george_hancockstefanSomeone once said that bad news sells more newspapers than good news.  For that reason, the majority of articles on the front page reflect world crisis, disasters, intrigues, corruptions at multiple levels, murders, etc.  In political arguments, one rarely hears that the opponent has some good qualities and some great accomplishments, but his opponent will improve and move beyond what has been accomplished. Instead, each digs up dirt on the other.

There is a story that one Sunday, in a small church, only three people that showed up.  Together with the preacher and the pianist, they made a congregation of five people. The preacher stood up and preached about the lack of faith and commitment of those who were absent that morning.  He missed an opportunity to talk about the faith and the commitment of the three who attended. Instead of lifting up something that is good, he focused on something negative so that the three left feeling worse than when they came in.

But there is a similar story that is positive. A small congregation had only a few people, but dared to invite the bishop of their denomination.  He came, but only the same people who came every Sunday showed up.   There were no new people.  The bishop preached and he seemed to have a great time with the congregants and the congregants felt the same way.  A few years later, the pastor was pressed by the congregants to invite the bishop again.  Under pressure, he called him and introduced himself as the pastor of probably the smallest congregation that the bishop had ever visited.  The bishop stopped him and told him that the good news of that day was not the size of the congregation, but the fact that God was present in that day.  He would gladly come back and preach and worship the Lord with them.

One day I looked back at some of my sermons and I found out that many of my illustrations are negative.  They did their intended work – they reminded me and those who listened to me of the fact that we were not there yet.  We missed the mark, we were struggling, and we were failing.  I was proclaiming the bad news and all of us were familiar with it.

But the gospel is the story of good news.  The good news is that God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us.  The good news is that God is willing to forgive all of our sinful pasts, because he wants to create a beautiful future.  The good news is that God wants to be with us every moment of our lives.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article entitled “The Black Church Is Dying.” It was an analysis that was very difficult to accept for anyone who is a Christian.  Yet in an interesting way, the article finished on an upbeat note by saying that while the analysis was correct, the church is the only place where people still believe in resurrection.  God is able to take the weak, almost dying congregation, and bring it back to life as he did it in the valley of the dry bones in the time of the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord Jesus Christ says that the good news is that Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living, not the God of the dead.

Because God is the eternal one, because he is the present one, because he is the loving one, there is always good news to be proclaimed.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...