The complete title for this entry should be “The Effective Message for the Mentally Challenge Community and Everyone Else.”  Of course, this title is much too long.  Therefore, I had to shorten it.  Yet, I’ve come to believe that the way to peek the interest people who are intellectually disabled also works for everyone else.

When I did free-lance writing for a national Christian magazine, the editors were adament that there should be only one point to each article.  Naturally, this point acted like a root and many branches could be explored in the thesis.  However, the one point should always be the pivotal point that is examined.

Coming to Special Gathering, a ministry within the mentally challenged community, I found the same philosophy was promoted as the correct way to share the Gospel to people who are developmentally delayed or intellectually disabled.  One point for each devotion or sermon given.

In our preparation, we begin with an attention-getting device which usually helps to explain the need.  Then the one point is given. And we are off and running.

Usually, I will tell the Bible story or explain the Scripture that is being highlighted.  Then I will branch into a brief explanation, followed by several examples which illustrate how this Scriptural principle applies to our lives.

Over the years, an interesting thing has evolved. I not only speak at Special Gathering but I’m often asked to share at local churches, women’s groups and civil functions.   When I speak to “normal” audiences, I find that the devotion I prepare for Special Gathering members works equally as well.  I may need to change the examples that illustrate the Biblical principle.  Nevertheless, this minor tweeking means little when a truth from the Bible is being taught.

We are told that the most terrifying thing to citizens of the US is being asked to speak in front of an audience.  Because this is true, I’m convinced that the one-point principle can take most of the fear from this situation.

Jesus is the Rock

I Peter 2:4-7

Central Theme:  Jesus is the foundation and stable person in my life.

Introduction–Several years ago, I laid a 10 foot by 24 foot stone patio in my side yard. First, I had to prepare the ground so that it was as firm as I could make it.  This took about two weeks each day wetting it, pressing it down and allowing it to dry.  Then I added roofing tar paper (I had not ever heard of doing that but I thought it would provide a moisture barrier and help prevent weeds.  Others who work in concrete tell me it was a good idea).  Then I laid rabbit wire to provide a firm structure.  After that I put down the mortar and placed the stone on top.  Since I’d never done anything like this, I had to do a lot of research about how to do it.  In everything I learned, I found that my patio had to have a firm foundation.  Read I Peter 2:4-6.  This was the most important thing about putting the patio down. .

I.     Jesus spoke to Peter and told him that on a foundation of rocks he would build his church.

A. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the chief cornerstone. I Peter 2:7

B. Jesus said that Peter would be part of the building stones.  Matthew 16:15-18

C. It is important that the church have good stones.

II.     I found that there was a problem with my stones. They were too weak for a good patio.

A. We have a big problem as people.

B. We are too weak to stand alone.

1.  We need a firm foundation–Jesus.

III.     But there is more–we need each other to be strong.

A. We cannot fully exist without each other.

B. We must have the entire body of Christ–even those which appear to be more defective than us.

C. Even as the defective stone because the cornerstone, God want to unite us into a strong church.

IV.     How do we do this.

A. Be sure that Jesus is your only foundation and work from there.

B. Three things needed to grow

1.  Be sure that you are clinging to the church–no   matter how flawed.

A. The woman whose mom forced her to go to church and she won’t go now.

2.  Prayer must become the center of our lives.

3.  Be sure that you immerse yourself in the Word of God.

C. Complete the armor of God in your whole being to strengthen your personal life Eph 6:14-18.

1.  Your gut must know and love truth.

2.  Your heart must be covered with righteousness.

3.  Your feet must be prepared to share the peace of the gospel.

4.  God’s continuing salvation must be at work in your thought processes.

5.  The shield of Faith must become your protection.

6.  Again, the Word of God must be  your only weapon–and that is against the enemy of your soul.

Conclusion  Jesus is the best foundation for our lives.

When I went to Korea the first time, I got up early to pray.  I went outside my son’s apartment and saw all the people hurrying to church.  I knew that was where they were headed because they had their Bibles and hymn books with them. I woke up my son and asked if I could go to church.  “Sure,” he said, through his sleepy-induced fog.

I quickly changed from my casual clothes and followed the stragglers to a small Presbyterian church.  Later, that day my son’s roommate asked if I’d gone to an English-speaking church.  “No, I wanted to attend a Korean church.”

“How did you understand the sermon?” he asked.

“Oh, I didn’t need to actually understand the sermon.  I’d probably heard that sermon a hundred times.”  My son laughed but the other people in the room looked puzzled at my remark.

By the time I visited Korea in the 1970’s I’d been to so many church services that I felt I’d heard every sermon on earth.  That didn’t mean that I was bored with church, just familiar with the form and function of the sermon. 

At Special Gathering, we have developed a pattern for our sermons.  The main variation from the “typical” sermon is that we have found that for our members who are mentally challenged three points are overkill.  Therefore, we use only one point, rather than three.  When I was cutting my teeth on sermons, the adage was that a sermon must have three points and a poem.  Not much has changed in the three-point requirement, even though the poem has fallen prey to the warm-fuzzy-make-them-laugh-make-them-cry antidote. 

There are two mistakes that people make that are deadly with our members.  First, they believe that our members are forever children and cannot learn.  Therefore, they placate them with a warm milk message that is pink, placid and pathetic.  The other mistake is the opposite.  They approach our members with the same attitude that they would attack any other congregation.  Regarding our need to hear the gospel, the mentally challenged community is the same as any other congregation.  In our ability to absorb, we are different.

Therefore, the one-point sermon is a vital necessity.  There is also a need to keep our sermons shorter than some pastors may want to teach or preach.  Fifteen minutes are the maximum amount of time that you will hold the attention of our members. 

Some pastors use an interactive approach with their teaching to keep the attention of our members.  Using this approach, their sermons may be longer out of necessity.  Allowing our members to enter into the discussion of the Scriptures is good and necessary.  However, we feel that interactivity is better left to the Bible study classes which reexamine the Bible lesson with a smaller group.

As seasoned preacher will attest, sticking with one point is often harder than it appears.  However, effective ministry to our population demands that a practitioner continually learn to simplify, simplify, simplify.

The Glorious Beginnings of the Church

Acts 2:42-47

Central Theme:  The Church working together is a wonderful organism.

Introduction–Read Acts 2:42-46  Have a member read Act 2:47.

 

       I.     Whenever there are problems in the church, we always want to return to the church as described in these verses.

              A. It was a wonderful time–miracles, sharing everything, people had great respect for God, the church had the same purpose.

              B. God was making the base church strong so they could lead.

              C. But God did not intend for things to stay that way forever.

      II.     Trouble came

              1.  Arguments came

                   A. People were jealous of each other.

                   B. The apostles had to work that out.

              2.  Persecution came.

                   A. People had to flee from Jerusalem.

                   B. But they shared the Gospel wherever they went.

     III.     Special Gathering is somewhat like that.

              A. When I came to be a part of the ministry 12 years ago, all the groups did everything together.

              B. There are great love.

              C. Now growth has forced us to divide.

     IV.     Our friendship are growing and we should expect trouble. 

              A. Love will help us overcome trouble.

Conclusion–God does not want growth to cause hard feelings or competition.  We must continue to love each other.

Life is Precious to the Lord

Exodus 1:16-17

Central Theme:  If life is precious to the Lord, then life should be precious to us also.

 

Introduction—I asked a young mother who was a volunteer to bring up her baby.  I asked her to tell about feeling him before he was born.  Was he alive?  Was he a child before he was born?  Was he a baby right after he was born?

       5.     Have a member read Exodus 1:16-17.

 

       I.     Tell the story of Moses as a baby.

              A. God’s people had respect for human life.

              B. They would not kill the little babies.

 

      II.     No matter who tells you different, you must have respect of life.

 

              A. God wants us to respect life, even our own lives.

              B. We are sometimes encouraged to do dangerous things.

              C. I had a good friend who was encouraged to go out to the bars and drink and even get drunk.

              D. She became an alcoholic.

              E.  She is now a very sick person.  If you had known her years ago, you wouldn’t recognize her now.

              F.  She listened to other people; she did not have respect for her own body.

              G. God made each of us and we should have great respect for everyone.  We should start with respecting our own bodies.

 

      II.     Each of us should respect human live.

              A.  Not just little babies but each other.

              B. We show respect for life by living clean and good lives.

 

Conclusion–God‘s people did not want to kill the babies.  They respected and wanted to save lives.  We should show respect for life also.  We should start with respecting our own lives.

Jesus Asks for a Favor

John 4:7 and 8

Central Theme:  The Lord of the Universe asks mankind for a favor.  He wants our love.

 

Introduction

              Run or walk quickly around the room several times.  Be sure that people know that you are out of breathe and need a drink of water.  Get your water bottle and talk about how good it is to drink water.

 

       I.     Remember the time Jesus asked for water.

              A. Have a member read John 4:7 and 8.

              B. Tell the story of the woman at the well.

 

           II.     Many things can be sad about this story but…

                   A. Think about the fact that Jesus asked a woman for water.

              1.  This was strange because she was a woman.  Jews didn’t talk to women

                        2.  She was a Samaritan.  Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans

                        3.  She was a sinner.  Jews didn’t talk to sinners.

                   B. Tell about a time you were injured and how you didn’t want to ask for help with opening doors, etc.

                   C. It is humbling to ask for help.

              D. We all know how humbling that is because as people with disabilities, we have to ask for help a lot.

              E.  In this story, God asked man for help.

 

     III.     God is God .

              A. He needs nothing.  But he asked for water.

              B. He created all things–even water.  But he asked for water.

              C. He knew she was a sinner.  But he asked for water.

 

     IV.     Jesus asks us to love him.

              A. He needs nothing.  But he asks for our love.

              B. He created everything–even me.  But he asks me to love him.

              C. He knows we are sinners.  But hs asks us to love him.

 

Conclusion–Jesus asked the woman for water and she gave him.  He is asking us for our love.  Will you give to him?  He has given so much to you.

 

A Quarrel over Wells

Call to Worship: I am with you and will watch over you. Genesis 28:15 

Live a peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

 Have one member stand and have some people tell something nice about that person. Then remind the members that their mother told them that if they can’t say something nice about people, then don’t say anything at all. Have a member read, Romans 12:18.

I. Tell the story of the Isaac and the wells from Genesis 26:12-22.
1. The people who lived there would not let Isaac live in the place where he wanted to live. He chose not to fight. He chose to move and dig more wells.
2. His father, Abraham had taught him that it is better to leave than to fight.
3. Finally, there was a place for him and he was happy.

 

II. God blesses us and many others when we chose to not fight others.

 

 

A. Do you think Isaac was a wimp or a wise man to do what he did? Maybe we should hear the REST of the STORY before we decide:
B. There are many wells in the wilderness of Israel. And many of them were dug by Isaac because he was made to move so many times. Millions of people over the years have been blessed because Isaac chose to not fight but to move.
C. It is an important principle. God blesses us and many others when we are men and women of peace.
III. Remember Isaac‘s name meant laughter. He wanted to spread joy and laughter and peace. He would move rather than fight.
A. In our workshops, at Special Gathering and at our job sites, we have many choices that we can make. Sometimes it is hard to be there. People make us angry; our feelings get hurt.  Maybe someone steals some of our stuff or gossips about us.
B. We can choose to be people of peace.

C. We can walk away from fights and arguments. Who knows what the end will be. We could save someone‘s life, like Isaac‘s wells have done.

Conclusion–God will bless us when we become people of peace. I believe one of the reasons God has bless America is because we have not usually been an aggressor nation. I know there are dark horrible times, like what we did to the Indians and slavary.  But usually we have wanted to help others and help bring peace into the world. We haven’t always succeeded but that has been our aim. If we are to be people of peace, God will bless us.