페이지 정보작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:59 조회917회 댓글0건
<Isaiah 55: 10-13>
* < I just acknowledge that the main ideas of this sermon come from the Homiletics(Vol. 14, No. 4, July 14, 2002). But I have critically appropriated them in ways that are fitting to my specific context and needs. And I want to make sure that the English style is also completely mine.>
Do you know which tree is the oldest tree in the world? The said tree has been in existence for over 46 centuries. To be more accurate, this tree will greet its 4,645th anniversary this year. This tree came into being during the heyday of the Egyptian Empire, when pyramids were being built; it has survived the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Age, and the modern Nuclear Age. People call this tree the “Methuselah Tree” by virtue of its status as the oldest tree in this world. Who is Methuselah? In Genesis 5: 27, Methuselah was a nanocenturian (as opposed to nanogenerian), having lived some 969 years the longest of anyone in the Bible. Although the tree was named “Methuselah Tree,” the human Methuselah, when compared to his namesake tree, is merely infantile in age.
Methuselah Tree grows on a mountain within the Inyo National Forest in California. Methuselah Tree belongs to the bristlecone pine family, having stiff, vertically positioned pine on its branches. Edmund Schulman discovered this tree as the oldest tree in the world in 1957; as it turned out, not only is it the oldest plant in the world, it is also the oldest living organism in this world.
What is the secret to the Methuselah Tree’s longevity? Upon hearing about the age of this tree, people will naturally assume that this tree grew and flourished in the most optimal conditions. They will presume that this tree had constant warm weather, plenty of moisture, fertile soil, bountiful minerals, and protection from the harsh elements in the most natural and accommodating weather conditions. But those who visit the mountain that the Methuselah tree sits on are often surprised. This tree exists in the worst conditions imaginable for a living organism.
Despite the summer season, bone-chilling winds blow across and into the Methuselah Tree, often at speeds that could seemingly rip this tree apart. Its roots sprawl over a rocky mountain terrain, over perhaps the most moisture-devoid ground in this world. Rocks do not tend to hold in moisture. Not only does the soil lack water, it is also very alkaline, making it the least-conducive terrain for any form of vegetation growth. Methuselah Tree stands some 13,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level, being exposed to constant freezing temperatures year-round. This tree has but 6 weeks of warm weather to grow and nourish.
Then what is the secret to the five-millennium longevity of Methuselah Tree? What is the secret to this tree’s life force? Botanists have discovered four secrets to this tree’s longevity. First, this tree has a slow growth rate it is a classic late-bloomer. Second, this tree has a deep, expansive and extensive root system. It is firmly planted into the ground, soaking up necessary moisture and vital nutrients. Third, this tree is strongly resistant to diseases. It grows in a harsh, cold, and arid environment that is virtually devoid of insects and fungi; furthermore, because of the year-round coldness and dryness, the tree does not rot out like trees in a humid environment. Fourth, a small portion of this tree is always sustaining growth. For example, although a large portion of the tree may decease due to lightening or natural age, a small portion of a tree, such as peripheral branches and greenery, will sustain growth.
I think that this Methuselah Tree is very similar to our church. I want to discover the secret to the life force, or the longevity, of our church through the secret to Methuselah Tree’s longevity. The most popular trend in “healthy church growth theory” is the belief in church as a living organism and “healthy church vital growth theory.” Church is a place of gathering for living people. Therefore, the church must be a living organism. Healthy organisms, as we all know, always grow.
Just as the Methuselah Tree weathered thousands of years of harsh conditions, God’s church, as long as it has life, can survive any extreme and harsh conditions. It can sustain a healthy growth through any unforgiving environment. The problem is not the environment or the ambient conditions. The life force, or the will to survive, is the most important factor. The attitude the willingness to fight any condition or situation to survive is much more important than anything else. We must learn four important lessons on longevity and survival from the Methuselah Tree.
First, slow and consistent growth is desirable for a healthy growth. One of the frequent traps that await most pastors is haste the impulse to gain quick results. Problem arises when pastors push themselves and their congregation to achieve quick growth in a short span of time usually within a few years or even a few months. Easily gained followers can be quickly lost. Just as the saying goes, “easily gained, easily lost.” Nothing is free in this world everything comes at a price, whether it is sweat, tears, or endless effort. Rather than quick expansion, consistent addition of one or two devout, solid follower to the congregation is much more desirable and healthy for the church. We often see churches where people flock quickly and scatter just as quickly. We need to discard the desire to gain quick growth. Without it, we can see the truth the understanding that one life is the most precious thing in this world. Although it takes time, we need to lead one life at a time to Jesus.
Methuselah Tree maintained steady growth during its 4,645 years of existence. This tree lives in an area where annual precipitation averages mere 12 inches. And most of that minuscule amount comes from melting snow. To boot, the tree plants its roots in a form of limestone called dolomite. Besides the six weeks of warmth, the tree weathers near or below freezing temperatures year-round. How did this tree live so long in such unfavorable and unforgiving conditions? The secret lies in its slow, yet constant growth. This tree grows only about an inch a century, or 100 years.
What does this teach our church? We need not envy those churches that experience rapid growth in terms of membership. How we finish is important. True victor will be determined when the Lord advents. The fact that we are growing albeit slowly is much more important than enjoying growth spurts followed by periods of steep decline.
Certain Chinese bamboo shoots do not exhibit any growth or change during first four or five years after implantation. No matter how much water or fertilizer is given, it does not grow an inch. After about five years, the shoot grows exponentially, growing about 90 feet (27 meters) in about six weeks. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, some bamboo trees, after years of dormant state, grow 3 feet in 24 hours. Our St. Luke’s Church must discard the notion that quick, rapid growth is desirable. We must not become the rabbit the one with great speed but poor work ethic. We must become the turtle the one with less potential but boundless work ethic, the one who ultimately triumphs in the end. Only then will we reap the ebullient fruits of our effort.
Second, our roots must plant deep and extend far to sustain healthy growth. Imagine a group of Methuselah Trees in a desolate, harsh environment, each fighting for its own survival. The amount of nutrients, mineral, and water is limited; coupled with dearth of resources, cold weather and limestone terrain, trees’ prospects for survival are limited. Roots play an important role in trees’ survival and growth. Methuselah Trees will plant their roots deep and wide, for that is the only way to survive.
In order for our church to become a healthy, growing church, we must extend our roots deep and wide in our community. We also need to plant our firm roots on God’s words. Take a look at verses 10 and 11 of today’s scripture. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Doesn’t these words seem like they were deemed for the Methuselah tree? Little rain and snow from the sky, despite their small quantity, sustain the Methuselah tree. The tree, which has deep and expansive roots, soak up the rain and snow from the sky to sustain itself.
Likewise, when our church plant our root firmly into our community, and plant our roots into the words of God, amazing things will happen. God’s words will not return to Him void; His intent will be met and realized; and things He sent forth will be accomplished in the manner that He desires.
Third, in order to flourish, we need strong resistance to all types of disease. Methuselah Tree has a dense, highly resinous wood, making it impervious to all types of insects, germs, bacteria, or fungi. The resistance of this tree to disease and insects is truly amazing, making it worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records.
God’s church has the ability to grow as an organic life form. We just need to eliminate those obstacles that prevent our church to flourish and grow. We need to eliminate the cancerous sources that threaten the health of the church. Then we will develop true immunity against all types of diseases. Some churches succumb to a cold when one person from the congregation coughs. Some churches collapse against slightest criticism or disparagement from the outside. Those are not healthy churches. Those churches do not have resistance!
A man became afflicted with alcoholism. After a long treatment at the hospital, he was cured. On his way home after hospital discharge, he happened to pass a bar. Upon passing by the bar, he felt his old habit starting to rear its ugly head. He ran into a corner store and bought as much milk as he could. He satiated his craving for alcohol with milk. He drank as much milk as he could; and when he finished, his craving for alcohol disappeared.
The best way to defeat all the temptations and sins of this world is through fulfillment with God’s word and His Spirit. When God’s words and Spirit fills the voids in our hearts, temptation and sins have no place to go. Remember the fact that our church is the best source of God’s word and Spirit, the best elixirs against all the sins, fads, and temptations of this world.
Fourth, small prayer groups and other such small ministry organizations must flourish and become active in order to sustain the growth of our church. The phrase “small is beautiful” applies to the Methuselah Tree. When a part of tree dies from lightening or other natural phenomenon the tree focuses its life force on other parts of the tree to sustain growth. In some cases, only a small part of tree survives and sustains growth and in extreme cases, the only part of the tree that survives is a piece of bark that has twigs and needles growing out of it.
What can we learn from this fact? In order for the church to survive, useless and harmful traditions, practices or organizations must be eliminated. We need the determination to discard those practices or sub-organizations of the church that hinder and repress the growth of the church. That is the only shortcut to finding and sustaining another small life force within the church.
Study of church growth has yielded the “dual wing theory.” Just as birds fly effectively and efficiently with two wings, a healthy church has two wings: One as a whole church comprised of large, united congregation, and one as a small church that, through active small prayer and mission group support, provides services to the community. A church without active small group ministry and service is akin to a bird without a wing.
No matter how big or rapidly growing a church is, without active small group ministry and support through worship, fellowship, discipleship, outreach, and service its future cannot be guaranteed. Over the course of centuries and millenniums, small groups have a much better chance of survival than large organizations. Let’s think about this. When communist regimes took over in North Korea and Mainland China, all the churches and missionaries were expelled through religious persecution. But Christians within those countries still survives. How? They went underground and through small groups such as ‘house churches,’ continued their religious practices.
For this reason, as the church grows larger, the church must grow smaller. We must keep this in mind and concentrate our efforts on re-establishing and activating small group work, bible study, and prayer group activities within our church.
According to the Barner Research Survey conducted in 1999, one out of every 7 people in the US changes the church affiliation they attend. Of every self-proclaimed 6 Christians, one person does not attend church at all not even registered or belonging to a church. We are in a generation where evangelism is more difficult than ever.
In such harsh environment, we must learn the perseverance and the will to survive from the Methuselah Tree. We must become the flourishing and everlasting church, as depicted by the words of verses 12 and 13 of today’s scripture. “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out the peace; the mountains and the fills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
*** “The congregation acts like it really believes Jesus is alive through a collective effervescence that pervades everything that is done.”>
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