4/11/10 ~ Today I visited The Salvation Army Worship Center in Fort Walton Beach, FL.
I had intended to visit another church, in Niceville, FL today, and had even run the Map-Quest directions when, at Bible Study, Pastor Charles Sansom (that's him standing above with his back toward us) shared that he was going to fill in for the local Salvation Army Chaplain, away in Miami on Haitian-relief activities.
Pastor Sansom is President of the local Fort Walton Beach Ministerial Association and frequently gets involved in this sort of stuff. He was one of the supporters of last week's "Sunrise Service" in the park.
So I decided, on the spur of the moment, to go see the local Salvation Army Chapel which recently moved into this gigantic building in the Publix Plaza on Mary Esther Blvd., FWB. It's just across from my wife's video store and down from the V.F.W. post we dance at (with my mother-in-law!) almost every Saturday night!
I have always had fond memories of the Salvation Army from my involvement with them in the New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina recovery. In fact, one of my best friends to this day is Army Chaplain John Price with whom I maintain constant contact; and I also keep up with Chaplain, Father Jim Hager in S. Carolina.
So I was excited to visit the church. And I was not disappointed.
I was cordially welcomed by Lieutenant Karen Lewis, wife of the absent Chaplain/Lt. Preston Lewis; and simultaneously warmly greeted by a medical patient of mine, an Arican-American parishioner impressively decked out in her "Army" uniform, who was ecstatic to see me there. We hugged and blessed each other and then I turned my attention to the surroundings. As you can confirm the entire operation was very clean, tidy & professional. The live music was away this Sunday with The Preacher in Miami, but a guitarist and solo singer closed out the proceedings and the ubiquitous "Double-Screen" format provided pre-recorded singing & "Hymnal" guidance throughout the service.
This was the first truly racially-integrated congregation I have visited. There were about 30 people there and the races were absolutely evenly divided. The tone was "High-Casual" with some suits. Pastor preached his usual AA-men without discord, there was no communion nor kneelers; but the Good-Book was prominently displayed up-front on an altar; the message was preached from the pulpit and a tithe was collected in golden platters. The chairs were cleverly designed as individual units that clipped together to span the room in rows and each had a little open pocket under the seat which contained a bible. I thought that was rather neat!
Pastor Sansom preached the Sermon: THE IMPACT OF THE CHURCH ON TODAY'S CULTURE
(Scripture: Matt. 16:13-19; Matt. 28: 18-20; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:11 & Revelation 11:15.)
Friends, I believe we’re living in the last days. Jesus is coming soon. And at this time we have special responsibilities as the body of Christ. Jesus asks in Matthew 16: 13-19: "Who do people say the son of man is? ... Who do you say I am?"
Peter gives the important answer. It is the right answer: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God." Matthew: 28:18-20, further says: "All authority ... has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ... and (teach) them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."
Let us pray. Father thank you for your Word.
Today it is very important that the church should have an impact on the culture. God’s doing – in this age – a mighty work. We’re living in a violent age. But the word of God will be restored in our time. God’s impact will be the greatest in our age; today and in the days ahead, the church will be more involved in changing the culture.
We are on the edge of a tremendous change like we have never seen before. The church is equipping God’s army; an army that will affect society at all levels of our life and culture. The church has been called to bring forth reformation and transformation. Thus we must not sit here idly in these chairs. We must work to change individuals and society with the power that God is giving us.
And we have the responsibility to accurately reflect God, our Heavenly Father everywhere and at all times. We must live like believers every day of the week and every moment our lives. Then the spirit will lead us to do everything that the spirit requires. Paul in Ephesians 2: 8-9 states "For it is by grace you have been saved ... not by works ...". We are his masterpieces.
As God’s people we are equipped for the job to become "Soul-Winners"; we need to win them for The Lord and make them into His disciples. (Here pastor mentioned his Sunday morning Bible class which he said was "making disciples.") We are "Everyday Saints" casting out devils, healing the sick, even demonstrating authority over nature! (Pastor noted that since the local Christian group had started going to the Destin Bridge to powerfully intercede against huirricanes in the area – there have been none!)
Ephesians 4:11 is very important to believers. It explains that God gave us a fivefold ministry (to be Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers). Most important, God has called us as Apostles, every one of us to be ministers, given the power and filled with Jesus Christ so that we may minister.
And what should we be doing with this power now?
We are called to make a shift, a change in society. God is equipping His saints to be the army that God desires. (Just like The Salvation Army!) ... We’re all in the army; God’s army. (†"We’re in the army now!")
Revelation 11: 15 - "The seventh angel sounded his trumpet ... (then) ‘The kingdom of the world (became) the kingdom of (God) ... .’"
Recognize your calling to make the shift in the world. Don’t just go to church and then go to lunch! Rather reach out into the community; help your neighbors; make converts; change the culture. We are the people of God, in his army; and as ambassadors and missionaries we are to proclaim God ... because we are God’s people with a mandate to positively affect the world.
We’re called to forcible impact our society. God is releasing a new pioneer spirit in the body of his church. We’re tired of the same old rut; and it’s getting deeper. Watch our society split; watch our leaders decline. Now see the flame of fire – hallelujah – as an army raises up to be the army of God!
Today there is a call for a reformation and an awakening outside of the church. This is where The Salvation Army leads the way. Make the thunder louder! We are living in perilous times, it is getting worse. We at the end of the "End-Times." Proclaim victory in the name of Jesus’ blood.
We’ve let the world take over our culture: In 1973 I was pastor and I said in regards to abortion "Don’t worry, it can’t happen." But it did. Now 50 to 52 million kids have been murdered. Don’t blame the government. look in the mirror and realize we’ve got to make an impact on the culture.
I want us to recognize seven (7) areas or "Mountains" of influence that we must impact: Business, Family, Government, Media, Arts/Entertainment and Education. These are areas that the church must reclaim. I remember when folks used to contact their Church to find out what was happening in the community. Now the Church is merely a bystander. We have sat around and let the world take control of these pinnacles of our society. The devil has taken over these areas of authority; and we must reclaim these mountains. For they determine the moral authority of our community.
Whatever Obama says, this is a Christian nation and we are called to act. I declare that another spiritual awakening is taking place now and I’m part of that.
The decay of the last 50 years has happened because we’ve not been together, fighting. We must come together and believe that God will help us to take back the Citadel. The church must act like the church of the living God; not like a bunch of "sissies!"
We will tackle one mountain at a time. Last week we prayed about "religion." Now God did not intend for us to have religion. He meant for us to have God!
We’ve got to pray and move in the other areas too – on other "Mountains" as well. Most important is government. We’ve got un-Godly people in our government. Pray that God will take them out and replace them with Godly people.
And we have to impact all the other mountains. For example, we allowed one woman to take Bible reading and prayer out of the schools so as to let Satan in, and now we have police in the schools instead and education is destroyed. Consider arts and entertainment too – it’s impossible to watch TV anymore because of the un-Godly content. And then there’s families. Everyone knows how important the family is, yet our culture has done everything to destroy the family. We now have about 45% of "single parent" families In the United States!
We must be willing as the people of God, to move out into our society; to stop eating after Church Service and to start fighting instead. The question is how? The first important thing is what I call "Lifestyle Warfare." That means living Godly lives as an example. Let’s start now.
Then we need Conversion. The plea of my heart is to have this city know God as our Savior. Sixty percent (60%) of the 75,000 people in greater Fort Walton Beach are "un-churched." That is your mission, to bring them to God. Friends, Faith is an action word; and we must be doers of the word. We must answer this call to conversion.
(NOTE: I want to emphasize that, pursuant to the relevant campaign prohibitions, none of the churches, Pastors nor parishioners in their official church capacities ~ referenced or pictured herein ~ officially support my political candidacy).
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Pd. Pol. Adv., paid for and approved by Dr. Bill Escoffery,
Candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida.
Copyright © 2010 by William Escoffery III. All