Dr. Donald J. Ralston

The Blessing of a Church

I. With Jim's marriage on the rocks and with his bordering on having a drinking problem, one afternoon, Jim asked Ed why his life was so different from his (Jim's)

A. Over the next several months, Ed met regularly with Jim and taught him about his need for the Savior and the new life he could have in Christ.

1. On a cold day just before Christmas, Jim prayed with his friend Ed to receive Christ

2. After thirty-seven years of failing at life on his own Jim finally turned to the Source of Life Himself to lead him and guide him

3. Ed also encouraged Jim to attend a church where he could learn more about God's Word

4. Jim and his wife did begin to attend a fairly large church near their house

5. This church had an outstanding reputation as a Bible believing church. However, they never seemed to feel comfortable and accepted there

B. The preaching didn't bother Him, in fact, he loved to learn from the pastor who was an excellent communicator.

1. What hurt and confused him was the lack of personal relationships or warmth once the preaching was over

2. Everyone was polite to him and his wife, but no one with bright eyes gave them a warm greeting, and dinner invitations after church were nonexistent

3. To try and develop some deeper friendships with other people at the church, they began attending a Sunday School class.

4. However, after several months of attending the class, they were little closer to the people in the class than they were on the first Sunday they attended.

C. Even when he tried to initiate a conversation with someone else at church, after an initial "Hi, how are you doing?" the strain to find topics to talk about would become uncomfortable

1. Finally Jim gave up trying at all

2. There were pockets of friendly people but he noticed that they were friendly to the same people week after week

3. With no one at church who took a personal interest in his life, Jim began to spend more and more time with his old friends at work

4. As a result, he began to slip back into the old patterns he had before he became a Christian. Unfortunately, that included beginning to drink again

5. Jim stopped attending Sunday School and attended only the church service. As the weeks went by, no one in his Sunday School class called to ask why he was no longer attending or even stopped him after church to say more than "Hello"

6. Jim drifted away from the church and no one seemed to miss him.

D. That is, until the pastor unexpectedly ran into Jim's wife one Saturday at the market

1. "Hi" said the pastor, "How are you and Jim doing?" it was only an innocent question, but it was met with tears and sobs right in the middle of the supermarket aisle

2. "Pastor, Jim won=t come back to church with me. He said that he has better friends at the bowling alley than he ever did at church."

3. Jim had been searching for closeness in relationships and a blessing from his church family, but he never found it

4. In less than ten months, Jim had gone from sitting at the midweek service at church to drinking again with his buddies back at the bowling alley

E. Is this simply the story of one man who had too little faith? We wish it were"

1. Unfortunately this story can be told of many churches today that talk about the blessing of genuine fellowship in a sermon or in a Sunday School class, but do not practice it with people within the church

2. Instead of letting this discourage those of us inside the church, it should encourage us to learn how to be a people of blessing

I. This can happen in any church

A. It happens ins this church on occasion, it has happened in every church I have pastured

1. Why does it happen?

2. There isn't one person in this church who would admit to being unfriendly

3. if that is true and I believe it is, then why should anyone feel left out?

4. I think we all tend to greet and talk to people we know, well, that's quite natural

B. We have to think differently - we all need to look for faces we do not know - go to them until you get to know their names

1. For those of you who may feel new - a word of explanation is due

2. Most people here this morning have been here less than two years

3. Around you are people who are relatively new themselves

4. So it's not like one hundred people here have known each other for years. It would then be real easy to know new people

5. Because most all of you are new, we say, love me, assimilate me, take me to your heart

6. Why don't you determine, "I will be a friend to others"

7. Let me illustrate - a couple came to worship in a church that I formerly pastored

C. They said, "This church isn't very friendly, maybe we ought to look around for another one."

1. Henry thought about it and said, "No, I'm not going to do that, I'm going to be a friend."

2. In King James Prov. 18:24 - A man that would have friends must show himself friendly.

3. Don't wait for people to be a friend to you reach out and be a friend

4. Henry stood at the door of his Sunday School class and welcomed every one as they came and as they left. That class grew - the last I heard, Henry is in heaven being a friend and welcoming people.

D. Don't wait for people to come to you - stretch out your hand and introduce yourself

1. Our calling, each one of us, is to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters

2. John 13:35 - "All people will know you are my disciples if you love one another."

II. How do we love one another?

A. By applying the 5 Elements of Blessing

1. Meaningful Touch - a hug, an arm around the shoulder

2. Spoken Words - verbally expressing to others our wishes and feelings

3. Words of High Value - letting the other person feel special. Letting them know that they are special

4. Picturing a Special Future - recognizing their abilities and gifts and how valuable they are to the future of the church

5. An Active Commitment - we want to be of help to each other. Feed each other if the need is there, baby sit for the younger mother to give her time out.

B. This is how we love each other - we apply these.

If this is not a place, where tears are under- stood, then where shall I go to cry?

And if this is not place, where my spirit can take wings, then where shall I go to fly?

I don't need another place for trying to impress you with just how good and virtuous I am;

No, no, no, I don't need another place, for always being on top of things.

Everybody knows that it's a sham, it's a sham.

I don't need another place for always wearing smiles, even when it's not the way I feel,

I don't need another place to mouth the same old platitudes; everybody knows that it's not real.

So is this is not a place, where my questions can be asked, then where shall I go to seek?

And if this is not a place, where my heart cry can be heard, where, tell me where, shall I go to speak?