McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

April 17, 2014

Lackey: Challenge of today's church is to empower Christ

McALESTER — Christians everywhere make up the Body of Christ.

Tom Lackey, of the First Presbyterian Church, delivered that message to the fourth gathering of those participating in the Men’s Holy Week Breakfasts.

Lackey spoke to a group estimated at more than 100 men and boys at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in McAlester on Thursday. They were served a breakfast of scrambled eggs, biscuits, sausage, gravy, grapes, orange juice and coffee as Lackey spoke from a podium.

When we become Christians, we become a new person, Lackey said, quoting from 2 Corinthians, 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new.”

“You and I and all Christians everywhere make up the Body of Christ,” said Lackey.

The Body of Christ finds expression in various forms of the church, he said.

“The great challenge of today’s church is to empower Christ,” Lackey said.

He said the church is more than its building, organizational structure and institutions, or appointed leaders.

“Sometimes people mistake these for the church, though they are important aspects and features,” Lackey said. “Rather, the church refers too all the people of God who are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and seek to continue Christ’s life and ministry wherever they are.”

Every Christian man, woman and child is an important member of the  body of Christ, but the church also consists of groups that can join resources to foster faith and act together to impact society, Lackey said.

Christian families are also an expression of the Body of Christ, he said.

“Strong churches need the involvement of families, not just individuals,” Lackey said. Families have been called the “domestic church,” the place where people’s lives are most deeply shaped. In Christian  tradition, the family of faith has always been seen as the primary setting for Christian education and faith formation, Lackey continued.

“Once a week Sunday church activities cannot compete with the influence of society,” said Lackey. Christian nurture and training must be part of the home life.

“Martin Luther saw parents as priests,” Lackey said.

Lackey noted that the church consists of people of every race, class and background. In Christ, all natural differences that normally separate people in the world are overcome, something Lackey called part of a church’s witness at its best —that in Christ, all natural differences that normally separate people in the world are overcome.

He offered a quote from Galations 3:27-28: “For as many of you has been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Lackey said those who would normally be separated can come together in Christ.

“When people who would otherwise be divided unite in Christian love and work for the common good, then the church is truly an expression of the Body of Christ — a sign of Christ’s life with us now and a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven,” he said.

The Body of Christ is alive and life-giving, Lackey said,

“Vital churches reflect the triumph of Easter, not the gloom of Good Friday, said Lackey.

“The church should be a factory to produce saints, not a warehouse to keep them in,” he said.

Lackey also spoke of covenant love.

“Without covenant and commitment, there is no church,” he said.

Although Jesus knew his disciples would abandon him after their last supper, Jesus stayed at the table with them, Lackey said.

“We are called to ‘stay at the table’ with one another, despite differences and dislikes, to learn covenant love,” he said.

Lackey also spoke of those who are gifted.

“Sometimes we confuse gifts with natural talents,” Lackey said, mentioning musical ability, artistic talent, or    a talent with money or sales.

“A talent can be used to build up oneself, But a talent becomes a spiritual gift when it is offered in love to glorify God and build up the Body of Christ,” Lackey said.

The church need constant renewing and should be mission-minded, he said. It gathers for worship and nurture, then scatters for witness and humble service.

“It receives grace from God so it can share grace with the world.”

The Body of Christ lives in the confidence of Christ’s final victory, Lackey said.

He offered suggestions for a personal plan of action as part of the Body of Christ:

• Focus on a need in the church, community or world that you can do something about.

• Identify your gifts and resources.

• Seek the support of others.

• Work as a team.

Lackey told how the early Christian church expanded, not only through missionary work but also because of the power of its attraction.

“The church offered a real alternative as a society of mutual love, support and moral integrity — a fine model for the church today.”

He quoted a document from the days of the early church written by Aristides, who described Christians to the Roman emperor Hadrian, as follows:

“They love one another and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God.”

“May Christ be so manifested in the life of churches today,” said Lackey.

Al Ross, of St. John’s closed the meeting.

“It really does reflect what we have here,” he said,  referring to Lackey’s presentation and how men from the different denominations come together for the Men’s Holy Week breakfasts.

Although there may be some occasional disagreements between denominations, Ross said that’s no different than in families, where brothers and sisters occasionally disagree.

“The reality is we’re all one church,” Ross  said. “When it comes time for it, we’re all still family, he said.

As the gathering neared its end, Ross had all of the men join hands and recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Today’s Holy Week Breakfast was held at the First Presbyterian Church.

The Holy Week Breakfast for Saturday has a special start time of 8 a.m., at the First Baptist Church, 100 E. Washington Ave. Tony Edwards, of the First Christian Church, is featured speaker.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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