Focal passage: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
I read a story about a woman named Annie. She had no family, lived alone, and had worked for 30 years at the same job. Her only companion was her cat.
When one cat died, she got another. Every year she was given four weeks of vacation leave, but she had never taken it nor had she ever taken a trip outside the town where she lived.
Many of her friends had asked her to go on trips with them, but she always replied, “I can’t leave my cat. He’s never been outside the house for any reason.”
Finally, a few of her friends planned a trip, made reservations for Annie, and confronted her with a demand that she go with them. They even arranged for Annie’s neighbor to take care of the cat.
Annie reluctantly agreed to go, but she gave explicit instructions to her neighbor: “Whatever you do, don’t let my cat outdoors. He has never been out in his life, and he would not know what to do.”
The neighbor heard nothing from Annie for two weeks, and then came a postcard which stated, “I am having a wonderful time. Please let my cat out.”
Our lesson this week is on “challenges.” Challenges inevitably demand changes. Unfortunately, we Baptists often find ourselves reluctant to change. The message of the church never changes, but the method for sharing that message must change as each new generation arises.
Several years ago an editorial in the Biblical Recorder caused me to change the way I was sharing the message of Jesus.
The article stated that since 1980 the population of North Carolina had grown by 29 percent but membership in North Carolina Baptist churches had only grown by 5 percent. Why? Many churches are not adequately prepared to transition to the challenges of the future. We do not effectively understand the cultural shifts that surround us, and, therefore, we have not learned how to focus our message and our ministries through the lens of culture. The need exists to offer the gospel through new and innovative ways.
Our willingness to change is almost always contingent on our willingness to trust a Lord who says “Behold, I make all things new.” Faith is not a creed; it is a passion.
Our message is not a doctrine; it is a person. That person is our Lord. He is calling us to “follow me.” If we can begin a new journey with Jesus, then we may also find the courage to “let the cat out.”