Three Important Things for Lay Members
16 October 2016
We keep today as Laity Sunday. You are familiar with the word lay member. The words laity and lay have the same meaning. The word laity is 'λαϊκός' (laikos) in Greek, it means "common people" who are not ordained as a pastor. But in the church, we rather use the word 'lay'. You are precious lay members of our church. You love God's church and are willing to sacrifice your life for it. God is pleased with all your works for church.
When I was in my second year of middle school in South Korea, my home town church was divided into two due to a conflict. My family chose to stay in the original church. People who left the church established a new church near my hometown church. Before the separation of the church, there were about 80 attendees in youth worship service. But after the church was divided, the attendee of youth worship service halved. We only had about 40 people in the youth worship service. I was sad that the church lost its members. After the church was divided, for two weeks, I went to church every day and prayed to God with tears for a church revival. After the prayers, I went out to the street and handed out the church bulletins and news letters to people. I wanted to bring people to church. At that time, I had an expectation that all the church members would work hard for a church revival. Even though I was just a little boy lay member, I really loved church and was willing to sacrifice my time for it.
I know how much you love God's church. You are willing to sacrifice your life for the church. God is pleased with your dedication for the church. In today's scripture, we find a layperson who loved God's church and sacrificed his whole life for it. He was Barnabas. Church today calls Barnabas an example of the lay ministry. Why is he called an example of the lay ministry for church today? This morning, I want to tell you about three reasons.
First, it was because he took a role of a mediator. Whenever we talk about Barnabas, we also need to talk about the Apostle Paul. He killed many Christians. Before the apostle Paul met Jesus, he was a very bad man. He arrested Christians and killed them. When he was going to Damascus after he had killed the deacon Stephen, he met Jesus. He repented his sins to God and became a follower of Jesus. He came back to Jerusalem and met the disciples. He told them what had happened to him. He told them that he decided to live his life for Jesus and the gospel. When the disciples heard his words, they didn't believe it. They thought that he was lying and still wanted to arrest and kill them. At that moment, Barnabas began to defend him. Barnabas' defense for Paul was a very risky action because he would be misunderstood or blamed by the disciples and other Christians. His defense for Paul would also cause him to lose his leadership in church. He knew it. But he chose to take a role of a mediator. He chose to defend Paul. Thanks to his defense, the disciples accepted Paul as a leader of church. Who is willing to sacrifice oneself to defend someone by risking being misunderstood or blamed by other people?
God has called you to a lay ministry and he wants you to take the role of a mediator when a conflict and misunderstanding happens in church. Through your mediator work, our church will become much more beautiful and be filled with lots of love, peace and joy.
Why is Barnabas called an example of lay ministry? Second, it was because Barnabas encouraged others and willingly gave opportunities to people to serve God in church.
When the Romans persecuted the Jerusalem church, most Christians left Jerusalem and settled down in other cities. The Christians who settled down in Antioch established a church. The Jerusalem church sent a lay member named Barnabas to the Antioch church as a lay preacher.
When he served the church, one day, he went to Tarsus where Paul stayed. Tarsus was Paul's hometown and Paul came to his hometown when persecution was happening in Jerusalem. He had great passion for the gospel but had to hide there and wait until the persecution ended. When he was depressed and downcast, Barnabas came to Tarsus to meet him. Even though Tarsus was a place that was 100 miles away from Antioch, he came because he wanted to encourage Paul. When Paul met Barnabas, he was very encouraged.
As the lay members, you need to encourage other members who are downcast as Barnabas did. A couple of months ago, I was depressed over matter of the church. One Sunday, when I came back home after the worship service, I found a plastic bag hanging on the front door of my house. I checked the inside the bag. There were some candies and chocolates. I didn't know who had come and given those things to me. I thanked that person in my heart. I ate those candies and chocolates during the week. People say that chocolates are very good at releasing stress. I believed that God wanted to encourage me and help me release the stress, so he gave me those candies and chocolates through that member. One week later, I came to know who had given me those things. That member is now sitting in our sanctuary. In church, you need to encourage other members who are downcast as Barnabas did.
When Barnabas met Paul at Tarsus, he asked Paul to serve God at the Antioch church as a minister. Paul accepted Barnabas' offer and he served God at the Antioch church for one year. During that one year, the church grew a lot. Acts 11:25-26 say, "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people." Barnabas gave Paul an opportunity to work together as the Antioch church.
It is a good thing if people give you an opportunity to serve God in church. The core of the ministry of laity is to encourage other lay members and give opportunities to them to serve God in church. You are doing this in our church. You support our next generations and give them opportunities to serve God. I think that our church is an ideal church.
Why is Barnabas called an example of the lay ministry? Third, it was because he served the church with all his heart.
Acts 4:36-37 describe who Barnabas was. Let us read these verses together. "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet." Barnabas' original name was Joseph. He was very rich. He sold his field and gave the money to the church as an offering. He gave that money to church to help and support the poor widows in the city. People gave him a nick name. It was Barnabas which meant son of encouragement. Whenever people called him, they called his nickname, Barnabas. It is a good thing if we have this kind of good nickname.
Your offerings to church are very important. We use your offerings for the kingdom of God. I appreciate your help and support for our church worship service and each group's ministry. Our church collects cans and bottles to support our youth group. I am thankful that you bring those things to church. One day during the week last year, Mr. Bill Nations came to church to drop some cans and bottles. He lives in Waialua. His house is about 15 miles away from the church. The round trip would be 30 miles. I thought that the money he used for the gasoline for his trip is more than the profit that would come from selling the bottles and cans. About two weeks ago, one day during the week, he brought some napkins and toilet papers to church. He said that they were the leftover from the retreat of strength for the journey. When I received those things from him, I realized that he truly loves the church and serves it with all his heart.
You can also serve the church by sacrificing your time. My birthday was this past week. Mary and I prepared the Aloha Reception to celebrate my birthday. After the Aloha Reception, I went to kitchen to put something there. I found Mr. Stanley Ishiyama washing our juice dispenser and some kitchen supplies. I was surprised with him. He is almost 80 years old this year. I told him that I would wash them instead of him. Then he answered, "Pastor, you are a birthday boy. You don't need to do this today." I appreciated him to say those words. I was moved by him. I helped him to do the dish. We all know that he truly loves our church and serves it with all his heart.
One Sunday, about one month ago, we had a man's group meeting. For the meeting, Mr. Joey Dowson cooked some delicious food for lunch. Two days later, he received surgery for his knee. He didn't tell me about his surgery. Someone told me he had received surgery and was in the hospital. Mary and I visited him in the hospital. I came to know that he scheduled his surgery after the men's group meeting of that Sunday. I came to know that he always prioritizes church work in his life. I realized how much he loves our church and he serves our church with all his heart.
My beloved church members. You are very precious lay members of this church. People may forget your hard work and sweat for the church but God remembers everything. He takes a note about your efforts for the church. He has called you to the lay ministry. God wants you to serve our church with the heart of Barnabas. He wants you to take a role of mediator for the congregation, encourage each other and serve his church with all your hearts. I pray that our church will be filled with God's grace through your dedication for the church. I bless you in the name of Jesus so that your life will be filled with God's grace and blessings as you diligently serve God's church as a faithful lay member.
Rev. Dr. David Choi
Last modified 21 October 2016.