Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Dongell’

Sermon 03-06-16: “Believing the Word”

March 11, 2016

John Sermon Series Graphic
As hard as it is to believe, when we find ourselves in a place of utter helplessness—when we’ve reach the end of our ropes and realize that there’s nothing else we can do to help ourselves—this is often, surprisingly, an amazing place to be! Because this is the place where God’s grace meets us! This sermon explores this idea and more. Enjoy!

Sermon Text: John 4:43-54

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Growing up, my friend Andy had a street sign hanging on his bedroom wall. It identified a street near where we lived; I don’t know how he got it or where he got it. But the sign hung on his wall, right next to the Christie Brinkley swimsuit poster. It was awesome—and the street sign was pretty cool too!

But I’m sure the people from the county who put the sign up originally didn’t want my friend to have it—in part because the county paid for it, and they had to replace it with a new one. And besides, the purpose of a sign isn’t to be displayed on the wall as a piece of art, as part of the decor of a teenage boy’s bedroom; the purpose of a sign is to point to something, to identify something, to give information about something. If you hang the sign on your wall because you like the way it looks, you’ve missed the point of the sign.

And that’s what these Galileans in today’s scripture have done. They’ve missed the point of Jesus’ “signs,” which is John’s name for the miracles that Jesus performs. So of course, as verse 45 says, the Galileans “welcome” Jesus; they roll out the red carpet for him; throw a parade for him when he returns home to Galilee. Why wouldn’t they welcome him like this? The local boy has made them proud; he’s done well. After all, did you see what he did a couple of weeks ago at the Passover festival in Jerusalem? Unbelievable… All those miracles he performed! And the way he drove away those merchants and money changers in the Temple! But especially the miracles! Everyone’s talking about the miracles! And he’s one of us! He’s a hometown boy!

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The main “job” of a disciple is to be with Jesus

November 4, 2015

When I took a homiletics (i.e., preaching) class in seminary, I heard it said that a good preacher could preach the Bible’s genealogies. I hope that’s not true, because yours truly will not be preaching a sermon series on the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles any time soon!

Nevertheless, last Sunday evening I had a moment of insight into a passage of scripture that I’ve always read—thoughtlessly—as if it were a genealogy: the call of the disciples in Mark 3:13-19. The insight comes by way of Asbury Theological Seminary professor Joseph Dongell, who created Seedbed’s new Biblical Journey Bible study on Mark’s gospel. In verses 13-14, Mark writes:

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.

Dr. Dongell observes from these verses that the main task of a disciple is not to go out and do something; it’s to be something. Disciples are those who are desired by Jesus, who come to Jesus, and who are appointed, first, in order to be with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus, therefore, not the things we do for Jesus, is our top priority.

We are, Dongell said, not God’s “workforce,” but the “being-with-Jesus force.”

How easy it is to lose sight of this!

As I told my class on Sunday, I’ve had to attend many seminars and read many books over the years related to “church leadership” as part of my pastoral training. One thing they all have in common is this almost Pelagian emphasis on the things that we must do in order to be successful pastors: there’s always some eight-point plan, or four-point program, or five-step process to follow. I promise no one has ever told us that we need to spend more time praying or listening to God’s Word. Being with Jesus never comes up.

Why? It can’t be because all of us pastors are already so great at that part of the job that seminar leaders and authors can afford to take it for granted! I know from painful experience, as I’ve preached before, that we can be so busy “doing church” that we pastors face the temptation to become professional Bible readers and professional pray-ers. God forbid!