The joy that people experience in worship should be recognized as Praise to God! By the end of high school I knew I needed more understanding of God, a greater understanding of how to serve God and also knew I needed to know more of the history of the church. So, I used my college years to study these issues and to learn more about God. Julie and I were married right after college.  She endured life with me while I was in the Air Force, and then later as a graduate student. God richly blessed us with three sons and now five grandchildren, soon to be six. These past sixty some years have been not always triumphant, not always glorifying God the way I should have—but time after time I keep turning my face and faith to Calvary, to Christ my savior. His mercy has been shown on me greatly. I certainly realize that I am not a perfected Christian yet but my trust is found in Him! My desire is to be faithful and serve Him with all my heart! Since coming to Redland, I have endeavored to make myself available to serve others. I love playing in the orchestra. I am certainly not one of the best in the orchestra, but I joyfully make my squeaks to the Lord. I have fun in the kitchen and enjoy working with the team in preparing our Wednesday night dinners each week and also helping to prepare the snack for the kids in RBS. I have also enjoyed helping with the children’s handbells and helping with ESL on Monday evenings. I am humbled to have been asked to serve as a deacon at Redland. This will certainly be a learning experience for me and my hope is that as I am called upon, God will use me and allow me to help you.

Tom Garin

I was born in New York City. When I was a young adult, my life seemed to lack a purpose. I didn’t see the connection between my religion and daily living.  Per my mom’s request, I joined the Air Force and went to Pease AFB in New Hampshire. I met a young airman named Joey Casino.  He told me how I could have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I repented of my sins and I accepted Jesus as my Savior. A short time later I was baptized. I no longer needed to earn my way into heaven as I was led to believe. According to Ephesians 2:8, salvation is a gift from God.  My life has meaning now. I have been serving God in Church, building a spiritual relationship with Jesus, and making life decisions that honor God. To connect my faith in God with my daily living, I pray every day:  “Lord, I am willing to follow you in my daily life. Lord, I am helpless to do it in my own strength. And when the Holy Spirit prompts me, Lord, I will yield my will to your will.” By taking these actions, my life has had more meaning and purpose now than it has ever had before. When I was in school, I studied statistics and I claimed Proverbs 22:29, Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.”  I currently serve on the Interagency Council for Statistical Policy with the Chief Statistician of the United States. That is as good as it gets for statisticians. When I became a military commander, I adopted a leadership philosophy similar to that of King David. According to Psalm 78:72, So he (David) shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.” I later found out that leaders today often evaluate personnel based on core values and skill. My life verse is Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”   As I have grown older, I spend much more of my time thinking about Heaven. I often reflect on the lyrics of 10,000 Reasons:

 “And on that day, when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come.
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending ten thousand years, and then forevermore.”

Charge to the Candidates – Rev. Mark Adams

As I told you a few weeks ago Christianity is the largest faith in the world. It has mushroomed from a few dozen Christians in the first century to two-point-two billion today. Well, I came across something this week—that shows some interesting things about how the church that began in Jerusalem 2000 years ago has grown in the last century.

Dr. Timothy Tennet reports that, in that time period things have kind of turned upside down. I mean, at the beginning of the twentieth century, only 10 percent of the world’s Christians lived in the non-Western world—nearly 90 percent of Christians worldwide lived in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  But now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at least 70 percent of the world’s Christians live in the non-Western world. Here are some stats that show this:

  • More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined.
  • There are more Baptists in the Congo than in Britain.
  • There are more people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe.

And then, Nepal is another place of amazing growth. As you may or may not know, it is the birthplace of Buddhism and the only official Hindu kingdom in the world. But several years ago, the Lord saved Lok Bhandari, a revolutionary freedom fighter and national martial arts champion, whose father had groomed him to become prime minister. Today Lok shares with crowds of 65,000 how Jesus revolutionized his life. He’s been arrested more than 30 times for preaching the gospel.  Christians in Nepal now number more than 700,000—an amazing number considering 50 years ago there were no known Christians in the country.

The Kingdom of God is growing—in amazing places! Isn’t that cool!

This morning as we ordain you Mary Ann and Tom and John—I want us to go back to the beginning—to the first days of the church—another time of amazing growth—so that we can be reminded of some of the things that helped spur that growth then—and still do so today. Turn with me to Acts 6:1-7. Follow along as I read.

1 – In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews—because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 

2 – So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

3 – Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 

4 – and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

5 – This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas—and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 

6 – They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

7 – So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

These familiar verses tell us about the days of the very first church—days that begin and end with a statement about growth. I’m referring to the phrase in verse one that says, “the disciples were increasing in number,” and the phrase in verse seven that says: “the number of disciples continued to increase greatly.” I want you to note that between these phrases, there was a big problem that threatened the vitality and growth of the early church. It’s a problem that has plagued the church ever since.

Actually, as Mark Mitchell points out, the problem had two parts. The first was that infamous conflict between the Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) and the Hebrews (the Hebrew or Aramaic-speaking Jews).  There was a cultural RIFT in the church that led to discrimination against the widows of the Hellenists. Now—one thing we need to understand is that widows were especially needy in those days.  When a woman’s husband died—it often meant a death sentence for her as well—because there was no one to provide for her needs. It was common for widows to move to Jerusalem if this happened toward the end of a widow’s life—because it was thought of as s good thing to die and be buried in the Holy Land. These Jerusalem widows might be taken care of by the Jews, but if the widow was a Christian, the responsibility fell to the church. And—unfortunately, the benevolence system in that first church was not working for part of this minority group—the GREEK widows. And if this problem were not solved, Christians would fall into disrepute, and the spread of the Gospel would experience a serious setback. That’s the first part of the threat to the growth of the church. And sadly, this kind of thing still happens in churches here in America. I mean, it’s not uncommon for one group to feel neglected.

  • Sometimes neglect occurs along racial lines.
  • Sometimes the older people in a congregation feel neglected,
  • —or those who are not married feel all the church’s resources are directed toward couples and children.
  • Sometimes wealthy members are given preferential treatment.
  • Sometimes individuals fall through the cracks and feel neglected.

These days Christians who face this feeling of neglect often deal with it by leaving the church. They find another church that does a better job of welcoming them—a church where they get their relational needs met. For some, finding a church is like choosing which supermarket you want to shop at. We evaluate our church experience as consumers—it’s all about us. It’s all about what meets our needs. And I must say—people who think this way have it backwards. Church membership is more about serving than being served. It’s about finding a place where God calls you to use your spiritual gifts to work alongside other believers in fulfilling the Great Commission.

But—back to the first century.  In these days there wasn’t another church down the road—there was only the church in Jerusalem—so they had to deal with issues head on.

The SECOND PART of the problem that threatened growth in this first church was HOW this problem was first dealt with. Verse 2 tells us that apparently the apostles—this first version of a church staff—decided to put aside their teaching tasks to resolve the issue themselves. This option may have solved one problem—but it created another. I mean, they were feeding the widows literal food—but they were starving the rest of the church spiritually. This kind of distraction was and still can be a major threat to the spread of the gospel.

I mean at first glance it seems like a great idea for the apostles to show their humility by serving tables and getting involved in the nitty-gritty of caring for the physical needs of widows.  After all, didn’t Jesus teach us to be servants? Isn’t this what “servant-leadership” is all about? Wouldn’t you be impressed if you went into the bathroom one Sunday morning and saw me or Bill or Kevin or Peggy cleaning the toilets or taking out the garbage?  Would you still be impressed if I got up to preach but didn’t have a sermon prepared because my study time was spent in other tasks—or if the choir was obviously not ready to sing their special because Bill didn’t have time to lead rehearsal—or if the youth stopped coming to FUEL and Sunday School because Kevin wasn’t able to plan things like that—or if our Children’s program started falling apart because Peggy was busy doing other things? Do you see the problem?

Okay—quick review—in this first church there were two parts of this threat to their growth.

  1. There was division caused by a neglected part of the church—specifically the widows.
  2. And there was distraction—as the apostles had to move away from their primary ministry of equipping the church for ministry.

The solution to both of these threats to church growth and health was the invention of the office of deacon. Deacons made it possible for the amazing growth of the church to continue—and even ACCELERATE.

Look at our text again beginning with verse two.

“The Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them—and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’”

Deacons still do this kind of thing.  So—Mary Ann and John and Tom, you are being set apart for the same purpose those seven were set apart 2000 years ago. You are being called to meet the needs of this church—specifically the families given into your charge so that our staff can do their job of teaching and equipping. This will help enable our church to grow spiritually and numerically. With that in mind, I charge you to do three things.

(1) First, you must love JESUS.

I expect—this church expects—you to show your love for Jesus by striving every day to be more and more like Him in your thoughts—in your words—in your actions. The great missionary, Adoniram Judson, was once asked by reporters if it were true that people were comparing him to the Apostle Paul.  He replied, “If that be true, I am sorry that is being said: I don’t want to be like Paul; I want to be like Jesus.” 

Well, you three need to embrace Judson’s mind set—because to fulfill your calling as a deacon you will need to be like Jesus—you will need to strive every day for spiritual maturity & Christlikeness.

So, I encourage you to arrange your life around those tried but true spiritual disciplines that enable us to become more and more like Jesus.  Devote yourselves to daily prayer and Bible study—to private and public worship.  As Paul says in 1st Timothy 6:11, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”

As you probably know, people who raise cattle for beef go to great lengths to make sure it tastes good. They use typical fattening agents in their feed to achieve a certain amount of marbling, which enhances the meat’s appearance and keeps it moist. Well, I read this week that an Australian ranch called Mayura Station produces beef with a distinctive, SWEET taste to it.

The secret is in a special blend of cattle feed, which includes copious amounts of sweetening agents—or as most of us would call it—candy. The envy of ten-year-olds worldwide, cattle at Mayura Station subsist on a diet of chocolate, cookies and candy—often sold as irregular or expired stock from brand-name factories like Cadbury. Their REGULAR feed is more of a pedestrian blend or is it bovestrian—of wheat, hay, rye grass, and maize. But the candy mix is a special addition that the cattle eat for the last few months of their lives before they’re slaughtered and processed. As a chocolate lover I have to say—what a way to go! This unorthodox approach appears to be working; the choicest cuts of beef from Mayura Station can retail for as much as $300 per pound.

The point of sharing this is to illustrate the fact that you are what you eat. What you put in to your life comes out. So, to be like Jesus—we have to ingest His Word. And to be able to serve this church as a deacon you will need that kind of nourishment—because you have been given a job that is impossible to do without the indwelling power of God.

In the years to come, not only will you be lifted up as an example of spiritual maturity that others can follow—and you certainly will—you will also be asked to help the hurting, minister to the sick, and counsel those who need direction in life. In short, challenging and often difficult ministry awaits you in coming years. In fact, I would say that this morning you are being charged with SUPERNATURAL tasks—things that will be impossible for you to complete on your own strength. Let me put it this way—you can no more be an effective deacon on your own than Peter could walk on water on his own.

So, like Peter, you must learn to keep your eyes on Jesus—to instinctively look to Him for strength and insight and wisdom every single day. As your pastor I have discovered the hard way how important it is that I rely on God’s power rather than my own.  Anytime I’ve tried to do this job on my own ability I’ve fallen flat on my face. So, whenever I am preparing a message or visiting in the hospital, or counseling someone, or dealing with a difficult decision—I am constantly praying, “Help me God…Help me!”  I’ve learned that without His help and strength and perspective I am lost and ineffective. You’ll need to learn this simple prayer as well—you’ll need to train yourself to say, “God I need Your help and insight.  Help me to minister to this person’s need.”  In the New Testament, there is a lot of information about deacons.

But, I want you to note that the EMPHASIS in all these verses is on what deacons are to BE rather than on what they are to DO. This is because BEING always comes before DOING.

DEACONS are to BE men and women of Christian maturity. They are to BE right with God, their family, and their fellow men in every way before they can DO their jobs.  So, I charge you to make it your goal to BE all you can BE for Jesus.  Show your love for Him by striving to be more and more like Him. Make it your goal to grow spiritually.

(2) And then, you are also charged to love this CHURCH.

We expect you to love and cherish the Redland family so much that as a deacon you constantly strive to keep it healthy and strong.  In other words, you are charged with doing all you can to keep our fellowship sweet. Just like the first seven deacons, your job is to preserve the unity we enjoy here in this church.

Now, Tom, Mary Ann, and John, I want you to understand that this may very well be the most important thing you do as a deacon—because harmony in a church is still one of the KEYS to health and growth.  UNITY—seen in our working TOGETHER is one of the “foundational pillars” on which our church is built.

This week I read how in an audacious display of teamwork, 58 Indian Army Service Corp (ASC) soldiers set a world record—when they collectively rode one motorcycle in excess of 1200 meters.  On a runway of Yelehanka Air Force Station outside Bengaluru, driver Subedar Rampal Yadav piloted a 500 cc Royal Enfield—specially engineered with a massive platform to accommodate Major Bunny Sharma and his platoon, bedecked in the national colors of saffron, white and green. Nicknamed the Tornadoes, this ASC stunt team is internationally known for their feats of derring-do.  They currently hold 19 different world and national records, and with this latest ride they broke their own previous record of 56 men, set back in 2010. The Tornadoes was formed in 1982, for the purpose of touring to promote national integration and adventurism.

And it may look easy—but it’s not. They have to learn how to balance—how to hold on to each other. Only after twice wiping out — in spectacular fashion, no less — did the team make a successful third attempt. Well, just as these soldiers were not able to beat this record without harmony—the church will wipe out without it.

You see, when members of a church love each other, and express that love in sacrificial acts—peace and joy grow in that fellowship and all are blessed.  One of the reasons our church continues to attract new members is because of the sweet, sweet spirit of fellowship that pervades our midst.  When visitors walk through these doors they feel our harmony and are drawn to it.  Members of my 101 class repeatedly tell me this.  They sense that we love each other here in a Christlike fashion and they keep coming back because they want to be loved like that. But you know, unity and harmony is a fragile thing—it can easily be damaged or destroyed by an idle word of gossip or by quarreling and grumbling and complaining.  This is one of the devil’s favorite tools and you are to be on your guard to help thwart these kinds of attacks.

Paul Powell once received a letter from a pastor in Africa whom he had met on a mission trip.  The pastor wrote, “We need prayers very badly in this area. The devil is working mightily for the first people to work in this station left the gospel and started quarreling. And you know where there is quarreling, the devil is there.” 

We all need to remember that quarreling and grumbling and negativism are not spiritual gifts. It doesn’t take any musical ability to always be “harping” on something behind someone’s back.

So, John, Tom, and Mary Ann, deacons like yourselves are charged to be out among the people, preserving harmony—squashing gossip and rumors. You are to support one another and our church staff both publicly and privately. You are to do all you can to guard and protect unity. The truth is, when a person becomes a deacon—or a pastor for that matter—they forfeit the right to promote a division in the life of the church in any fashion.  When things arise that are divisive it is time for the deacon who believes that Jesus is his or her Lord and that the Bible is his or her authority in life—to stand up and say, “We must have harmony and peace if we are to honor and obey Christ.”  It is in times like these that a deacon should remind the church that the Bible teaches that as we say every Sunday,  “the peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts since as members of one body we are called to peace.” (Colossians 3)

So—you are charged with loving Jesus—loving this church—

(3) And, finally, you are charged to love your FAMILIES.

As you learned this weekend on our retreat deacons are given several tasks like serving communion, distributing benevolence, counseling people who make decisions, etc. But the most important task you will be given is to serve the families that are assigned to you.  Well, get to know these precious people. Make yourself available to help them when necessary. Do your best to make sure no one assigned to you falls through the cracks.

I would remind you that the word “deacon” literally means “servant” so constantly look for ways to SERVE the families that are entrusted to your care.  As Paul says in Galatians 5:13 “Through love, SERVE one another.” Remember, Jesus said that when we serve others—it is as if we are serving Him.

This week I read that the homeless people of Portland, Oregon, gather under the Burnside Bridge and everyone in Portland knows this. Well, for more than three years, carloads of Christians from an organization called Bridgetown Ministries have shown up on Friday nights and ministered to these needy men and women.  In addition to providing hot meals, shaves, and haircuts, some of the volunteers even wash the homeless people’s feet.

Tom Krattenmaker, a writer for USA Today, was stunned by the display. In an article he wrote in 2006 entitled, “A Witness to What Faith Can be” he called it, “one of the most audacious acts of compassion and humility I have ever witnessed.”  This group of society’s outcasts had their bare feet immersed in warm water, scrubbed, dried, powdered, and placed in clean socks.  One man reported with a smile, “I can’t find the words to describe how good that felt.”  Krattenmaker commented on the significance of this foot washing, saying, “Washing someone’s feet is an act best performed while kneeling. Given the washer’s position, and the unpleasant appearance and odor of a homeless person’s feet, it’s hard to imagine an act more humbling.”  

In preparation for their outreach, the leader of Bridgetown Ministries offered these words:  “When you go out there tonight, I want you to look for Jesus. You might see Him in the eyes of a drunk person, or a homeless person—but remember….we’re just out there to love on people…to love on them in His name.”

Mary Ann, and Tom and John—you are charged to LOVE on people. As I said, we’ll assign you specific families to love.  Do that! Serve them as if you were serving Jesus Himself.

Responsive Reading

Now will you stand as we read responsively.

Declaration of Induction – Rev. Mark Adams

And now John, Mary Ann, and Tom, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the authority committed to me as Pastor of this wonderful congregation—I now declare you to be set apart and commissioned for the work of a Deacon, and duly called and installed to that ministry in this church. You may be seated.

Ordination Prayer – C.C. Day

We close now with a song of commitment—to encourage us ALL to follow Jesus’ example and to work to keep our church healthy and strong. But if you have another commitment to make—we invite you to make it public at this time. Perhaps you need to respond by giving your life to Jesus—professing publicly that you have asked Him to forgive you and take control of your heart and life.  Or…you may feel led to commit to become a part of this church…moving your membership here to this place.  Whatever decision you have to make, I invite you to walk this aisle and share it with me right now as we stand and sing.

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