In December 1958, (a few months before Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Brogue, Pennsylvania was founded), Leonard Read published a short essay in a magazine called The Freeman that made this assertion: no single person on the face of the earth knows how to make a pencil. He wrote the essay, I Pencil, to illustrate the futility of a planned economy and the power of a free market. Though this is not about economics, I see an interesting parallel with a letter written almost 2,000 years before I, Pencil.
After the well-known verses instructing us about presenting our bodies a living sacrifice and not allowing ourselves to be conformed to this world but instead be transformed, God again gives us instruction about our thoughts. This time, humility and pride are the focus, specifically about our relationship to our fellow church members. Allow me to illustrate by using some of the same techniques as Leonard Read.
My Family Tree
I am Mt. Zion Baptist Church—the seemingly ordinary country church in Brogue, Pennsylvania.
Pleasing the Lord Jesus Christ is my duty and my message; that’s the main thing I do.
You may wonder why I should tell you about myself and my geneology; especially since most of you hearing this are a part of me. You see a few nice, comfortable buildings; Pastor and his assistants; all the ministries; and of course, the people of this fellowship. But I am so much more than what you see now.
To begin with, my story is long, and interesting. Maybe you only think of me because of what you see today. Or perhaps you think of me as the church that started in a one-room schoolhouse in 1959. In fact, my history goes much further back than that; you can see my roots at the cross of Calvary. Ephesians 5:23-24 says that Christ is my head, master, and my Savior, and that I am subject unto him.
After the resurrection of Christ many faithful men and women, beginning with the apostles, preached the gospel to the world, with not a single one of them thinking of planting a church in Brogue 2,000 years later. Those early Christians, some of whom gave their lives for their Savior, never saw that their sometimes lonely sacrifices laid the foundation for what would become Mt. Zion Baptist Church and thousands of others like it. I Corinthians 3:10-11 says, According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Though those Christians from years gone by could have never seen what you see today, they performed the work that they were instructed to do, and their work produced churches like me. I am not as simple and insignificant as I may seem.
Yes, my birthday was over sixty years ago. I guess I’m getting a little old by your standard. But my birthday was simply another step in furtherance of the Kingdom of God. My first members had godly witnesses in their lives who taught them to live holy, separated lives according to the Bible. My first pastor was himself pastored by a man before he, himself became Pastor Vanoy. The same continues today. Some of you were reached as a direct result of my outreach to the community. Others were witnessed to by your parents and grandparents who were my members. Still others were reached and discipled by other good churches—you might call them my brothers and sisters. In I Corinthians 3, Paul says, I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. This can be said of each family in my fellowship.
No One Knows
Look around my auditorium. Look at the people here. Each of them was loved, prayed for, witnessed to, and preached to. But no human planned this exact configuration of families and people: now or a thousand years ago. God is the only planner involved; He’s the only one that could have known about me when he sent his Son to die on the cross. And he did think of me and die for me then. Ephesians 5:25 says that he gave himself for me.
If you think about it, millions of Christians across the ages have had a hand in my creation. No one can count the people who prayed for your grandparents, parents, and for you. A gospel tract left somewhere, a front door knock from faithful witnesses, or a bold witness at work may have set off a providential chain of events that led to your salvation. And guess what? It doesn’t end with you. And it shouldn’t end with you. You will never know the consequences of your actions, but do know that you are a small piece of God’s great and perfect plan. We all know Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
No man could have planned what you see today, not even as recent as sixty years ago. Most of you were not even known by those first members. But you can see how their labor and love, prayer and sacrifice produced what you see here.
Each Part is Important
As you read in Romans 12, there is not one member whose job is unimportant. For that reason, though you may not see the grand purpose in your specific ministry, there should be great purpose in every service to God you take part in. From the behind-the-scenes work of writing cards to missionaries and taking meals to those in need, to the more up-front ministries of door-to-door visitation and Sunday School teaching; each is part of God’s design and mission. Not one of you is more important than another. God has given to each of my members a measure of faith, and with that, the gifts and talents to perform his ministry.
Yes, your part in the offering and missions giving is very important. You may not see the direct results, but God does. He sees the importance. Your attendance is important. Your prayers on Wednesday night are important. You are all members of my body, and I am but one body of many in the Lord’s grand design.
I, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my existence as a testimony of God’s guiding hand through the ages, and as a challenge that each of you are still in this story.
Isn’t it humbling to know that we are a small but important part of God’s plan? We are each just one member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. This is one church, in one country, on a single Sunday night, on a tiny sliver of time we call August 2021. Much work has been accomplished. We owe so much to that “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in Hebrews 12, some recent, and others we don’t even know far in the past. There is also so much more to be done for God, and each of our parts is important. As we strive to not think of ourselves highly, let’s also never see ourselves as insignificant.