“Choosy Christians Choose Jif” (Retaking the Village Green 4/15/21)

If you are old enough you remember the ad for Jif peanut butter (when was the last time you saw an ad for peanut butter?) “Choosy mothers, choose Jif.” This was to lull you into the idea if you had the audacity to choose any other peanut product you were a bad parent, person, human being.

As Americans we like choice. We like to choose our cars, mates, houses, 401Ks, menus, doctors, grass seed, and almost anything we can. Limit choices, and you start a revolution.

As I was walking up to our main church building last weekend, preparing to speak about Peter answering Jesus’ call to follow him after the resurrection, I began to ponder the idea of “choice” for us as Christians, and the difference between our choice, and our call.

In church circles we talk about “call” in certain contexts. We “call” a pastor. We feel a “call” to a specific gift. Someone has a “call” to serve God as a missionary somewhere “over there.” Then I thought, “How does God’s call affect my everyday life? Does God call me to a church, or do I choose a church to attend?”

For most Christians, answering the question “What church do I attend, belong to?” will usually default to the answer, “We/I choose to go (or not) go to…” Usually the decision is arrived at by a review of a church’s; ministries, service opportunities, worship quality and times, criteria we determine. A “choice” is then made, just like we would choose shoes, houses, restaurants, peanut butter, etc. We take a personal needs assessment. “I need sneakers, not dress shoes, I need Chinese food not Mexican, I need three bedrooms.” We then choose to fit my perceived needs.

The word “called” is used over 400 times scripture to describe; God’s call to us, our call to him, and our call to each other. Paul writes in Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Col 3:15) The early church was called to each other because they needed each other to growth, serve, survive and proclaim.

If you were to ask a Christian in the New Testament what church they would choose to attend, you probably would get a quizzical look. Then you would gather with others who were also called by Christ just as you were. You were called by Jesus to follow him, and you were called to gather with other Jesus followers in your community, and as you gathered you brought the gifts God called you to have, and together you became the church. God calls, we then choose to answer the call just as Peter did with Jesus on that beach after the resurrection.

The concept of “choosing a church” is relatively new in church history, and is predominately a Western/American concept, and is hard to support from scripture. In many other places in the world, believers do not have the luxury of choice. You attend the local church because it is your lifeline, community as a believer.

Now, when God calls together different types of imperfect people, as we all are, problems do arise- just read through any of the New Testament letters and you will see imperfect people trying to live, serve and worship together. The New Testament writers look to correct, encourage, sometimes rebuke- but always with the purpose, as Paul says, “Maintaining the unity (local gathering) through the bond of peace.”

Answering God’s call is fulfilling, but sometimes not easy. God’s call comes with great reward, but also sacrifice. Following God’s call may mean personal lessons of humility and sacrifice. When I am called to a local gathering of believers, rather than choosing a local gathering I am challenged to live in unity and service with someone even when I may disagree on a secondary issue of life and faith. The early church leaders Peter and Paul disagreed on whether Jews and Gentiles could be both called to worship in the same church, and yet God in His sovereignty brought them together and called them to be one church. It required each to serve in humility with each other and live sacrificially for the common good. As Paul puts it in Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” We do it for each other as Christ did it for us.

In any given church you will find good-hearted committed followers of Jesus who will disagree on secondary issues; political allegiances, how to raise kids, use of spiritual gifts, leadership structures, worship styles, roles of men and women in the church and society, Mac or PC, and other non-fundamental salvation doctrines. When you are called to, not choosing a gathering of Christians, you are more likely, in humility, to find common ground which allows the mission of the church to move forward. When you are called, you bring your gifts to serve to make the Christian community a stronger force for the gospel. When you choose, the church is strengthened or weakened by each member’s next choice.

Seventy-one years ago this month, a small group of Jesus followers in Raymond, sensed the call of God to come together, commit themselves to each other and create a beachhead for the gospel here in the area. Most of that original group has passed, but their calling and commitment gave us the foundation we have today to continue to be a force for Jesus here. We are their legacy, and we can be the legacy for others. We welcome all who come to join us.

You may choose your peanut butter (although with all the allergies today many choose sunflower butter). A peanut butter choice will not change the life of a community. Answering God’s call to a church can. Let us see what God will do as we live out our call together today.

Pastor Kevin

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