Jump Start # 3021
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
My latest dive into Restoration History has taken me to a book printed in 1880. It is entitled, “Memoirs of Deceased Christian Ministers who died between 1793 and 1880.” That sure sounds like an exciting read, doesn’t it? There are 975 names recorded along with a brief sketch of their lives and their work. Many of these were in Indiana, and that’s what has drawn me to this book.
Most of these preachers were part of the Christian Connexion or Newlight movement and never fully embraced the reformation or restoration principles. Some came out of the Cane Ridge period and were influenced by Barton Stone. They preached the Bible only as a rule of faith.
Here are some things I want to share with you:
First, most of us would not recognize these names. There were a few that I had become familiar with in earlier research. But isn’t that even true today among most of us. For most of us, outside our area, we don’t know very many other brethren. We know the names of some preachers, but our knowledge of the kingdom in other places is limited. There are occasions where some gather from other places, but still, we have limited exposure to brethren in other places and even more limited knowledge about how congregations are doing in other places. Because of that, it is easy to conclude that all congregations are about the same. Revelation 2-3, shows us that isn’t the case. There, we find one church hating the doctrine of the Nicolaitans and another congregation embracing that doctrine. Lukewarm. Loveless. Lifeless. Thriving. That’s the descriptive landscape of many of the seven churches of Asia. So it is among the congregations today. Some are doing really well. Some are growing, even during this pandemic. Some are steady and maintaining. Others are declining. Vision. Leadership. Diligence. Involvement. All of those are factors which shape a congregation.
Second, as I was reading through the “Deceased Christian Ministers” book, I was amazed at how many died at young ages. But the stories in this book help to explain this. The times were tough. Crossing rivers in the dead of winter, traveling through forests that had no trails, so many became ill and never recovered. Most poured their lives into the preaching that they did. Most were very poor and at their death they left families alone to struggle to survive. One example was a preacher by the name of Melyn Baker who died in 1852. One year, according to his journal, he traveled 3125 miles, preached 211 times and received $150.00 for the year. These preachers wore themselves out for the sake of the Lord.
Third, the power of the Gospel changes lives. It did then and it does today. Stories abound of rough and lawless troublemakers turning from their wicked ways when they heard the pure Gospel of Christ presented to them. Native Americans, or Indians, were often evangelized by these pioneer preachers and many became believers. The Gospel works. When a heart is honest and good and it intersects with the word of God, positive change and results will follow. That’s the power of God’s word. It still works today.
Fourth, the good that we are doing today is often unmeasurable. We like tangible markers. What’s the size of your church, we ask someone. How many were there on Sunday, we ask. Visible numbers. How many were baptized? What’s the contribution? Easy to see ups and downs in those numbers. But there are other markers that are harder to see. The personal growth within a person. Someone who is getting stronger and more confident in their faith. A person that steps us to teach a Bible class for the first time. A person who is willing to shepherd the people of God in that location. Teens refusing to cave in to the temptation of their friends. Business folks who put honesty, ethics and integrity above a profit line and who will not compromise or sale out. It’s hard to measure a church getting stronger spiritually. The numbers may not show it. The dollars may not show it. But it’s there. It’s there in the way folks worship. It’s there in the way people show the light in the community. It’s there. It’s just hard to see.
Finally, what would be said of our time here? What if there was a later edition to this book I have been reading. What if it could include your name? What would be said about your work in the kingdom? What would others notice and what would others appreciate about your labors in the Lord? People might talk about the way our house looks or the car we drive or the style of clothes we wear, but those things do not add value to the kingdom. In this book, I’ve read about several adventures on horses. That was the common mode of travel in the early 1800’s. I read about sick horses. I read about tired horses. I read about a few horses that died. But never was I told what kind of horse they rode or what the horse looked like. Those things just didn’t matter.
You do not have to be a preacher to make an impact in the kingdom. You do not have to stand before a crowd to make a difference. You do not have to be a man to make a difference. Your talents used. Your influence shown. Your love extended. That’s the key to helping out in the kingdom. You send a card. You take some food. You compliment. You share a ride. You welcome. You forgive. You invite. You extend you throughout the congregation.
Making a difference…not to make a name. Not to get yourself in a book. But to help someone see the Lord a bit better. To help bring honor to our Savior. That’s what it’s all about.
Notice the action words of our verse today. Be sober. Endure. Do the work. Fulfill. Pour yourself into the God’s work. Give your all—that’s what Jesus did. That’s what the apostles did. That’s what those early disciples did. That has been the trademark of God’s people for centuries.