Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The family God gave me...

This past weekend I had an opportunity to that rolls around once every three years. It was a family reunion on my mom’s side of the family. Mom is one of 13 children, born into the home of William and Anna Wegner who lived way back in what they call “a holler” in Pikeville Kentucky. Mom’s parents were humble home missionaries in eastern Kentucky and my grandpa invested his life laboring in small churches teaching Sunday School, preaching, doing children’s ministry or whatever was needed to get the gospel to the people in that region. We have pictures of my grandpa and grandma with all 13 children and in grandpa’s handwriting across the bottom of the picture is part of the verse from Joshua 24:15 “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” They were dirt poor in the days of the depression and experienced much hardship. Twice the family home burned down, and I believe the 2nd time was the day one of my uncles was born. I remember my mom describing seeing my grandpa sitting on a tree stump with his head in his hands as the remains of their burned home smoldered in the background. My grandpa died in his early 50’s leaving my grandma to raise and provide for those children on her own. While they were poor and supplies were scarce, my aunts and uncles affirmed that grandpa and grandma always made sure they had plenty to eat as they provided their food with what they could grow in the family garden. 9 of those children as adults became pastors, pastor’s wives or missionaries. The other 4 almost without exception were involved in their local churches as faithful members who serve their church family. Many of the grandkids, your pastor included, are involved in full time ministry and a number of great grandchildren are preparing for ministry. What an amazing heritage I have by the grace of God to be born into the Wegner family.

I tell you the story about my family because once again at this family reunion, I was in awe of the blessing of being a part of a family that loves, cares for and serves one another in the joy of the Lord. I watched one of my sweet aunts keep the coffee pot full for the host of family present. I saw them sharing their food provisions, my uncles cooking on the grill to feed all of us, emptying the mountain of trash that seemed materialize from drinks cups and plates about every 15 minutes. We enjoyed talking together, playing games, watching the Olympics and cheering for team USA. We reflected on the passing of my Uncle Harold last year, the first of 13 to step into Heaven. We learned how a misunderstood boy with what we’d call autism today carved out a life for himself and when he passed at age 78, he left his beloved church family a sizeable nest egg to further the kingdom of God after he paid for his own arrangements. We enjoyed family worship on Sunday morning with one of my cousins leading us in worship “a cappella style” and one of my uncles brought a great challenge from the Word of God.

As I reflected on my amazing family, the family God gave me; I was reminded the Lord has given me an amazing church family called Calvary Baptist Church. We’re a fairly large family like the Wegner clan has grown to become and it creates lots of work. A large family means that people need to serve when they are together and when they are not. They need to provide for one another’s needs and esteem others more highly than themselves. They follow up with one another and check on each other to see how they are doing in general and when in distress they care for each other. At the reunion, I overheard people asking about family situations they had been faithfully praying about in intercessory prayer.  A large family cares for the children of the family like my aunts and uncles were doing for some of my younger cousins – their great nieces and nephews and great grandkids of my grandparents. I saw beaming smiles on the faces of my own sons as they joked around with my ever fun-loving and mischievous uncles. All of these things mirror life in a church family; the family God gave me and you; the family known as Calvary Baptist Church.

The reality is we all as members of this church family have a great responsibility to each other. We must feed one another spiritual food; we must challenge one another, edify, exhort and encourage one another. I love what Paul says to his church family known as the Colossian church: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). It was precious to hear the Wegner family singing in worship “I’m in right, out right, up right, down right happy all the time since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin; I’m in right out right up right down right happy all the time!” People in their 70’s and 80’s down to kids in preschool singing that silly little song and having a ball doing it with the hand motions too! There was no thought “that’s just for kids and not for me.” Hearing testimonies of the Lord’s faithfulness in overcoming cancer and hearing preschoolers share how much they love Jesus was so awesome.

All of this points to the fact that God has given each of us our Calvary church family and we each have a responsibility and a place to serve the Lord here. I want to encourage you if you’re simply on the fringe, an attender who’s not plugged in; get plugged in by joining this church family and begin serving. If you’re a long time member; stay plugged in and keep serving. This fall in particular we have many needs for serving and caring for the needs of our young families. We need people who’ll serve in our AWANA ministry each Wednesday; even if you can only commit to a 30 minute time slot to listen to verses or help children memorize God’s word and hide it away in their hearts, we need you. We need to mingle across generational lines and worship services because we’re family; even if the music “may not be your cup of tea” in that particular service. Faithful servants from years gone by need to groom, mentor and train others to carry the baton of Christian service so their labors will continue to expand God’s kingdom through the next generation. They need to invest in their spiritual nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grand children for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.

We know statistically many kids who grew up in church leave church as adults. I’m determined that will not happen here at Calvary. How did the godly heritage of service get passed down from grandma and grandpa Wegner to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Each generation took responsibility to pass the baton to the next generation. Did they do it perfectly? Of course the answer is no. But they did do it faithfully the best way they knew how and God is blessing because of it. He will bless Calvary’s effort as we determine corporately as a church family: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We’re all busy; we’re all worried if we have enough time in our crowded schedules. Serving the Lord may mean we have to prioritize and reprioritize what’s most important. Where are you serving this fall? Will you jump in the game and serve your church family? Will you view your relationship with your church family as a great privilege but a great responsibility as well? Seeing those serving hearts at our family reunion; made my desire to serve the Lord with joy that much stronger; it made me thankful for the family God gave me…a church family God has given me to serve; from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 

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