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Gratitude Gives Way to Resentment

A lesson from the Prodigal's brother
This sermon is part of the sermon series "Adventures in Missing the Point". See series.


I will never forget a meeting I had with unhappy parishioners a few years ago. We had made deliberate changes in our church in order to better focus on evangelism. As a result, God was doing an amazing thing. But some folks were really struggling with the changes, so we got together to talk it through. They were unhappy because they couldn't find a parking space. People were sitting where they had sat for years. The pastors were giving the new members all the attention and weren't paying enough attention to the ones who paid the bills around there.

The music was too loud. The air conditioner was too cold. The sermons were too soft. The toilet paper in the bathroom wasn't soft enough. Pretty soon it escalated into the biggest gripe session you've ever heard.

In an effort to turn away from the negativism, the staff went back to the reason for change. We brought up the fact that our church was seeing an unusual number of people come to faith in Christ. I told the story of two adult sisters I had recently seen come to faith, and what a radical change God was bringing about in their lives. Surely, I said, we could put aside our own preferences and rejoice over lost brothers and sisters being embraced by a loving Father.

One guy got to his feet and, with his face burning bright red with anger, shouted at me: "See, that's the whole problem right there. I am sick and tired of these damned seekers coming in here and messing up the way we like church."

It was as if all the oxygen was suddenly sucked out of the room. I thought to myself: I cannot believe he just said that. Surely someone will speak up about how selfish he was, how that remark was so unlike the spirit of Christ. But that's not what happened. Instead the room ...

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Ed Rowell is pastor of Tri-Lakes Chapel in Monument, Colorado, and author of Preaching with Spiritual Passion (Baker).

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