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Country Gospel

Sermon - 8/06/06
David Wilson, President of Northwest Christian College
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

Matthew 20:25-28

Sometime earlier in the summer, Dan suggested we find some point before the summer was concluded to play some music.  So that's today, we're going to do that.  I do have 4 or 5 songs that we can play here.  

The title of the message in the bulletin says simply "Country Gospel".  And we're going to do some country gospel.  I could just play country gospel and let you form your own messages out of that, and that probably would suffice.  But I've got some thoughts and some messages related to leadership, one of my favorite topics (I've spoken about leadership here before).  It's certainly a topic that is not only near and dear to my heart but it has become an integral part of who we are at the college, as we integrate faith and learning, and we focus on excellent academics and the foundation of the Christian faith that focuses on integrating faith and learning.  We also are giving our students a foundation in leadership and ethics, and that becomes a central part of everything we do in our curriculum, and outside of our curriculum, and our relationship with the community, and so forth.

So I want to lift up that topic.  What I'd basically like to do today, and maybe this could be installment #1 of many installments, is to have some leadership thoughts and lessons interspersed with a little country gospel music.  So that's the objective here today.

Let me begin with today's scripture reading, Matthew 20:25-28, and the message in these verses relates to one of the points I'd like to make today about leadership being all about servant-hood:

25But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

 

A good starting point for me is something that I know that I've mentioned here before and that is that God calls us to be leaders.  That we are all called to be leaders.  In all walks of life, all spheres of life, all settings.  Whether it's in our career, in our church life, in our community life, within our family, we are called to be leaders.  And we can all learn to be more effective leaders.  So that's the starting point, really, for me.  That leadership is all about exerting influence in Christ-like ways for the betterment of the world.

So, a few thoughts about leadership, and a good place to begin, lesson #1, thought #1, is that leaders must be authentic.  If a leader is not authentic, there's almost no place to go with the leader.  Things kind of just stop right there.  There's no following, if there is not that authenticity.  

The other day we had some new students on campus, getting ready for the Fall, registering for classes and so forth.  One of the things I spoke to them about was this issue of 'who am I?'.  Who am I?  What am I to do in life?  And where am I to do it?  What is God calling me to do?  To do it where?  It's really matter of trying to understand the possibilities of leadership that you could exert in your life, in all settings and all ways.  You have to know yourself -- to do that well, you have to come to know who you are.  And that's a long process, it's a life-long process.  What I was trying to encourage the students the other day is that if they hadn't begun that, to begin.  A very systematic and intentional process for them to answer 'who am I?, what am I being called to do?, where am I to do it?'.

What are my strengths?  What are my gifts?  What are my interests?  What do I enjoy doing?  It's not only a matter of coming to grips with that, but then figuring out how do I use those, in daily needs, in my leadership capacity in whatever walk of life it is.  In the community, church, family, job, etc.  How can I be me?  

So the whole trick in being authentic is to learn who you are and then be that.  To be real, and to be consistent.  Trust, credibility, kind of go out the door if that is not there.

Well, OK, so when I think about myself, people who have gotten to know me know I like poetry, and so I'm reciting poetry here and there, in various settings.  And I love all types of music.  I love music.  But I am particularly passionate about country bluegrass, and I play a lot of that wherever I go, whether it's on campus, in churches, in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and so forth.  That's who I am.  I'm country, I'm bluegrass, I love that music.  And I find that I'm being me, and it is a helpful way of relating to others and being with them and being real and being part of the community.

So, therefore, I like doing things like this, and you'll have a chance to sing along on the chorus:

When you've strayed from the fold and there's trouble in your soul
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?
When your soul is lost in sin and you're at your journey's end
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?

Chorus:
Calling you, calling you
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?
He will take you by the hand, lead you to that promised land
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?

As you journey day by day and temptation comes your way
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?
If you follow in His light He will always guide you right
Can't you hear the blessed Savior calling you?

Repeat Chorus

You're good!  Isn't that fun?!  

Thought #2 -- leaders must have unwavering optimism.  All leaders, in all positions, have brutal facts to confront.  Harsh realities, difficulties -- I mean, that's reality.  And you have to live with reality, you have to know, you can't be blind to the challenges and the difficulties.  But your drive to succeed and your fierce optimism must prevail.  They must, they must rule the day.  Well, what's a foundation for that?  Some degree of self-confidence.  I can do this.  But, trust in the Lord, faith -- there's a foundation for that kind of optimism.  

Well, let's sing a little bit about that.  I think you probably know the song called 'Keep on the Sunny Side', that's in that spirit.  How many have been to the Grand Ole Opry?  And perhaps you've heard the Whites sing Keep on the Sunny Side.  But if you go way back, the Carter family did that as well:

There's a dark and troubled side of life
There's a bright and sunny side too
Though you meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side may also find you

Chorus:  Keep on the sunny side,
Always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help you ev'ry day,
It will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life

Oh, the storm and it's fury broke today
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear
Clouds and storms will in time pass away
The sun again will shine bright and clear

Let us greet with a song of hope each day
Though the moment be cloudy or fair
Let us trust in our Savior away
Who keeps ev'ry one in His care

Keep on the sunny side,
Always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help you ev'ry day,
It will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life

Alright, you're good, I like it, you're singing along.

Lesson #3, or point #3, leaders must remember that their work is for the Lord and for humanity.  Leadership is not about self-promotion.  It's not about power and ambition that asserts itself.  Leadership is about exerting influence in Christ-like ways in service to Christ and service to humanity for the betterment of the world.  It is about servant leadership.

One of the songs we like to sing on campus a lot, I like to sing it, is Working on a Building.  And to sing Working on a Building for my Lord.  Well, I know we've had fun singing Working on a Building for my Lord when we were watching a new faculty building go up, a building in which God's work goes on everyday.  But working on a building for my Lord in a lot of ways can be sort of our subject of our focus here.  Lifting up other people.  Doing good things for other people.  Working on one of our gifts so we can exercise it better in service to Christ and to humanity.  Making things for people.  Working on ourselves to be a better person, and on and on.  Working on a building for our Lord, whether it's a physical structure or something totally different.  Well, let's do a couple verses:

I'm working on a building, working on a building,
Working on a building for my Lord, for my Lord
It's a Holy Ghost building, a Holy Ghost building
A Holy Ghost building for my Lord, for my Lord

If I were a preacher, tell you what I'd do
I'd keep on preaching, and I'd work on a building too

I'm working on a building, working on a building,
Working on a building for my Lord, for my Lord
It's a Holy Ghost building, a Holy Ghost building
A Holy Ghost building for my Lord, for my Lord

If I was a carpenter, tell you what I'd do
I'd work all day and I'd work all night and I'd work on a building too

I'm working on a building, working on a building,
Working on a building for my Lord, for my Lord
It's a Holy Ghost building, a Holy Ghost building
A Holy Ghost building for my Lord, for my Lord

 

Working on a building -- doesn't that make you want to go out and work on a building?

Point #4 -- leaders must remember the importance of prayer. For difficulties, certainly.  Asking God for strength, perseverance, courage.  But also in times of thankfulness and gratitude.  I like the message in this next song, called Just a Little Talk With Jesus.  Written in 1937: 

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Sometimes my path seems dreary without a ray of cheer
And then the cloud about me hides the light of day
The mists in me rise and hide the stormy skies
But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

I may have doubts and fears, my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and and night
I go to Him in prayer, He knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

 

And finally, leaders must call others to leadership.  That's the most important thing that we can do is to build up leaders for tomorrow.  People who are prepared to go out into the world and make a difference, serve Christ, serve humanity, make the world a better place.  Go out and make the world a more just and more loving, humane, peaceful world.  Leaders prepared to offer a vision, who listen, who build trust, and hope, and communicate to build unity amidst diversity.  They must motivate others to accept the call to be leaders for Christ.  And of course not just called to be leaders of any sort, but leaders with character, leaders who are honest, who show sympathy and respect for other people.  Leaders who seek fairness and justice and relationships, to encourage others to speak out against wrong, and to not hurt others.  God calls us to be leaders, to be beacons to the world, to be a shining light to the world, where once there was darkness.

Light where there was once no hope, light where there was once only blindness.  But will we heed the call?  Will our light shine?  And the reality is, you can't be a beacon (excuse the grammar) if your light don't shine.  So we're going to sing that:

YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE
YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE
THERE'S A LITTLE LIGHT IN ALL OF US BY GOD'S DESIGN
BUT YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE

HOW CAN YOU ASK FOR THE TRUTH WHEN YOU DO NOT TRUTHFUL
     LIVE
HOW CAN YOU ASK FORGIVENESS WHEN YOU DON'T FORGIVE
I DON'T MEAN TO BRING YOU DOWN OR SPEAK TO YOU UNKIND
BUT YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE 

YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE
YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE
THERE'S A LITTLE LIGHT IN ALL OF US BY GOD'S DESIGN
BUT YOU CAN'T BE A BEACON IF YOUR LIGHT DON'T SHINE

 

Thank you and Amen.

 


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