I feel good about my husband’s efforts in the congregation he served for 28 years, and sense that his “gain is good” (Proverbs 31:18). 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 of his 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 one day hear a “Well done, good and faithful servant” upon seeing Him face to face.
Occasionally, Mark will get a written thank you note 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, and some of the details of our plan to connect with more Christians to encourage one another, support the struggling, and cheer the valiant. Mark shared the details of how we wanted to learn and grow ourselves in the quality of service we give to God, and as opportunities surface, to be part of the solution wherever we could help.
Sometime after that phone call, this encouraging email arrived, and we thought, what a stunning example of a flock of God “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14), by this congregation eager to be first (or almost first!) among the congregations we would visit. The email is edited and is shared with permission.
Good morning brother -
I hope and trust you all in Beaverton enjoyed a good Lord's Day in worship and service. This past Friday evening the elders here met at their regular monthly meeting to discuss the work of the church and the efforts of this congregation. One of the agenda items is always evangelistic efforts and support. As I mentioned to you, so much of the efforts we find with congregations in evangelism is directed outside the United States while here in the US, the doors are closing on congregations who are struggling to continue to preach and teach the gospel. Currently we help in the evangelistic efforts of one gospel preacher in Wisconsin but our efforts to find other sound gospel preachers who need support to continue to preach the gospel seem to come up short. I was excited when I heard that you and your wife are going to be taking the next year or so to travel across the United States making efforts to share the good news and as well visit brethren. When I think of that it takes me all the way back to Acts 15:36 where Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” I believe, as many do, that Antioch and others helped Paul make that effort, along with Paul working and using his own means to support this evangelistic effort when needed.
With all this said, the elders would like to inquire about potentially an opportunity for us to work with you. And so here are our questions:
- The congregation here would like to extend an invitation for you to come and visit with us. Depending on your schedule - we would like to suggest that you visit us as you begin your travel. You mentioned this could come as early as the end of March or can last as long as June, depending on the congregation there in Beaverton and the sale of your house. We would love it if you could come out here to Fairfield and perhaps hold either a short gospel meeting (Sunday thru Wednesday) or share a lesson with us on Sunday morning and evening… it would give us time to talk with you further about the Lord and how we can find those opportunities.
- We would like to learn more about your plans for your upcoming trip. If this is going to be an evangelistic effort and going out and preaching and encouraging brethren in the US - ... We truly need someone sound in the truth to help us find those potential opportunities to make sure we can help in the mission of the church, which is to preach and share the gospel along with edifying the saints and helping in the spiritual growth of the Kingdom of God.
I think this is a wonderful opportunity to meet one another and share some time together. We respect you for all the efforts that you have made while being at Beaverton and this would be a great time for you to begin your trip with us.
I pray brother you will consider this heartfelt request and we'll be able to set something up for the upcoming months. Let me know what you think. We're anxious to hear from you. Just so you know, I have copied the other elders in this email.
Have a great day brother -
Dwight, for the elders here at the church of Christ-Rockville
After making our rounds throughout Washington State to say goodbye to close friends, we started traveling south, stopped to hike the redwoods one ten-hour day, and though exhausted, drove our Airstream, white-knuckling it in the dark around the various hairpin turns of Highway 1 in California, landing for the night in Mendicino. The second night, the church gifted us hotel accommodations; we slept like a rock.
When we pulled into the church building parking lot at 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 various ethnicities 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 made it clear: When Christianity is lived out, it saves souls and in the process of doing that happens to prevent every social problem, including racism. Virtue, as God defines it, truly 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. This time together provides an opportunity to discover what is and is not going well in one another’s lives so they have the opportunity to encourage each other throughout a long, relaxing 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 Grama Ann, had also established: “We take out the church phone book and invite Christians into our home for dinner every Friday night.” Who can help but love brethren who are so “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).
How fulfilling that one way our journey could be a blessing to the church at large, was by being instrumental in identifying young men who want to be trained to preach and to connect them with mentors or financial support.
As noted, this day of encouragement was the result of Mark having shared his written material online, and so as a side note, if you are one of those preachers just starting out, and are weighing whether or not to write your sermons word for word in manuscript form, as opposed to a traditional outline, we would encourage you to go the extra mile! Mark has found that though it is best to not read from a manuscript during a sermon, preaching from a completely written manuscript is advantageous over an outline for several good reasons:
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 every given verse.
Shareability: You never know when you will meet someone who would benefit from one of your electronic articles, and being able to share on the fly what you’ve written out can be quite helpful for someone needing more immediate guidance. Manuscripts and articles will influence future generations much more than brief outline notes. In fact, many congregations and websites are looking for good articles to add to their content. And one day if you ever decide to publish your sermons, the ones that written out are ready to be put into book form or posted on the internet, and knowing they can be accessed so broadly is great motivation to conscientiously weigh every word before the Lord.
Efficiency: 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 required because you will continually refer to your previously written material to recall exactly how you made a point in the past and how you might improve or fine-tune your approach as you mature in your faith, knowledge, and skills. During the delivery of your sermon, instead of relying on perfect recall to remember just how you wanted to express your points, having them written out is good insurance that you’ll remember not just some of them, but all of them.
Precision: A manuscript will keep your lesson tight. It can better keep you from straying into unnecessary stories or wasting time ad-libbing. A manuscript will keep you from getting bogged down in too much introductory material, or making weaker “off the top of your head” arguments.
Any young preachers starting out who are looking to find an old guy with lots of experience and great advice, are welcome to contact my roommate. He’s a talker!
Church of Christ- Rockville
4221 Suisun Valley Road
Fairfield, CA 94534