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How to Change the World


Hebrews 10:23-25 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I planned on changing the world. After spending three long years researching and writing my dissertation on the use of critical literacy to develop college level skills in  middle school students, I was ready. Once my work was published and I began to teach a new generation of teachers, the world of education was never going to be the same again!

I’d love to tell you it happened exactly that way. But seven years and many instructional hours later, the paradigm of American education hasn’t shifted much and only a small and very select circle of educational specialists has ever heard of me or my research.

I should be discouraged. But I’m not. I’m one person. Yet I’ve taught hundreds. And if each of the future teachers I’ve worked with impact only a few students, the change we need to make sure all students are prepared with higher order thinking skills will not just be my dream, but a reality.

It takes a community dedicated to the cause.

Let’s take another community that lived long ago, in the Kingdom of Persia in 486-465 BC. At that time, King Xerxes decided to replace his Queen, Vashti, who had publicly refused to obey him. He eventually chose Esther, a young Jewess who had been raised by her cousin Mordecai, an official in the king’s court. Mordecai warned Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret so as to not displease the King. Eventually, though, Prince Haman persuaded Xerxes to rid Persia of the Jewish people, saying they were rebels. At this point, Mordecai took to the public square to mourn the coming slaughter and encouraged all the Jewish people to join him (Esther 4:1-3).

Word of Mordecai’s very vocal and public mourning reached Esther, who sent a servant to essentially tell him to hush up, lest her secret be revealed. Mordecai persuaded Esther to go before the King without being summoned—a possible death sentence—and ask for delivery of her people (Esther 4:13).

But Esther knew that although she was Queen, her power was limited. She was only one person. She needed the support and fellowship of others and something beyond mere human courage.

Esther wasn’t in a hurry to bring her petition before the King. She needed both courage and community to accomplish her deed. So after hosting a couple of extravagant banquets for the King—and wicked Prince Haman—Esther asked the King to spare her life and the  life of all her people. And Xerxes agreed, leading to the death on the gallows of Haman.

Don’t you wonder what might have happened if Esther had not had a community to pray with her? If she had just boldly taken it on her own fair shoulders and marched forward? The result could have altered history.

In Sunday’s message, Pastor Aaron told us three reasons why all of us should consider joining a small group.

  1. Relationships matter to God. As we can see in Esther’s plight, it was through Mordecai that Esther was put into a position to save the Jewish people. God’s relationship to us is vitally important.
  2. Growth happens best in a loving community. Alone, Esther might not have had the courage to undertake such a mighty task, but she was undergirded by the support of her community.
  3. A gospel-centered community can change the world. We don’t really know the personal relationship Esther or Mordecai may have had to God, but we do know that fasting, in the Old Testament, was closely associated with prayer. And it changed the world.

Will I consider joining a small group? Well, I’m thinking about it. My life is pretty hectic and the decision to take time out of my busy schedule to commit to something else isn’t an easy one. And most people I know have schedules that are just as packed as mine.

But today I recalled something from a favorite childhood book, Karen (1952), written by Marie Killilea. The book chronicles the life of Marie’s daughter, Karen, whose struggles with cerebral palsy involved the entire family in her therapy to learn to walk. Despite a schedule that would rival my own, Marie went to church each morning to take time to pray with a few others, some parents of kids with CP.

When asked in an interview why she involved herself in the practice of daily attendance at church instead of saving the time for one of her many tasks, she said, “It’s true I really cannot afford to take the time to go to church and pray with others. I also cannot afford not to.”

And what about you?