Hello, Crossroads Family!
I’ve been re-reading a book I first read many years ago. It’s called 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue, by Deborah Smith Pegues. Short chapters, each one addressing a problem pretty much all of us have with hurtful, or self-centered, speech. Today’s reading was one I knew I would eventually come to: The Judgmental Tongue.
The author starts out by saying, “Jesus had no tolerance for those judgmental Pharisees. What a miserable bunch they were!”
Now, I don’t know why my tendency is to jump to the defense of the Pharisees — it’s probably my own struggle with judgmentalism — but one reason for the Pharisees’ obsession with the keeping of the Sabbath, for example, was that God had kicked the Jews out of their land 600 years earlier, in part for their failure to keep the Sabbath. (You can read about that in 2 Chronicles 36:21; Nehemiah 13:15-18; and Leviticus 26.) Clearly, though, the Pharisees missed the forest for the trees which led to their judgmental attitudes and ministry.
Pegues gets to the root of our own struggle with judgmental speech in this statement: “Judgmental people engage in critical, fault-finding assessments of another person’s behavior. They judge others by their actions but judge themselves by their intentions.” How much better the approach of Benjamin Franklin who said, “I will speak ill of no person, not even in a matter of truth, but rather excuse the faults I know of, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I can of everyone.”
How different our lives and world would be if we followed this good advice!
Pegues reminds us that “Jesus was emphatic about His displeasure with judgmental folks”:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
At the end of the chapter, this practical advice : “We would do well to focus more on judging ourselves than hunting for specks in the matters of others. Pray for those who live contrary to God’s standards — but avoid judgment. If you have a genuine concern for someone and have earned the right to address his or her behavior, then do so in a spirit of love. But remember you earn that right by consistently demonstrating to that person your care and support.”
At the risk of sounding judgmental(!), it always does me good to get away on a Sunday and visit another church. It enables me to observe ways churches operate, and it gives me a fresh perspective on our own church. At the church I attended Sunday, with Esther and Evan, I enjoyed a good morning of worship, fellowship, and strong teaching within a great mix of young families, college students, and older people. At the same time, it was refreshing (a relief?) to see that this church struggles with some of the same things we do at Crossroads, just on a slightly different scale.
Here’s a comment someone made years ago about small churches. It speaks to me of the blessings and challenges we experience at Crossroads:
“The small church is a single cell of caring people. It does not exist to do, as the midsized, programmed, church does. Neither is its essence in its administrative structure, charismatic leadership, or long-range plans, as is the case in the large church. Rather, it exists to be.”
That thought made a lot of sense to me. There are blessings in being a small church; yet there are dangers too. One danger of being a church that exists just “to be” is that it can become a Sunday-only church, a kind of “preaching station” we attend when we need to be refreshed spiritually by the pastor and other people. There is a danger of existing “to be” only on Sundays and missing out on the joy of growing spiritually together throughout the week … and throughout life.
While there is joy in just “being,” the most vibrant experience of church life will require small group and individual discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning only. It’s in the regular gathering of individuals and small groups where…
… real fellowship is experienced,
… love is able to be expressed in practical ways,
… spiritual gifts are exercised,
… and creative ministry ideas are cultivated.
As we pray for and anticipate the possibility of a new church home for Crossroads, let’s also consider how, in 2024, we can cultivate greater unity, purpose, and spiritual growth through small-group and personal discipleship. A pastor can’t disciple every individual (even in a small church, even if he’s a good Sunday morning preacher!). Neither is the role of church elders to do the ministry of the church; rather, their role is to equip church members to do ministry. The role of all church members is to use what God has given them to build up others around them. (See 1 Corinthians 12:7-14.)
Thanks for your support of me while I had a week off! Thanks to all who “held down the fort” over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m looking forward to being with you during week and again this coming Sunday morning. I’m also excited about — and praying for — the possibility, either at the Highland Avenue location or in our homes, of greater fellowship and “body life” for our small yet growing church!
Worship this Sunday morning at the Community Center, 10:00.
The Lord’s Supper will be a part of our worship. We’ll also begin a series of sermons for the Advent season.
Our Youth Group meets this Sunday following worship.
Contact Jessica or Forrest if you need more information.
Our elders meet this Sunday following worship.
Thanks to our Elder Board for ongoing communication with the owners of the building on Highland Avenue. Please pray for God’s guidance and for a possible soon finalizing of negotiations on a lease.
Congregational Meeting, December 17, following worship.
Everyone is invited to attend.
Christmas Eve Services, December 24
10:00 a.m. for our regular Sunday morning worship.
6:00 p.m. for a special Christmas Eve time of worship and fellowship. Invite your family or a friend!