Sowing Seeds — It’s your church, It’s God’s church

Published 10:12 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

Mike Abrashoff is the author of “It’s Your Ship” — Before Mike took command of the USS Benfold, he saw the opportunity to do something different. He called it the Golden Rule approach: “The navy was like a tree full of monkeys. If you’re at the top, all you see when you look down is a bunch of smiling faces looking up. When you’re at the bottom and look up, you have a different kind of view.”

Mike put himself in his sailors’ shoes and interviewed every sailor on the ship to find out what they valued and then made changes. He sent the cooks to culinary school. He offered college courses. He asked officers to treat new arrivals as they would want people to treat their children. And he empowered everyone — officer and enlisted alike — to make decisions and work to make their ship the best in the Navy, trusting and encouraging them with the words, “It’s your ship.”

Mike said, “Good began to happen when he went for the golden rule. I put people instead of promotion first, and as a result I was paid a thousand times over.”

Treating others, the way you wish they would treat your children, parents or best friend is a great way to think about participating in a church. “It’s not my church. It’s your church. It’s God’s church.” Think about what it means to look around and figure out how God wants you to serve.

One pastor wrote: “One problem people have is the closer they come to God, the more clearly they see weaknesses of human nature. The temptation is to be critical of those who do not share your ideals. The secret to Christian life however is to hate the wrong, yet still feel love and tolerance for the one who does wrong. That is what all of us must face. The problem does not grow less as we grow as Christians, the problem increases.”

When we first become Christians, we often go through a period of repentance. We recognize our faults and sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. Then we make changes in our life to please God. That should be the goal for each one of us. But as we do that, we also see more clearly the faults and sins of those who surround us, and we may feel the need to do something about it. We straightened up our lives so why can’t everyone else straighten out as well?

Big mistake. Comparing our lives with others may make us look pretty good, but we are looking in the wrong direction. God wants us to look up and when we compare our life with God, we come up short.

It’s not my church. It’s your church. It’s God’s church.

I visited a family shortly before attending the funeral of their father. A young man who had been away for many years, who was the obvious ‘black sheep’ of the family was sitting at the piano playing hymns quietly. This boy had broken his mothers’ heart many times, but his piano playing was deeply moving. The now invalid mother was obviously enjoying the hymns that he seemed to be playing just for her.

The sister however was furious. She told me later: “That hypocrite!” She had remained at home for many years caring for her mother while he did nothing but cause grief and trouble. “How dare him be so comforting now!” She could have added: “Thank God, I’m not a hypocrite like him!”

But how would God look upon him? Maybe the real character of the brother was brought out when he came home and began to comfort his mother? Maybe the brother is really beginning to change. What we need to understand is that only God can supply that answer. We must trust in God’s judgement, not our own.

For those who consider themselves spiritual, it is a warning to keep our eyes focused on God, not others. Comparing yourself to God will always keep you humble. The second lesson is about hope. No matter who you are, there is always God’s promise of forgiveness and complete acceptance. A wonderful promise to cling to and enjoy. Jesus said: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 18:14

It’s not my church. It’s your church. It’s God’s church. The challenge for the day is for each of us to look around with genuine humility and figure out how we can more effectively practice one word: encouragement.

As Mike Abrashoff wrote: “Good began to happen when he went for the golden rule. I put people instead of promotion first, and as a result I was paid a thousand times over.”

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.