What Would I Say to Tammy?

Tammy was a teenager who was part of the youth group in the church I served as a Pastor many years ago.  Once, while engaging the youth in a discussion about the importance of attending weekly worship services at church, Tammy challenged me.  She argued that church services were boring and a waste of her time.  She felt closer to God when she walked her dog in the park, and she explained that her relationship with God was “a private, personal thing between her and God.”  When Tammy finished with her short speech, I did not know what to say to her.  Now, many years later, I wonder where Tammy is and I’ve figured out what I wish I could say to her. Listen to the Jan 28 sermon, “What Would I Say to Tammy?”

I would tell Tammy that while our relationship with God is personal, it’s not entirely private.  There is a corporate and community identity that we share as part of the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-12).  When we gather on the Lord’s Day, with the Lord’s People, in the Lord’s House, it is a public profession of that personal relationship with God, and it is a reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we are connected to a bigger community of Faith where we worship, grow and serve together.  Participating in corporate worship on a regular basis helps us to remember who we are and Who’s we are.

I would also tell Tammy that corporate worship inspires us to serve others. I know it is possible to do kind deeds of compassion on our own, but the corporate nature of the Church allows us to pool resources, energy, and abilities in a way that allows us to do big things that impact many lives.  Over the year, my participation in the Church has allowed me to build hospitals, orphanages, dig fresh water wells, provide medical equipment, feed thousands, and do so much more.  Corporate worship is the place where we remember the call to serve the poor, hurting and needy.  Through worship, we are inspired to be servants of the Servant, who declared, “when you serve the least of these, you have served me.” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Finally, I would tell Tammy that attending Church exposes us to opportunities for spiritual growth that can help us become the people we were meant to be.  I am sorry that some Church worship services can be boring at times, but if they are led well, and if time and attention is invested in making the worship experience excellent, then few hours of the week can be more beneficial to our spiritual growth than the hour spent in public worship.  Perhaps this is why the Bible encourages us to be consistent in practicing “The Discipline of Assembly” and we are warned not to neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:25).

Pastor Mark Miller

What Greatness Requires

A baseball coach from my childhood used to say to our team, “Everyone wants to be great, until it comes time to do what greatness requires.”  I sometimes reflect on those words when I am going through the daily and weekly grind of tasks and responsibilities.  Greatness is not a single event, it is a daily commitment to do the basic things with excellence, and to keep improving and developing over time.  This requires a lot of commitment, sacrifice and intentionality.

Great churches don’t just happen by accident.  Great churches happen when the people of the church commit themselves to doing what greatness requires.  My hope and prayer is that Virginia Beach Church, which is already a very good church, will become a great church.  We have the key ingredients: we have a facility, we have great people, we have resources and potential.  Listen to the State of the Church Address sermon from January 21.

Key Steps I Think We Need to Take to be a Truly Great Church:

  1. Excellent Facilities. Rebuilding the North Wing will be a significant project, worth doing in order to update and upgrade a part of our building that needs some work.  We are also making plans to replace the leaky roof on the South Wing, upgrade the HVAC, and improve/update our security equipment.

  2. Authentic Worship. Making sure that the music, sermon, sound, lighting, and the participation of the congregation is all devoted to honoring God with excellence and being inspired to live with Passion, Power and Purpose.

  3. Intentional Hospitality. We want to make sure that first time and returning guests are made to feel welcomed and noticed. This will require large numbers of volunteers who will be trained, equipped, and scheduled to serve as members of our “First Impressions” Hospitality Team, which will be forming later this year.

  4. Practical Bible Teaching. Discipleship that connects the timeless truth and wisdom of the Bible to the everyday realities of life.  The Bible has a lot to teach us about money, marriage, parenting, time-management, overcoming worry, etc. We want to make sure that we are helping people discover the power that comes from living life according to the wisdom of God’s Word.

  5. Fresh Anointing of the Holy Spirit. We are praying for a renewed sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our individual lives, as well as in the life of our church. 

In my view, this is what greatness will require in the months ahead.  I am so excited to be a part of the action here at VBUMC, and excited to see what God is going to do through you and me!

Pastor Mark Miller

How Do I Find My Passion to Love and Serve God Again?How Do I Find My Passion to Love and Serve God Again? 

Spiritual passion is essential for anyone who desires to experience a vital relationship with the Lord. We are to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness, we are to “keep up our spiritual passion” as we serve the Lord.  Listen to the January 14 sermon on Spiritual Passion.

Jesus takes issue with the church in Ephesus because they lost their first love (see The Revelation 2:1-5).  In other words, they had lost their passion to love and serve the Lord.  That can happen in our lives.  Sometimes difficult times cause us to lose our joy and sometimes good times can cause us to lose our focus.  We drift, we get discouraged, we get distracted.

In expressing his concerns to the church in Ephesus, Jesus calls them to restore and renew their spiritual passion by offering a three-part prescription: Remember, Repent, and Do what you used to do.

Remember, Repent, and Do

  • Remembering what our Lord has done for us helps renew and restore our passion.  We need to remember those moments in our lives when God did great things for us, remember those “spiritual mountaintop” experiences when we were swept up in joy and gratitude, remember those times when God provided just what we needed, just when we needed it.  The command to “remember” is one of the most often repeated commands in scripture because remembering who we are, whose we are, and what our Lord has done for us is a key to renewing our passion.
  • To repent means “to turn in a new direction” or “change your attitude.” The idea here is to recognize that you are not headed down the right path and you turn towards God.  To repent means to acknowledge that you are drifting (or perhaps even running) from God, and to turn back towards the Lord who offers forgiveness and new life.   This also renews our passion.
  • Then finally, passion is restored and renewed when we do the things we used to do when the passion was strong.  Spiritual passion is like a fire, but the fire must be fueled.  The spiritual disciplines of worship, meditation on scripture, prayer, service, solitude and fellowship can help us keep the fire burning.  If you feel like your passion for the Lord has diminished, ask yourself, “what am I not doing to keep the spiritual flame burning?” Like any relationship, our relationship with the Lord requires an investment of time, effort and energy. That’s what love requires, and that’s what fuels our passion.

As the new year begins, let’s make a commitment to keep our spiritual passion burning strong for our Lord. We don’t want to lose the love we had at first, but if we do, it’s time to remember, repent and do what we used to do to keep the flame alive!

Pastor Mark Miller