Do we want church growth?

On December 7 of the fourth year of King Darius’s reign, another message came to Zechariah from the LORD. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech, along with their attendants, to seek the LORD’s favor. They were to ask this question of the prophets and the priests at the Temple of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, as we have done for so many years?”

The LORD of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves? Zechariah 7:1-6

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:2b-3

A few weeks ago Selma Church Church was studying James on Wednesday nights. As I read the passage from Zachariah in my personal devotional time it hit me that these two scriptures went together. The people were morning and fasting for all the wrong reasons. They were doing it for selfish motives. The loss of the Temple was horrible but how they were responding was according to God only for selfish motives. 

This reminded me that we can also be praying and fasting for good things but have impure motives. We might say we are doing it for a good reason but the real reason is selfish. It’s like the person who says that they are praying for people to start coming to church but then later confess that the church needs more money, teachers, and prestige, just to name a few. 

Church growth is a good thing, right? Maybe, if it means more faithful servants of God, but if it means anything else then all we have is a club that gives people the illusion of spiritual security. What if what we end up with is what Jesus warned the Pharisees about when he said that their disciples became “twice the child of hell you yourselves are!”   Matthew 23:15 Ouch. 

Let’s admit here that if the ingredients in a recipe are poison the product will be poison. Yes, God can and does do miracles in churches that had wrong motives but a miracle is always an exception and not the rule. 

So why do we really want church growth? 

Are we willing to accept what that really means? More immature Christians in the church, More work not less, sharing power, disagreements, change… 

On the flip side, if it’s godly growth, it means making a bigger impact for God in your community, seeing more people commit to God, encouraging testimonies…

At the end of the day, growth is God’s job, our job is to be faithful and to have the right motive.

Gideon: A Case Study in Instruction

Have you ever been taught by someone who forces you to think things through and maybe when you think you have a plan, they take away something you were counting on using or said, “No, you have to do it without that?” I mean really teacher google isn’t going away, why can’t I use it? But no, they don’t let you use the normal method.

If you have it can seem frustrating but if they are a great teacher, then when you get your eureka moment then everything is clear. Before then it is not fun, in fact, you might think that the teacher/professor is a bit of a sadist. He/She sits around trying to find ways to torment their students. Yes, there might be a few like that but thankfully only a few. Most honestly want their students to grow and learn to think for themselves. They also might be pushing them to think outside the box.  

Years later we might laugh about how our instructor pushed us but at the moment let’s maybe not. This is what I see in this chapter. God is pushing Gideon to the correct answer. I didn’t see this before, but it doesn’t diminish the miracle at all as I see it, it reveals a God who loves us enough to push us to think for ourselves. Let’s set the stage…

  • A coalition of enemy nations has gathered to plunder Israel again.  
  • Gideon gathers an army of 32,000 men to go against them (Side note: Israel is woefully outnumbered).
  • God tells Gideon to let the fearful go home. 
  • Now there are only 10,000 men left (It’s going to be a slaughter for the Midianites). 
  • God gives another test and Gideon is left with 300 men. 
  • God tells Gideon if he’s afraid to sneak down to the enemy camp. (Personally, at this point I would be looking up to God and saying, “Afraid? I’m terrified and now you want me, the guy who every Midianite wants to kill, to sneak down into their camp. ARE YOU? (Pause, deep breath) You’re God, so okay, I’ll go.). 

The stage is set for Gideon. Is Gideon going to figure it out or well we know he will because it probably wouldn’t have a story if he didn’t. Gideon is down by the enemy camp and hears the enemy speaking of dreams that God is going to use Gideon to whip them out. In other words, the enemy is afraid. The enemy is expecting to lose. Yes, they have superior numbers and weapons, but they know they are going to lose. Gideon is shocked. This is news to him. Gideon thought he was the one who was going to lose. In fact, if he fights like everyone expects he will lose.

Eureka! Gideon has his epiphany.  Gideon remembers God’s words that He would fight for them. Gideon doesn’t have to fight. Gideon sees the army is looking for a reason to run and comes up with a plan to give them that reason. I would note here that the Bible doesn’t say that God told Gideon what to do. However, God did place his student in the right place to discover the answer for himself and it was brilliant.   

An army expecting to see an enemy attack woke up to see foreigners around them. They were, after all, a coalition of foreign nations. When they were startled awake, they saw what they expected, foreign enemies. Once the chaos began it just grew. Those who might have had time to realize they were fighting their “allies” were confused by God. The armies, on seeing their “allies” attack their friends and comrades joined in the fighting. Those who survived this first wave of attacks were confused and afraid therefore ran away from the danger. Side note: It’s easier to kill soldiers who are running rather than fighting you giving Gideon the day.

The truth is the miracle of this story is three-fold. First, an enemy who had no reason to believe they would lose actually did. Second, God put Gideon in a place where he had to think differently. Third, God prevented the Midianites from seeing their allies as allies. 

This might not be Ha, Ha funny, but it brings a smile to my face when I consider how God taught Gideon how to win an unwinnable battle.

“Do you want to get well?”

John 5:1-7


1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”



The Bethesda pool. Bethesda in Hebrew means “House of Mercy”. The pool at Bethesda was a five sided pool that historically the waters would become stirred at a different times, and the people believed that an angel was stirring the water, and the first person who entered the pool as it was being stirred, would be healed of their sickness/ailment or disabilities.


It was a contest of sorts, to see who could get into the pool first to receive healing, because it only worked on the first person in, or so they believed. Some people with minor ailments could get in quicker than those with more debilitating ailments.  


So here we see a man who had just that. The translation says invalid, the original Greek says Astheneo, which means feeble, weak, or diseased, but we get the sense that the man has trouble walking.


Jesus sees him and says “Do you want to get well?”


What an obvious question! Of course he wants to get well! 

Jesus already knows the answer, he can see why this man is here.


This man was at the pool all of the time, trying to get in before someone else when the angel stirred the water.


The man, looking at Jesus and not knowing who he truly is says that he can’t get in before someone else does. He’s too slow. 


He’s frustrated. He believes this is the only thing that can heal him, to get into that pool before someone else does. To be the first one in the pool is his only hope to relieve this disability he’s suffered for 38 years from.


He does not see the hope that is staring right at him. 


Then in the next verse we see Jesus response to that idea.


8 “Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked“


Jesus healed the man with 2 words – “get up!”


 After all of this time of the man waiting for his chance to get into this pool when the water moved. Every day waiting thinking “maybe I’ll be the only one waiting today”, “maybe I’ll be the first to see the water move and I’ll have a chance”.


Jesus challenged this mans idea that the pool was his only hope. Because The pool was the only way in this mans mind that he could be healed.


When we pray for something, a lot of times we can get that same tunnel vision in looking for an answer. Whether it’s a physical ailment, something spiritual, or an intercession for someone else.


We think there are maybe one or two outcomes for how a prayer can be answered, and then God answers in a way we would never have conceived in our minds, and we might completely miss it!


Gods answers can come in ways we can never expect. We might be waiting on one answer, but miss the one staring us in the face saying “Do you want to get well?”

Jeremy Wright
Youth Director
Selma Christ Church

Bible Study

This month I have chosen to give you an idea for a method of bible study. This idea was given to me by a parishioner at Honey Creek UMC. I added an application on my phone that is called Holy Bible. This application has a number of features that you may choose, but I have two things that I use every day.

This first idea is that it sends me a Bible verse for each day. You determine when it comes to you and somehow, a mystery to me, mine comes at 10:40AM each morning.

The best thing about this application for me is for bible study. You may pick a theme, such as love, healing, anxiety, etc. and it will give you suggestions of different bible studies. The range in time is from a few days to a month. The first two years I decided to use these short-term studies.

The last two years I have chosen to do one-year studies. Two years ago, I did the reading of the New Testament. It had me read the all the books of the New Testament over one year. This year I am using a year long study of Psalms and Proverbs. I read a Psalm and one Proverb each day. It appears to me that I will be reading the Psalms about twice and Proverbs about five times.

Whether you use this application or another that is similar, it helps me to stay on task of reading each day and I would suggest that you give it a try. If you need any help finding the application check with me or see someone under five years old for help.


Pastor Ed

Leaders Humility

I just finished reading the Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant. I would highly recommend it as it is mostly about his time in the military from the beginning of the Civil War. In case you did not know, he was a graduate from West Point and served in the US Army before the Civil War.

The reason I am speaking about him is for the most famous northern General of the war, and a future President of the United States, his writings seem to be from a very humble man. He was dying at the time of the writings and passed away several days after finishing his writings.

I think that leaders in our government, whether local, state, or national could use some humility. In Exodus, Chapter 3, verse 11, But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to the Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt”. In Judges, Chapter 6, verse 15, Gideon tells the angle of the Lord, “But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” Here we have two great leaders in the history of the world and yet both appear to be very humble and God-fearing men.

As we celebrate the anniversary of our country’s beginnings in the next week, please take time to pray for all of our leaders. Pray that they may be led by God and not lead astray by personal pride and ambition. That they may become what God wishes is the best for them.


Pastor Ed

Easter Thoughts

It is hard not to be thinking of the events going on in the Ukraine as we come to this Easter season. I spoke in my message last week about how Paul’s heart was changed and instead of persecuting the people of “The Way”, God led him to become a leader in the Christian movement.

My request is that all of us pray that God will change the heart and soul of President Putin and bring an end to the death and destruction that is occurring in this part of the world. As part of that change, may we all find it in our own hearts to forgive President Putin as we should all those that seek God’s forgiveness.


Easter Blessings,


Pastor Ed

Love: Change the World


I was in Lowrey’s Candies the other day and they have switched to everything being wrapped for Valentines Day. I think it was a sign to speak about love. Last Sunday’s sermon scripture I used 1 Corinthians chapter 13, verses 1-13 which is often used in weddings to describe the love the couple should work to obtain. I did say work, because what we are asked to do is not always easy.

What I would really encourage all of us to do is reread that scripture and apply it to two different areas of our lives. First, make sure when we are dealing with family and friends, we are following the scripture during all of our interactions. I think sometimes we take our families and friends for granted and they do not always get our best efforts.

Secondly, apply the scripture to all of the people we come into contact. Each of us has a chance to change the world with how we relate to those we already love and care for and those we meet for the first time. Use the words from first Corinthians, such as patient, kindness, when dealing with all of the world we communicate. This is not only in person, but especially with written (email, text) and also verbally. Let each of us begin to change the world we live in one person at a time. Remember the children’s message from last week, do not say I cannot do it, but say with God everything is possible.



Pastor Ed

Be Not Afraid

I was hoping to never discuss COVID again, but it is in the news more and more each day. Each of us need to make our own determination about whether to receive the vaccines that are available to each of us. I want to share that I had my two shots in March and April of this year.

As the politicians and doctors begin discussing the increasing cases and deaths, I want you to remember one thing. DO NOT BE AFRAID. It is fine to be cautious and prepared, but being fearful is not a requirement.

From Psalm 27, The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid. (New International Version). The answer to both is no one and nothing. Let the lord comfort you, keep you from anxiety and fear, and remember how much God loves each and every one of us. We are never alone as the Holy Spirit is always around and with us.


Pastor Ed

Have Faith

Just about a year ago the world in which we were living changed in ways we never thought could happen. People become fearful of visiting family and friends, our government officials told us to stay in our homes and not to travel, and many of us either became ill with CoVid 19 or knew people that caught the virus. Some of those family and friends recovered from the virus and some passed away either directly or indirectly from the illness.

We continue to see people around the world harm each other. The United States has experienced two multiple shooting events in the last couple of weeks resulting in the loss of lives of at least 18 people and many more families and friends grieving for the loss of loved ones. These are not just unknown people to us as the policeman in Colorado was a graduate of Ball State University.

So, no matter how dark the world make look to you, I want you to be encouraged by the faith that we have in our Lord. From Habakkuk, chapter 3, verse 18,” yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength”. These verses follow a time of trouble for the prophet as he sees his country and people harmed. Just as Habakkuk has faith in the Lord, we need to have that same faith. No matter what is happening in the world or our communities, God will and is always with us. God loves us and will forgive any of our transgressions.




Pastor Ed


Why can’t we just get along

As we begin a new year, hopeful for a better year than 2020, I am concerned about the way many people treat each other and relate to each other. I tilted this after a quote from Rodney King who was a Black man beaten by the Los Angeles police around May of 1992. So here we are, 28 years later, and things are not getting better.

I am suggesting we use Matthew 18:15-17 as a model to resolve our differences. It is as follows:

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church: and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be as a Gentile or a tax collector”

I suggest if you have conflict with someone please take the time to LISTEN to their point of view. Please do this in person or over a phone and not through email, text, Facebook, etc., because tone is often lost when using those means of communication. If you do not come to an agreement on the topic, that is alright. We do not need to be in agreement on all the numerous topics and subjects in the world.

What I am asking, is that we be respectful of others opinions. It does not mean we need to agree, but respectful. I heard the late Bishop Michael Conyer say at a meeting, “it is alright to say I was wrong”. He was discussing coming to a meeting with a preconceived idea of what was right or what was wrong. Once he listened, he changed his position on the topic. It is alright to have a change of heart on a subject.


Pastor Ed Armantrout