When the church becomes like the rest of the world the church loses focus on what it is to do. And what the church is to do is lead people to God, through Christ Jesus, so that God can set our feet upon a rock, make our steps secure, and put a new song in all mouths. This is our calling—as ministers, as lay people, as Christians—our calling is to be present, and show others that God is at work in the world, at work making all things new. So how do we do this?
Well, the Apostle Paul tells us how…present our bodies as a living sacrifice, do not be conformed to this world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds—all so that we can discern what is the will of God.
Great. Simple. No problem. Right? Just present ourselves as a living sacrifice, don’t be conformed, rather transform? But how do we do that?
I believe the way begin to figure that out is by asking ourselves one simple question, “What is your passion?”
That question came to me when I had a conversation with Rev. Dr. Dan Mosely. Dan had been in ordained ministry for years—serving in such places like Vine Street Christian Church of Nashville, Tennessee.
At the time Dan asked me that question, he was the preaching professor of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and a sub-contractor with the Christian Church in Ohio to lead a program for the recently ordained called “Learning The Ropes,” a retreat based program where newly ordained pastors came together several times a year for continuing education.
One day, Dan and I were both up early to take advantage of a slow, undemanding morning. Dan sat down with me in lounge area of the retreat center and asked me, “Jonathan, what is your passion?”
Much to Dan’s dismay, I gave an inadequate response when I said, “For the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series!”
Following my inadequate response, Dan, in his rugged, raspy tone of pastoral empathy, coupled with disdain for the unfortunate display of the future of the church, Dan asked again, “Jonathan, what is your passion… for ministry?”
Now clear on what he was asking me, and certainly not wanting to disappoint this icon of ministry again, I said, “Dan… What do you mean?”
He said, “The one common element I have seen in successful pastors is they all were passionate about something. Some ministers, who are incompetent, really can’t do anything, so they don’t like it. Some ministers never discover what they’re passion is, so they get burned out and leave it. But some ministers love something; they are passionate about something within this work we call ministry. And when they find it, they, and the church, thrive! So when you find your passion, and serve from that passion, you will do good and faithful ministry.”
For twenty years First Christian Church has been blessed by two who answered the question, “What is your passion?” They answered that question, and then they served from it. And it was good, it was faithful, and this church has indeed thrived because of their willingness to serve and minister from that passion.
Cheryl and Ralph Lorenz came to First Christian Church of Stow in November of 1997, bringing with them their four year old son Gabe, and their passion for music, song, leading, and most of all, serving God and God’s children.
To say they have been a blessing seems too simple, but it is the truth. But not only have they been a blessing, they have been an example of the Apostle Paul’s call for us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, to not be conformed by this world, rather to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
And to share with us more about how they did that, today we will hear from a few who will speak of Cheryl and Ralph’s roles. Faye Hayes will speak about the Chancel Choir. Cora Dowey will speak about Hand Bells. Julie Rumburg will speak about the Drama Ministry. And Jim Hindel will speak about their overarching Music Ministry.
The Apostle Paul calls us all to: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice…Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God.” And how do we do this? We do it by asking ourselves, ““What is my passion?” That is what Cheryl and Ralph did, and for the last twenty years they have lived out that passion and it was good, and faithful, and our church’s ministry thrived because they did so.
It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of their ministry here at First Christian Church. Both Cheryl and Ralph have made me a better pastor. They will be hard to replace, but I am confident God will lead us just the right person, or persons, once again, just as God did twenty years ago.
So, on this day of giving thanks to God for the passion for ministry Cheryl and Ralph have given us and First Christian Church and the community of Stow and beyond, I implore you…
Ask yourself: What is your passion… for ministry? How has God gifted you, and how can those gifts be put to use in the church…today? How can you, with God’s help, transform and renew your mind in ways that will help the church share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Answer those questions, then live out that passion for the ministry. Do that, and our ministry, and our work as a church will be successful, it will be good, it will be faithful. Amen.