This time last Sunday details were just beginning to emerge on the horrific mass shooting in downtown’s Oregon District. If the news weren’t bad enough already, as I left home from worship and turned on the local news I was completely shocked to learn the shooter was from Bellbrook and lived a few streets over from our old house. I remember seeing him when he worked at the Valero station, and he probably made me a few burritos at Chipotle. Our daughter knew him from high school. How could this type of evil originate from my hometown? A town that epitomizes the essence of small-town, Midwestern values? Then, a few hours later, the news revealed that his sister was one of the 9 victims. How could a person do that? How could a brother kill his sister? Every day over the past week, I’ve thought about the victims and their families. I’ve thought about the brevity of life. And, I’ve pondered much about the Bellbrook family who lost not one, but both of their children. They're only at the beginning of the pain and grief of loss … and are simultaneously grappling with the greatest of international embarrassment and shame. There are not many larger burdens to carry.
As news leaked early last week people began to post their condolences on social media. Politicians spoke via news media. Many said that their thoughts and prayers were with the victim’s families, the first responders, and the injured. I appreciate people taking the time to say these things. During times like this, people want to do something and sometimes thoughts and prayers are all a person can do. But as people expressed their compassion, many of them were immediately mocked by those on the cultural left … who are quick to blame the Christian God for allowing evil and then slam those on the cultural right for doing nothing, as if prayer is an empty waste of time.
Don’t be intimidated by those who obnoxiously proclaim their anti-God agenda. During times of personal or national tragedy, prayer is an absolute essential. It’s time we stood up and loudly proclaimed without apology that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5.16b. At Kettering, we believe God’s promise. I so appreciated our shepherds leading our family in prayer for the victims and first responders as last week's service concluded. We trust God. We don’t understand how or why things happen, but God does. Ultimately, we rest in the assurance that He has the power to bring comfort to those who are the victim of the work of Satan, who lives to steal, kill and destroy, John 10.10. God isn’t to be blamed for the evil which lies at Satan’s feet. Times of tragedy also serve as a perfect opportunity to share an invitation about the rock solid assurances of salvation and the promises of peace that only God can provide. Every day we need to be testifying to the power of faith and to the power of prayer. Your political agenda isn't what matters. God’s agenda of salvation is what is most important and may we never forget our need to set the example of class, dignity, and respect for life by our care, seasoned words, love, and compassion for others.
— Matthew Allen
Christians, along with their Biblical values derided. God denied. Jesus mocked. Immodesty and sexual innuendo at every turn. Abortion rights. Gay Marriage and the homosexual agenda. Transgender Issues. Deteriorating race relations. Mass shootings. Murder on live television. Everyday, news headlines mark another battle lost in the great culture war. As one reflects over the last decade or two, our nation’s descent into a moral abyss feels like it is picking up speed. What was viewed as risqué in the 1980’s, now looks almost innocent and tame. But, are we the first nation to experience moral depravity? Are these the worst of times? Or, could things get much worse?
Scripture has the answer. God’s people have always been subject to the ramifications of living inside a world broken by sin. During Noah’s day, the earth was filled with violence and the wickedness of man was great, with every intention of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually, Genesis 6.5, 11. Do you remember what is said about the time of the judges when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, Judges 21.25? As the northern kingdom slid into oblivion, it was filled with those who do not know how to do right and store up violence and robbery in their strongholds, Amos 3.10. During its waning years, the nation of Judah stumbled under the leadership of godless men. Jeremiah records Zedekiah’s burning the scroll that contained God’s warning and a final promise of mercy if they repented, Jeremiah 36. Think of the Greco-Roman world during the time of the first Christians. Christian virtues were mocked, regarded as foolishness, 1 Corinthians 1.18-31. They were subjected to heavy persecution and death, Revelation 2.8-10, 12-13; 3.7-13; 6.9-11.
In every age, Christians have experienced difficulty in the world. We need to remember this: No matter what, God’s sons and daughters move forward with hope. This hope is not that the America of the 1950’s will somehow return, rather it is a mindset full of confidence and determination to keep one’s spiritual garments unstained and get home to be with God, forever. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself,” Philippians 3:20–21.
— Matthew Allen
We spend a lot of time on worship at Kettering, and rightfully so. It is the focus of our Sunday. It’s the Lord’s Day. It’s Resurrection Day. It’s the day we come into God’s presence, together with the saints, joyfully focusing on our eternal Father, loving Savior, and the Holy Spirit. The wall of separation has been removed and with faith we approach in full access: you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, Hebrews 12.22-24a.
The Psalmist’s call to worship in Psalm 95.1-7a encapsulates this so well. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. In these verses, we note: 1) how singing facilitates worship, 95.1; Revelation 5.9-10; 2) thanksgiving fuels it, 95.2; 103.1-2; and 3) reverence fosters it, 95.6-7a.
Beginning next Sunday, you’ll notice some changes with the order of our worship service. We’re doing this, not just for the sake of change, but in order to help us draw our hearts even closer to God and to conduct ourselves in a way that might not give our guests a wrong impression. First, let’s think of the time between the morning Bible classes and the beginning of worship. We love to hear the talk and laughter, but we need to examine whether our minds are far away from what we are about to do. We would like to encourage you to use these 10 minutes or so to find your seat and to begin preparing your mind for what is about to happen. Use the time before Bible class and after worship to catch up with how everyone else is doing. And, please save the back pews for our guests so they will not have to hunt for a place to sit.
Next, prior to the service beginning, we’ll start off with a heartfelt welcome to our guests. We want them to feel comfortable among us and to encourage them to join in our worship. From his seat, our song leader will begin our worship service in song. After a second song, we’ll approach our God with a prayer of praise. We will then sing a song of preparation for the Lord’s Supper, observe the Lord’s Supper, and then continue our worship with two more songs. Following that we will ask everyone to stand for the reading of God's word, which is usually tied to the sermon that day. After the sermon is delivered and invitation extended, you will be asked to be seated. Those who assisted in the serving of the Lord's Supper will go to the back of the auditorium and work their way to the front taking up the collection. Once this has been completed, we’ll be led in closing prayer and our worship will conclude. After this, one of our shepherds will provide closing comments and we will be dismissed.
Thank you for being present for and participating in our worship service at Kettering. Each one of you play a vital role in our success and in the reverence we give God each week. May we all realize the wonderful blessing God has given us by being a part of this spiritual family.
— Matthew Allen
In Ephesians 4.11-12, Paul speaks of every saint being committed to the work of ministry. A work of ministry is simply the use of your God-given talents and gifts to help other people. It’s nothing fancy … it’s just the simple act of helping others.
Sometimes we are reluctant to serve because we feel we have little talent. At other times we may spend a great deal of time searching, wondering about, asking ourself what is my talent? What ability has God given me? It’s commendable to self-evaluate and look for ways God has blessed you in areas of ministry. But, perhaps, the easiest way to discover your talents is to be busy in the “general ministry” of which God has called us. Every Christian has the responsibility to admonish, encourage, share Jesus, and help others.
As we’re busy living these things out in day-to-day life, there will be many opportunities to discover new areas of like, talent, and ability. In the New Testament we find people like Dorcas in Acts 9, who served others by making clothes. Barnabas, in Acts 4, discovered the gift of encouragement. Lydia, in Acts 16, used her gift of physical blessings/resources to offer hospitality to Paul and his companions. Prisca and Aquilla, in Romans 16, served others by hosting a church in their home. Epaphroditus, in Philippians 2, committed himself to risky and dangerous travel in order to deliver financial assistance to Paul. Epaphras, in Colossians 4, struggled on behalf of others in prayer. Gaius, in 3 John, made many efforts of encouragement for brethren who were strangers to him.
Some of these brothers and sisters of the first century may have never discovered their special ministry (the usage of natural talents and abilities given by God) had they not first been busy in carrying out the general expectations God has for every Christian. The same principle is found in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). As we use what God has provided, only then will we discover other fruitful ways to serve in the kingdom. Indeed what our Lord said is true: Everyone to who much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more, Luke 12.48.
— Matthew Allen
A survey by the Barna Group asked a group of respondents about the key components in growing their faith. The top five answers were prayer, family, friends, reading Scripture, and having children. Did you notice something missing in the list? The church is not there. In fact, it didn’t even make it into the top ten answers. This seems to fit right in with other trends experts are observing about American church attendance. Now in the minority, only 49% of respondents said church attendance is “somewhat” or “very important.” 51% said “it is not too” or “not at all important.” This applies to Americans of all ages. When we drill down to younger people, only 20% of Americans under age 30 believe church attendance is important. 35% of those under age 30 now take an anti-church stance. When asked why they’ve quit attending, 40% said, “I find God elsewhere.” 35% said, “Church is not relevant to me personally.” It is becoming more common to hear people explain their desire to be spiritual, not religious. They believe they can have God without the church and pick and choose what spiritual things suit them. (For more read Americans Divided on the Importance of Church. https://www.barna.com/research/americans-divided-on-the-importance-of-church/)
What was your reaction as you read this? Do you think all is lost, or is there hope that those who quit attending will return at a later stage of life? No matter how you answer, the challenge is real. Our young people are at a much lower baseline for church participants and commitment than previous generations. The fastest religious group in the country are what is now being referred to as the “nones.”
That is why it is very important to be talking about evangelism and church growth. How can the church navigate the cultural waters of our day? One of the ways we can become a magnet for attracting the lost is through authentic and genuine relationships with people inside and outside the church. Today we’ll be discussing four characteristics of active membership in the local congregation. People want to be connected, but they don’t want to be hurt in doing so. They won't be interested in our preaching or teaching until they see us personally exhibiting the love of Jesus day in and day out. We need to strive for lives of consistency, discipline, and humility, Romans 12.3. We need to elevate compassion and communication skills to a higher priority, Colossians 4.5-6; 1 Peter 3.15. And, we need to be willing to be intentional by making time to mentor and disciple others in the ways of Christ, Ephesians 5.16; 1 Thessalonians 5.11. If you’ve been passive in your relationship with the local church, thinking your responsibility ends with 90 minutes per week at services, now is the time to step up. You can make a difference and play a role in the spiritual and numerical growth of our Kettering family. Today, you’ll see some ways you can get involved.
What is one thing you can do this week to become more active in the role you play here?
— Matthew Allen