On Sunday, June 8th, 2003, the top remaining leaders of the NYC church, led by the remaining "paid" elder, Sam Powell, joined together for the morning worship service of Rockland County at Palisades Mall in West Nyack, NY. Just a week previous the transition team, which had been looking into the possibility of misuse of church funds, had issued to the leadership a list of requests for disclosure of certain accounting records.
After contribution was collected, Sam Powell took the stage.
Good morning. It's good to see all of you. Let's bow for a word of prayer as we begin together. Our God and Father in Heaven, indeed you are a great God. Father our prayer today is that we will live lives worthy of your son. That Father we would be the people that you sent Jesus to die for us to be. Father, help us to have the conviction and the courage to live out your word. Father to be willing to obey you when it's convenient and when it's inconvenient. Father, we trust you more than we trust our own wisdom. We trust you more than we trust men. Father, we realize that you are perfect and your will is perfect and as long as we surrender to you we have nothing to worry about. I pray you bless this service today. And Father, we pray that your spirit will be upon us and you will bring about radical change in our individual lives, that you will have a church that will give glory to your holy name. Bless this time that we have together. In Jesus name, amen.
My name is Sam Powell. I'm a Christian first, and I serve as one of the elders in the church here. Dale Porter would be with you this morning but he's preaching the word in Long Island as they go through some transitions out there. But he is with us in spirit.
And I just want to start off by letting you know that I'm here in a spirit of love, a spirit of grace, a spirit of forgiveness, but also a spirit of righteous indignation. I just want you to know that as we get started.
My first question on this sheet of paper I have up here is: "Why am I here?" Well I want you to understand that from the beginning, that I'm here to do the job that God has ordained me to do, and that is to oversee and shepherd the church of God that God has appointed me to serve. In Acts Ch 20, I want to read some scripture to you as we get started, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, he says: "Keep watch over yourselves, and over all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." That's what God has called me to do, to keep watch over the flock. You say, "Sam it's a big flock." Well, if we have righteous men and women who will fulfill their responsibilities in their respective ministries that they are in, we can do that job. We can't do it alone, but we can do it if we're putting Eph. 4 into practice. And we're equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. In 1 Peter 5:1 Peter says, "To the elders among you I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God's flock that is under you care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be." Here again, God calls me to shepherd the flock with a willing heart and spirit. And I am willing to be here today.
1 Tim 5:17 Paul says: "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well, are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." I believe with all my heart that elders are to work together with the evangelists and with the teachers, with the deacons, to conduct the affairs of the church, and I believe God holds me accountable for that. And therefore I have responsibility to fulfill the function that the scriptures have outlined. And that's why I'm here today.
Eph 4:11 Paul writes: "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ will be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God." Here again it's my job to help prepare God's people for acts of service. God wants his church to be built up. This should be a joyful happy place this morning. When the leaders are doing their job, God's people are happy. They are filled with joy, they're filled with enthusiasm. When they're not, people are discouraged, they're disheartened. And they're not excited to serve and to be a part of the kingdom of God.
I've asked God to give me patience. Sure, I know what's been going on in the church. None of us have been in a dark corner, we know what's going on. I've prayed, I've watched, and I've waited, hoping that in the respective ministries people could find themselves and maybe work through things. It's been 3 or 4 months. It hasn't happened.
And it's time to call the church back to God and back to obedience to the word. Why am I here? I'm here to call you back to this book. Nobody should have a problem with that. The church should amen when we're called back to the word of God. There should be no reservations about that, none whatsoever, there should be nothing in your heart that's going "well I don't know about that." It's the word of God. This is what we're going to be judged by, this is what we live by.
I'm here to call us back to Jesus as Lord! When you stood in the waters of baptism, what was your good confession? What was it church? [church responds, "Jesus is Lord"] Is Jesus still Lord? Is he lord of your time, lord of your actions, lord of your heart, lord of your mouth, lord of your relationships, lord of your money? Is Jesus Lord?? That's the commitment I made.
It doesn't matter what other people do. Jesus is Lord of my life. He determines what I do, not what men do. Not what anybody writes or says. I am committed to Jesus as Lord. There are places I don't go. There are things I don't say. And there are things I don't do, why? Jesus is Lord. We shouldn't have a problems with that. Jesus is lord.
I'm here to call us back to humility and submission to God and to one another. That's Biblical. "Submit to one another out of reverence for God, Eph 5 I'm going to call us to repentance. Repentance for slander, gossip, rebellion, and pride. And there are few who are not guilty.
I'm here to call us back to the practice of forgiving one another from the heart, to living by grace, realizing how much we need it and so we should be able to give it to other. I'm here to call us back to unconditional love, where I love you regardless, where I'll bear with you regardless, because you're my brother in the Lord. I don't give up on you, and you don't give up on me.