I feel good about my husband’s efforts in the congregation he served for 28 years, and I think that’s okay, after all, even the worthy woman of Proverbs 31 sensed that “her gain was good.” In addition to hundreds of recordings on Vimeo and YouTube, Mark has written a commentary on almost every book of the Bible, available upon request and thanks to the more tech savvy members in that congregation there are over 1200 written sermons available online at beavertonchurchofchrist.net that have been a resource all over the world to other preachers and teachers.(*) We LOVE when people use what we’ve written, even without attribution, because we do what we do not for recognition, nor for monetary gain, but honestly to get the word out to make a difference in this dark world in such a way that God smiles upon our lives and we can hear a “Well done, good and faithful servant” upon seeing Him face to face.
Occasionally Mark will get a written thank you or a phone call to express appreciation for the use of his free materials, and our visit to the church of Christ in Rockville near Fairfield, California was born out of just such a phone call from our brother in Christ, Dwight Bowerman.
During that phone call, Mark explained our Quest to visit 100 churches of Christ all over the country to find more souls to love and inspire. He have the some of the details of our plan to connect with more Christians, encourage one another, support the struggling and cheer the valiant. We also want to be instrumental in finding young men who want to be trained to preach and to match them up with mentors, if we can. We want to be part of the solution and all the while learn and grow ourselves in the quality of service we give to God and those we help.
Some time after that phone call, an encouraging email arrived, and we thought, what a stunning example of a flock of God “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14)
After making our rounds throughout Washington State to say good-bye to close friends, we started traveling south, stopped to hike the redwoods one ten hour day and drove our Airstream exhausted in the dark around the various hairpins turns of Highway 1 in California, landing for the night in Mendocino. The second night when we were gifted by the church the aforementioned hotel accommodations, we slept like a rock.
When we pulled into the church building parking lot to their beautiful gathering place, we realized it was on the property of a well groomed cemetery. There was something about that that made me smile, but after taking in such a warm welcome and soaking in that unmistakable “family feeling”, once we got settled, I began to appreciate seeing the groomed cemetery through the lovely side windows during worship; and found it the view a perfect reminder to seize the day, or as Perfect Wisdom puts it ... "As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years... soon it is gone and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom... Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands." Psalms 90:10, 12, 17
Next I noticed the diverse families happily sprinkled all around and in front of us leading worship. Every soul there embraced the blessed reality that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10) The total unity in Christ among all the diverse ethnicities around me made it clear: Christianity lived out saves souls and in the process of doing that happens to prevent every social problem, including racism. Virtue, as God defines it, is the cure.
After worship we were shown hospitality by Jimmy and Ann Carter, who, every Sunday, get up early to cook a big lunch for church friends and family so that they can have the time necessary to really know what is going great and what is not going well so they can encourage each other throughout the long afternoon. The conversations were both light and also deeply spiritual. We loved it.
As usual, we were among the last to leave the parking lot after evening worship. Upon our partying Dwight asked Mark to be on the lookout as we traveled for any hard working church planter needing financial support. When we finally pulled out, we took with us a dozen chicken and duck eggs gifted to us by the Stephens family who inspired me with their reason for why this congregation had such a “family feeling.” Bridget Stephens’ humble answer was a simple habit they, like Gramma Ann, had also established: “We take out the church phone book and invite Christians into our home for dinner every Friday night.” You can’t help but love brethren who are “zealous for good deeds”.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14.
(*) If you are a preacher, have you considered writing your sermons word for word in manuscript form, as opposed to a traditional outline? We love this approach. Of course, I’m certainly not suggesting the reading of a sermon, but a completely written manuscript used as your outline, augmented with more thoughts to keep the flow more conversational has so many advantages. Here are a few:
Clarity: A completely written out sermon enables you to explain things in the clearest form possible. There’s less chance of being misunderstood, especially by unbelievers, or generations to come. By writing a full manuscript no one is left wondering why you referred to this verse or that because you’ve taken the time to write out all your observations on the point God is making in the verse.
Share-ability: Articles will influence the future generations, not brief outline notes. Outlines are rarely passed down, but passes on, but good articles certainly are. In fact, other websites are looking for good articles. And one day if you ever decide to publish your sermons, they are more easily put into book form. Knowing “this will be on the Internet forever” is great motivation to weigh every word to do your best work before the Lord.
Efficiency: Written out sermons take more thought, and although initially it takes more time to curate every word of your sermon, over time, this style of writing will save you a lot more time than it initially requires because you will continually refer to your previously written material to recall how you made a point in the past, not so that you can keep saying the same things the same way, but so that you can improve or fine tune your approach as you mature in your faith, knowledge, and skills. You will also better remember all your points, not just some of them, instead of relying on perfect recall to remember just how you wanted to express those points.
Precision: A manuscript will keep your lesson tight. Instead of wasting time on too much introductory material and the less than desirable “We could go further into this, but don’t have the time”. A manuscript can better keep you from straying into stories and wasting time ad libbing during a sermon or making weaker “off the top of your head” arguments.