Two weeks after our senior pastor fell I was in the pulpit to help us, as a church, take the next step. The Lord graciously gave me a concept that has become a part of the vocabulary of our church family. We now talk about “after the earthquake” as a common term to describe our pastor’s fall, the announcement of it to our church family and our life together since that day. This message was given over two weeks, and was so important that I want to share it with you. It’s a quick and easy read, but what you will find is that a pastor’s sin is much like an earthquake. Its destruction is massive, and the church and people in it will never be the same again. It will change you, and it will change your church. So, here is part one of “After the earthquake”-
“We have an amazing church family! Your responses to what we have been through as a church have been amazing!
You have said, “What can I do?”
“How can I help?”
“What do you need me to do?”
Of course we are going through a grieving time, and a loss, but almost everyone we talk to is saying the same thing, “We will grieve, but this is our church, where are we going next?”
I am so excited to be part of this family. The unity and love of this church body is very encouraging.
As to what can you do? We will be addressing those things soon…thank you all for being part of this family and being willing to help. So, let me give you one assignment right now. This is easy. Are you ready? Pens in hand? Ok, here it is- connect with others in the body you don’t know. Reach out to one another. We have people here who are new, and aren’t connected yet, help them.
We have received so many words of encouragement from you all, many in person and many more by letter and e-mail.
Here are some of your comments to us-
“My daughter (Jenna – age 8) and I are committed to praying for you each night this week as you prepare for your sermon; that you be lifted up by God, that you are not nervous (Jenna prays this) and to communicate God’s word effectively. God bless you and we know you will do well.” -Kent
“There is such a beautifully sweet spirit at CBC right now….undoubtedly we are being cared for by our Savior and King. We just need to keep our eyes fixed on HIM.” -Marsha
“We would like to begin giving to your church but do not have envelopes (we are not members). Could you please mail us some envelopes? Thank you” -John
“What a challenge and test of our faith we have ahead of us as a church body. I am also praying that God will mightily use me and other men in this time to lead, serve, and minister to the church body as we seek to emerge from this even stronger than we were before. Your brother in Christ” -Chris
“…We must keep pressing on, not wavering and picking up the weak ones along side of the road as we keep walking this journey. It has been a long time since my wife and I prayed for the church staff and body like we did last night. I know this will only make all of us stronger. I hope this will be some encouragement for you on this new day that the Lord has created. Keep your chins up, there will be people watching.” -Jason
These last few weeks have been an earthquake for us as a church family…
An earthquake is different than any other natural disaster because you don’t see it coming….it happens, and then we must deal with the results-
the devastated roads,
the broken buildings,
the shattered lives.
Earthquakes are destructive. They literally shake our foundations. Often the problems caused by the earthquake destroy more than the earthquake itself.
The 1989 San Francisco earthquake broke gas lines that started fires that destroyed whole city blocks. Broken water pipes flooded homes. Some damage didn’t show up for months. Weakened homes had to be torn down. One house was destroyed and one next door untouched.
Earthquakes destroy lives. They cause fear. They are felt far from the epicenter. They are expensive! And, after the earthquake you have to rebuild your life.
Earthquakes bring change.
Church family, we have been through an earthquake.
Shake a building and you will see how well it’s built, shake a church and you will see what it’s built upon.
We are blessed that our foundation, as a church, is Christ alone.
So, what do we do now? Where do we go from here?
In these next two weeks called, “After the earthquake” I would like us to look ahead, and focus on two things-
1. What do WE do? (corporate)
2. And what do I do? (individual)
Rebuilding after an earthquake is a challenging time. It’s a time of grief about what we lost.
And a time of hope about what can be in the future.
As you rebuild you do things that you may have wanted to do, but simply didn’t do before. “I think I’ll paint this place blue, always wanted to do that. I think I’ll put in a new bathroom since the old one is destroyed.”
After an earthquake things change. As a church family we will find ourselves making some changes too. As we move away from our earthquake we all will look back with sorrow and loss, and look ahead with hope and promise, but WE WILL DO IT TOGETHER.
And, after our earthquake things will change… They always do after an earthquake.
The hard part for us is we don’t like change!
Recently, before all of this happened, our senior pastor started a series in Philippians. I wondered why, but after coming through the earthquake our church family has experienced I find that the very next verse in the study brings us to the very place we need to be.
The passage we will go to today will give us directions on what to do after the earthquake, what to do next….what WE, as a church family, are to do next….
Philippians 1:27-2:8 (New International Version)
27 Whatever happens,
We are at a “whatever happens” time. We will all have many “whatever happens” times in our lives, but this is a big one for our church family. I don’t know about you, but this is the biggest “whatever happens” time I have ever seen! We have all had some “whatever happens” times in our lives- a death, an illness, financial problems.
The instructions that follow are instructions for the whole church, in the middle of a “whatever happens” time.
conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. In the Greek- act like citizens. Not Roman citizens worshipping Caesar, but citizens of the new kingdom worshipping God. Remember who your Lord is and live like one of his citizens.
Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you
1. stand firm
2. in one spirit,
3. contending for the faith of the gospel
28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Did you notice that? It has been granted to you? It sounds like a priviledge, doesn’t it? And it is!
Philippians 2- Now Paul moves us into choices we must make because of what God has done for us:
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude (to exercise the mind, that is, entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction) should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Here’s what it looks like:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!
Our model for body life is Christ. This passage of scripture gives us the picture of what the proper Christian family life looks like- each of us serving Christ by serving one another.
Christ has set the bar very low….we can only go under it on our knees, serving HIM by serving one another.
Here are some basic things you need to know about this kind of life that Christ modeled for us:
1. It’s different than how the world acts.
2. It’s not about me, it’s about others.
3. If you act like a servant, people will treat you like one, be a servant anyway.
4. Not all the jobs of servants are fun or glorious.
5. It’s the very lifeblood of the church- the servant’s heart. That’s what makes us look like Christ.
6. And, last, it’s not an individual calling, it’s a body calling…all of us, serving Christ together by serving one another.
This is the answer to “What can we do?” Here it is. After the earthquake, imitate Christ and serve Christ by serving one another.”
“God does not have to come and tell me what I must do for Him, He brings me into a relationship with Himself where I hear His call and understand what He wants me to do, and I do it out of sheer love to Him… When people say they have had a call to foreign service, or to any particular sphere of work, they mean that their relationship to God has enabled them to realize what they can do for God.” –Chambers, Oswald
There’s part 1 of “after the earthquake.” It’s very simple, but important. After a pastor falls the one thing that any leadership group must do is gather the body of believers together to love and care for those who have been hurt by the fall of a pastor. It’s a very difficult time, but with the Lord’s help you will find that all of you are much stronger on the other side. God will take care of his church even if the shepherd falls.