Archive for the ‘14-2 Chronicles’ Category

1 Chronicles 20:4-8

Battles Against the Philistine Giants

As many of you know, I am the pastor of a small church in rural northeastern South Carolina. It is a region of the state known as the Pee Dee region. The name comes from the major river that runs through the region, the Pee Dee River. The river and the region gained the name from the Indian tribe that once lived among the rich soil and swamps that dominate this region. Here, in the small farming community of Lamar, SC, I pastor Lamar United Methodist Church. Just as many small, rural towns in this part of the state, it is a town that is struggling with the effects of a changing world. It was once a vibrant, growing community all the way up until the early 1980s. Then, NAFTA took away a lot of the textile related jobs in the area to Mexico. Then, the demise of the vastly strong tobacco farming industry took its toll on the small town. It use to be a warehousing town for the area tobacco farmers. Tobacco would be stored here and readied for sale to tobacco brokers and tobacco companies. Additionally, as the need to cut costs in farming in an ever increasingly global farming market, job opportunities in farm labor began drying up as farm owners began to automate to reduce costs. The confluence of these events over the past thirty to forty years has left Lamar still proud of his once strong heritage but struggling to maintain the population base. Many who live here now work elsewhere. Many who grew up here often leave for opportunities in larger urban areas of the state. Thus, the population of the area in general is aging. My church is a microcosm of what is happening to the community.

The church that I serve is generally full of retired professional middle to upper middle class professionals. Most are retired educators. There are some that were in the corporate world in supervisory positions. Some are business owners. Most are well educated. Most are lifelong residents of this area. They are a wonderful group of people. They recognize what is happening to the church. We are aging right along with the community in which we find ourselves. Thus, the struggle has been watching the church slowly dissipate in its size over the past 20-25 years. Although the church is probably one of the most financially sound churches in the whole Pee Dee region given its size, the quietly shrinking population of the community and the church will one day threaten that strength. Add to that, the church really has not had a vision for itself for the future. As many smaller churches, sometimes, you just go to church because that’s the culture, that’s what has always been, so you just kind of float along without a real thing to get behind and get passionate about. As Solomon said in Proverbs 29, “without vision, the people perish!” You find this to be true in any organization in the secular world as well. Those companies that don’t have a clear vision of the future, a clear idea of where they want to head, they often falter and try to do so much that they end up doing nothing. Part of secular corporate visioneering is to figure out what you are good at and how that can meet a demand in your particular marketplace.

That’s been the struggle here for the past year that I have been assigned here is (1) changing the culture of “just going to church because that’s what we’ve always done” and (2) to figure out what is it exactly that we are good at as a church. The two thing that I believe God has called me here to do is (1) to reignite the passion of this church (where church is not just an add-on to life but the central thing that we are all passionate about) and (2) help them figure out what they are good at and spur them on to be that church. God grants each of His churches a specific gift – something that is unique about each church that is it forte, its bread and butter, its passion, its reason that it exists. Every church has a thing that it is collectively good at. Every church collectively has or should have a passion for some one main thing. They may serve the world in multiple ways, for sure, but there is always that one thing that God has collected a certain kind and group of people at each church to be really good at. That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out at Lamar UMC. What exactly is it that we are good at and let’s go do that. That then can help us draw even more people of that kind of mindset, that kind of passion into our midst and become really, really good at that thing that God has gifted our church in.

That’s the thing that I want to do here is to accomplish those two simple goals while I am here (ever how long God wants my wife and me to be here). Nothing else. Nothing more. Nothing less. To leave it better than I found it. To have lit the fires and focused the flames.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Chronicles 20:4-8 about the mighty men that were now slaying the giants, not just David. It demonstrates that David was investing in passing on his passion and his knowledge to the next generation of military leaders of Israel. David want to set his nation up for success in the future. That rang a bell with me. Let’s read this passage now:

4 After this, war broke out with the Philistines at Gezer. As they fought, Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph,[a] a descendant of the giants,[b] and so the Philistines were subdued.

5 During another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath of Gath. The handle of Lahmi’s spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam!

6 In another battle with the Philistines at Gath, they encountered a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all, who was also a descendant of the giants. 7 But when he defied and taunted Israel, he was killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimea.

8 These Philistines were descendants of the giants of Gath, but David and his warriors killed them.

In this passage, we see that David, according to the information available in the parallel books of Samuel, is much older and nearing the end of his reign and his life, but yet he is still active. He may not have been the mighty warrior that he once was, but he was active in developing future leaders and securing a peaceful land for his son and successor, Solomon. As David grew weaker physically, he stayed strong spiritually and was also strong in wisdom. Instead of isolating himself – highly conscious of his weakness – he poured into others and continued to serve God greatly. He passed on his military and leadership skills to those who were going to serve his son.

Getting back to the application for me and for you then is that David knew what he was good at and passed that on to the next generation of military leaders that were going to serve his son. David wanted to make sure that he left Israel stronger than when he took over as king. He wanted to ensure its success. So in this day, in the 21st century, in Lamar, SC, at Lamar UMC, it is up to us to figure out what we are good at so that we can survive. We must understand our marketplace and focus the things that we are good at as a collective body of believers and do that. Looking at our church, we have such a treasure trove of bright, intellectual and experienced leaders, mainly in education, who have been there and done that in their careers. That’s what we are good at. We have educators, and former educators, and we have influencers in our community. We have an aging community that we serve. Thus, we must figure out how to express all that educational leadership and business leadership now in retirement into some kind of dymano for the Lord in our community. We must use those educational skills in our community to better the world of our community. We use those business leadership skills to think of ways to reinvent our town. We must be passionate first though. We must want to change the world of our community so that more people will be drawn into the gospel and to Jesus Christ by doing things that will help our community in ways that only Lamar UMC can do it. We must see that as the core of why we are here and not for church to be something nice that we do on Sundays. We must collectively use our strengths that God has abundantly gifted us with and use them to shape our town, to make it renewed and reinvigorated, so that more people will want to be here … so more people will then come to hear the gospel …. so more people will come to know Jesus Christ.

Be passionate. Know what you are good at. Not that it was bad in the first place but leave it in a better place than when you found it. That’s why God called all of us, pastor and congregation, to this church at this moment in time at this place.

Amen and Amen.