I love you. My affection for you runs deep and is genuine. I literally cannot explain how much I appreciate you.

God blesses my life in many ways. Some blessings are exceptional. One of my choice blessings is the opportunity to be a part of the West-Ark family of Christians.

I also feel loved and appreciated. I cannot begin to explain to you how special it is to feel loved and appreciated. Not until the judgment day will you understand all the positive things that occur in my life through your love and appreciation.

  1. The reading that is to serve as the foundation for our thinking this morning is 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

    1 Corinthians 9:19-23 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)

    1. Paul's world was changing fast, and nothing produced as much change as the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      1. For almost a thousand years, God's people worshipped at the temple by offering animal sacrifices.
        1. Animal sacrifice at tabernacle or temple worship was the heart and soul of Israel's worship from the time God spoke to them at mount Sinai--almost 1500 years.
        2. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, the temple was no longer necessary--what a change!
      2. Synagogue study was the backbone of Israel's spirituality for hundreds of years.
        1. Through synagogue study and prayer, Israel survived her darkest days.
        2. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, peoples who knew nothing about synagogue worship could be God's people--what a change!
    2. Everything was changing; Israel did not like it; Jewish Christians did not like it.
      1. They were outspoken in their opposition to change.
      2. They were even violent in their opposition to change.
    3. But through revelation, Paul understood God's purposes in the changes.
      1. In spite of strong objections, Paul taught Gentiles.
      2. In spite of strong objections, Paul worshipped in Gentile homes.
      3. Paul suffered violence because Christians and non-Christians objected to what he taught and did in the church.
    4. In spite of all the misunderstandings and objections, Paul became all things to all people to save some.

  2. You and I live in a world that is changing as fast as Paul's world was.
    1. The world always is in the process of changing.
      1. Many of you in this assembly can remember when life was radically different.
        1. I remember:
          1. Life without an electric or natural gas cooking stove.
          2. Life without a hot water heater.
          3. Life without a telephone.
          4. Life without a television.
          5. Life when the Saturday bath was the only bath of the week.
        2. I remember:
          1. Ice boxes cooled with a block of ice.
          2. Gasoline wars and gas for 18 cents a gallon.
          3. Nickel cokes.
          4. The first Dairy Queen that opened in town.
          5. Travel before the interstate existed.
          6. When freeze dried meant the clothes froze dry on the clothes line.
    2. Changes in congregations during my lifetime are just as astounding.
      1. I remember:
        1. When it was common for the Church of Christ to be located in a little building in the less desirable section of town.
        2. When there were no education facilities.
          1. Kids from the first through sixth grade met in one back corner.
          2. Teenagers met in the other back corner.
          3. Adults met down front.
        3. When we started using education materials; kids received a picture card and adults began to use the Gospel Advocate Quarterly.
        4. When there were few full time preachers, and many of them were self educated.
    3. What dramatic, good results began when good changes occurred.
      1. The church's future was powerfully blessed because some visionary Christian men and women had the faith and courage to promote change.
      2. Conditions in the church would be unimaginable today had it not been for those faith filled, courageous men and women.
    4. The Windsor Drive congregation, one of the congregations that merged to form this congregation, had the courage to begin a bus ministry.
      1. In the 1970s I worked for a congregation with a bus ministry.
      2. Let me tell you about bus programs.
        1. It was a brand new concept that had never been tried in the church.
        2. It was expensive, labor intensive work.
          1. To have a bus program you had to buy buses.
          2. Windsor Drive operated seven buses that transported 250 children to the assemblies.
          3. To have a bus program, a congregation must depend on a hard working group of people every single week.
            1. On Saturday mornings the canvassers looked for new riders and confirmed that current riders were coming.
            2. Drivers who drove the route every Sunday.
            3. You had to have men who serviced the buses and kept them in good repair.
            4. You had to have a few adults on the bus to keep order every time the bus ran.
            5. You needed a teacher who taught the kids as they rode.
            6. You had to have people who would sit with the kids in the assemblies.
            7. It took dedicated people to operate a bus program.
      3. I cannot speak for Windsor Drive because I was not there, so I have to speak from experience.
        1. Some people in the congregation really appreciated and encouraged the bus program, but in my congregation encouragers were the minority.
        2. Some people in the congregation did not appreciate the bus program; to them it was unwise if not actually bad.
          1. Some teachers did not like it because unchurched children disrupted the classes and the teaching schedule.
          2. Some parents did not like it because they felt it deprived their children of the level of the Bible instruction that they needed.
          3. Some adults did not like it because unchurched children could be a major distraction in worship.
          4. Others did not like it because it was expensive and did not produce quick results.
      4. What was the objective of the bus ministry?
        1. It believed that if you changed the lives of children who had never been to church, you would change their adult lives.
        2. It believed that if you worked with the kids you might reach the parents.
        3. It believed that if you planted the seed God would give that seed life.
      5. Several people who worked hard in the Windsor Drive bus ministry are a part of this congregation.
        1. Thank you!
        2. Thank you for having the courage and vision to move the church ahead.
        3. Thank you for going out into the community and touching lives.
        4. You were a part of one of the boldest, purest forms of community outreach ever conducted in the churches of Christ.
        5. You challenged the church to look at the future, and that blesses us even now.

  3. We have been encouraging you to consider our use of small groups as just one of many options to promote spiritual growth and development.
    1. The choice to be in such a group would be a purely optional.
      1. Sunday night assemblies would continue as always for those who prefer to come to the building, and I would be here teaching on Sunday nights.
      2. No one would be forced to do anything.
      3. These groups would not replace anything, and certainly not our fellowship groups.
    2. What is the objective?
      1. Objective one is to address the spiritual needs of Christians who spiritually grow better in a small group setting.
      2. Objective two is to encourage many members who do not come to the building on Sunday nights to be part of a group.
      3. Objective three is to reach out to more friends and neighbors.
    3. Why? Why create that option?
      1. A significant change already has occurred in our society : an identifiable group of people need a different learning method.
        1. Some people do not learn well through the lecturing called preaching.
        2. Let me illustrate: if I say something in a sermon that you never heard before or strongly disagree with, who is correct?
          1. If I have a lot correct information I have behind my statement, if I can document the statement from the context of the whole Bible, who is correct?
          2. About 90% of the time in your mind you are.
          3. "Well, David is just wrong about that."
          4. Preaching is becoming an increasing poor way to teach.
          5. Too many of us listen to preaching to agree or to disagree, not to learn.
        3. I have been preaching for 45 years; I bet I see and understand that change better than many of you do.
        4. The people who learn better in small groups include most people who rarely come to a church building.
      2. What are the advantages?
        1. Small group settings allow people to form strong relationships quickly.
        2. They encourage deeper study and more time in prayer.
        3. They form friendships that lead to sharing and closeness.
        4. Many people find that setting much less intimidating than an assembly of several hundred people.
        5. It is certainly not new; it is as old as the church; Christians studied and worshipped in small groups in the New Testament.
          1. Church building assemblies did not begin before church building existed.
          2. It was about 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus that the first church buildings were built.
      3. This is not a "quick fix" to growth; when done responsibly, it takes three to five years to produce significant results.

I find Fort Smith a great place to live and West-Ark a great congregation to be a part of. I am fifty-nine. I could say, "David, you have worked hard as a preacher all your life. You could preach good lessons that help people, encourage things to stay just as they are, and focus on enjoying life instead of working so hard. As long as you preach lessons that help people, no one would mind."

I cannot do that for two reasons. Reason one is very personal. It comes from my understanding of Matthew 6:1-18. If I did that, God would say to me when I died, "David, you did not care about the future of my kingdom. You just cared about yourself. You were thinking about David, not about Me. You wanted to take it easy. You got what you wanted. When you got what you wanted, you were paid in full. You have nothing coming from me." I have not served God to hear those words.

The second reason: I want this congregation to be healthier in ten years than it is now. Because of my age, I doubt that I will be your preacher in ten years. In ten years, the demographics of this congregation will change significantly. The only way this congregation will be healthier in ten years is to teach people effectively in the manner that they best learn. Preaching assemblies will not be enough.

We need the vision, the courage, and the faith of those people who used the bus ministry at Windsor Drive.

[Prayer: God open our eyes and give us faith and courage.]

Do you want God to open your eyes and give you faith and courage?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 12 September 1999

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