October 8, 2023, The Benefit of Loyalty, Pentecost 19

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)


As members of Christ’s universal church, will you be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church, and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries?
I will.

As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?
I will.

HYMN 451 Be Thou My Vision
BE THOU MY VISION — My Favorite Irish Hymn! 🙂 by Nathan Pacheco

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 389 Freely, Freely
God Forgave My Sin – FREELY, FREELY – Aaron & Esther – Hymn Session 004

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Benefit of Loyalty
Ephesians 4:11-16, John 15:1-5
Series: The Benefits of Belief

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio


Ephesians 4:11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Ritual texts © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.


HYMN 395 Take Time To Be Holy!
TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY | Jehovah Shalom Acapella | CHRIST IN HYMNS 2023

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


Today, we want to talk about the benefit to believing that is loyalty. Loyalty is something we don’t think about that much, but it can bring a tremendous benefit to our life.

You’ve already heard me talk about the problem of distraction in our culture today. One of the ways that you become aware of this is the signs on the road and all kinds of other indicators remind us not to drive distracted, not the least of which is, “Don’t look at your phone. Look at the road.” Because driving distracted, whether it’s your phone or something else, driving distracted is dangerous. And I want to suggest that distracted living is also dangerous because it leads to so much restlessness … this belief that no matter what we have, we need something more. No matter what we love, it’s not enough. Whatever we have achieved, we need to strive for more because nothing that is ours is good enough.

And there’s all kinds of reasons for that restlessness, but it has led people to get involved in the rat race. And you see, here’s the problem with the rat race. If you win, you’re still a rat. Because rats are never happy where they are, they’re always restless and searching because nothing is ever good enough. Friends, that’s a terrible way to live.

But you may not have thought about this: loyalty will pull you out of the rat race. Because at the heart of the rat race is the belief that what we have isn’t good enough. And loyalty offers a lot of advantages to us. If you look at the left side of the screen, you will see that my wife and I have a loyalty when we go visit the grandchildren in Austin, Texas.

Loyalty puts us on Interstate 57. And when Interstate 57 turns into Interstate 55 at the Missouri border, loyalty keeps us on Interstate 55. And then when we get to Memphis, loyalty helps us switch over to Interstate 40. And when we get to Dallas, loyalty puts us on Interstate 35. And you know what we’re loyal to? We know what those roads are like. And being loyal to those highways means that we know which exit has the best restaurant. And we know, if we’re going to spend the night overnight in Little Rock, we know which hotel is our preference. And when we land there, we know where the best restaurants are in Little Rock. We don’t have to figure it out. Loyalty makes life simpler and less complicated.

Not only that, but when we get all the way to Austin, we stay in the Austin Central Best Western Plus for two reasons. First of all, my son’s the general manager there and we get a great rate. But also, we’re familiar with that hotel and we’re very loyal to it because we know how it works. No surprises. And you know what that means? No disasters. Loyalty saves you all kinds of time and energy and money, because, if you know what you like and you’re loyal to it, you don’t have to take many chances. It’s perfectly fine for you to focus on the sure thing.

And that’s the best lesson I can tell you because here’s my sure thing right there. Guess what that picture is? That’s me leaving the church on my wedding day. And like it says up in the top right-hand corner, I found my one. I know I’m in the right place. And as a result, I’m done. Stick a fork in me. I am done. And all the distractions that assail people when they’re single or when they’re hurting, they just don’t matter anymore because I’m done. And as long as I’m loyal to the one, I will stay done. Loyalty helps us to get centered and focused on what is really important. And it helps set us free from being distracted and wandering and never satisfied. Being loyal will really help you in life because it helps you to be focused, and being focused on what’s important leads you to loyalty, and loyalty helps you to stay focused.

So consequently, when it comes to church membership, there’s also a benefit to loyalty. Will you be loyal to Christ? Of course. Will you be loyal to the church that you’ve chosen? Of course. Will you be loyal and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries? I will. As members of this congregation, will you be loyal? Will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness? It makes a profound difference.

Let’s go back in history to the year 2004. In the year 2000, I had somewhat of what you would call a midlife crisis for pastors. I had been a United Methodist pastor for 20 years. And it’s somewhat of a midlife crisis when you decide to go back to seminary to get your doctorate. And they have a doctoral program for ministers to where you work as a pastor, but you go part-time to the seminary to study what it means to be an excellent pastor. And like a whole lot of pastors, me included, after 20 years of work, I felt the need to sort of retool and figure out what the next 20 years should be like. In other words, a midlife crisis. And so I went to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, one of the finest schools in the world, especially focusing on what I’m really interested, which is ways to evangelize and draw people into church.

But you see, here’s the midlife crisis. I was not so sure that the United Methodist Church cared about that as much as I did. I was not so sure that my fellow pastors and my leaders cared about that as much as I did, and so there was this restless rat race concern in my heart that said, “Should I stay in the United Methodist Church, or should I go find a better place where everyone there thinks like me?” Now let that sink in, friends. That’s the heart of the restlessness: What if I could go be a part of a group of people who all thought exactly like me where every single one of them read the same books as me? Where, if you’re a sports fan, every single one of them is a Cardinal fan or every single one of them is a Cub fan, just like you are. Every single one of them thinks, “David Kueker is awesome” because they are all just like me.

And you see, isn’t that the heart of restlessness? Researchers say one of the most destabilizing forces in the disintegration of a marriage is the belief that you can find someone better. But I brought that question with me to this doctoral program because I said to myself, “I’m going to see if I can stay where I am, yet be the person I am.”

And in 2004, my fourth doctoral level class, title of the class was Lifelong Leadership. But what it actually was, the professor explained, is how to figure out God’s will for the rest of your life. He said, “It’s pointless to take this class unless you have 20 years of experience, because only those years will help you see the trends of what God is doing in your life so that you can predict what God’s going to do next.” And so I was in a room with 40 other people and every single one of us was in our 40s or so, trying to figure out, “What does God want next? What does God want next?”

And one of the exercises they gave to us was to figure out the most important scripture for us, and you know me well enough to know I have a whole lot of scriptures that are important to me. And the exercise they wanted us to do was to put that scripture on a little sticky note, on a poster board-sized piece of paper. And so I just started putting all the scriptures that I love, all the ones that I felt that God was telling me I needed to focus on, on this piece of poster board.

And I began to rearrange them not so much in order of priority, but in order of progression. In other words, if this, then that. If I do this scripture well, then this next verse will happen. Like farming, first you plant the seed, then you’re going to weed and feed, and then you’re going to reap, and things happen in an order. So what’s the order of these scriptures? This one flows into that one, that one flows into that one, that one flows into that one. And so out here on the upper edge were all the things I was really excited about.

And guess which scripture was the root of every single one of them. Jesus says in John 15:1, “I am the true vine. And my father is the vine dresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away. And every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it may bear more fruit.” Skip down to verse five, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” Now, the heart of this verse is that every possible benefit comes from remaining in Jesus.

But as I was looking at this, it suddenly occurred to me plants do not relocate. Plants do not get up and move to a better place in the garden. Plants do not pull themselves up by the roots and go down by the stream where there’s more water. What plants do is they stay right where they are and take the sunlight they’re given and the water up through the roots and do their job. And it occurred to me if I’m going to be a part of the vine, I’m not going to leave. In fact, the only way the branch leaves is when the gardener says this branch isn’t worth it, clips it off, and throws it on the trash pile!

If I’m going to be the most fruitful, according to this scripture, then I’m going to stay right where God has put me. And I’m not going to be a rat. I’m not going to be restless. I’m not going to always be looking for some way out or someplace that’s better. I’m going to make where I am better. And so in 2004, I decided to myself, 20 years ago from next year, I’m going to live the rest of my life as a part of the vine, and I’m going to bloom where I’m planted.

Oh, and by the way, I’m now planted here. Because bishops can transplant pastors. But when we get there, we’re supposed to put our roots down, and we’re supposed to bloom, and we’re supposed to be right here. And not always be thinking about being somewhere else. “He who abides in me and I and him, it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.” And so what that means related to my midlife crisis as a pastor, I found my “one.” I’m in the right place. I’m done. And now I can focus on what’s important and what should be done next.

And here’s the best scripture that I can see that applies to what should happen next in churches. It’s from Ephesians 4:11. It’s on the back of your bulletin. “And his gifts, Christ’s gifts to the church, where some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. And here’s what they should be doing: “to equip the saints,” that’s you, “for the work of ministry,” which is a word which means service. And the end result of that work will be building up, connecting, empowering the body of Christ, which is a word that Paul uses for the local church, like this one.

This is my one. I’m in the right place. I’m done. And I’m so glad of that.

Because here’s where the work of verse 12 leads. It leads to maturity. Pastors are supposed to teach us how to do the work of ministry and build up the body of Christ until, verse 13, we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to be a mature person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. And look at verse 14. It talks about how restless things can be. Verse 14, “So that we may no longer be children tossed to and throw and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, people who will manipulate you and what you hope and think and believe to try to get you to do what they want. People who will work on you by their craftiness and deceitful wines. This unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God leads us to loyalty and that loyalty reinforces our growth to maturity.

And what is the result of us reaching maturity together? Rather, speaking the truth and love to each other. We are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part — that’s every one of you — When each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself in love. In other words, as we do what God wants us to do in this position of maturity and stability, trust will deepen, and life will get better … because loyalty helps us to focus on where we are, not where we might possibly could be. Another way of saying that we bloom where we’re planted.

So here I would like to suggest to you is what loyalty looks like. First, loyalty looks like you pray. Pray for me. Pray for Kim. Pray for each other. Look across the room. These are the people who are praying for you and they are loyal to you. What loyalty looks like is for you to pray for them and be loyal to them. This is what loyalty looks like.

Loyalty looks like presence. Woody Allen, not the best role model, said that 90% of success is showing up. The end result of the distracted life that we’re living is that people just flat out don’t show up. They’re always wandering off, chasing something that seems more attractive. And by the way, as I said last week, it’s still true; that’s how the lost sheep got lost.

Loyalty looks like presence. It looks like showing up. And not just for a worship service. Presence looks like this. You’re interacting with the other people who are there. It might be right after church. In fact, you can’t hardly get out of Wesley Church without visiting with people for 15 or 20 minutes or more! But also, it’s something like a SALT Potluck, where people are eating and sharing time with each other. Being present to each other improves the quality of our life, not just as a church, but as a community. Presence is about being a neighbor. And the command of Jesus is for us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Friends, here are your neighbors. Let us love one another.

Not only that, loyalty looks like this. It looks like gifts. It looks like what you do with your money, especially to help other people. I went back through Facebook, by the way, to pull out pictures from all the way back to 10 years ago, when Kim and I got here. These are the bags of groceries that are distributed at the Kinmundy Neighborhood Food Pantry, on the third Saturday of the month. You don’t know this, but you purchased a very high percentage of the food that’s in those sacks. Loyalty looks like this! You do things with your money that benefit other people. You are very kind and generous people. There are a whole lot of other things you do with your money that help people, but we don’t want the sermon to be longer, so I won’t list them. This is probably enough.

Loyalty looks like service. Your money also allows you to do service in this community. The first year I was here, I was asked to be a chaperone for the bouncy houses at the city Labor Day picnic. And I was supposed to collect – I don’t know if it was a dollar or 50 cents – before we would let kids bounce on the bouncy houses. And I saw an awful lot of sad kids that day just walk away.

And I said to myself, this shouldn’t happen. And so, for nine years —it cost such a tiny amount of money. For nine years, at the Labor Day celebration in town, you have provided bouncy houses for children to bounce on, an act of service to little kids. I don’t know how many of the kids even see the sign that we put up. They’re so eager to jump on the bouncy houses. “Brought to you by the people of Kinmundy Methodist Church.” That’s you. Now, for service, each one of those bounce houses is chaperoned by a member of the National Honor Society from the high school. And Jeanette Hoeinghaus and I are there as security guards in case anybody gives the teenagers any hassle.

But each of you have different ways that you serve too. I don’t know who made the coffee and put out the cookies, but thank you, whoever you are! Mysteriously, wonderful things happen because you serve. I also ran across this picture of me holding my next-door neighbor, Otto. I love that picture. One of the ways I love to serve is to hold a sleeping baby so mama can do something she needs to do. But this is what loyal looks like. You’re not just there to receive. You’re there to serve. And you people know how to serve.

Finally, here’s what loyal looks like. It’s a new word. It’s witness. I don’t remember, it was 2016, I believe, to where they added this fifth word because the problem they were experiencing in United Methodist churches is people would serve, they’d be kind, but just serving and being kind wasn’t quite enough because sometimes we have to speak about our faith in order for other people to gain our faith.

Witness is not you standing on the street corner preaching a long sermon. That’s my job! You could let me do it. Most of you don’t want to stand on the street corner and preach sermons. Most of you don’t want to go to the bouncy houses and grab people and preach sermons to them at the bouncy houses. You don’t have to do that because being a witness means when God gives you an opportunity in a conversation to mention your faith, you are comfortable doing so. That might happen around the SALT Potluck table. It might happen on a bus trip. It might happen– look at those eager children’s faces at Hand-in-Hand. They want to listen, but somebody needs to explain the faith to them. And you see, that’s what your witness is. When Christ gives you an opportunity, you’re not silent, but you feel able simply to reply into that conversation something about your faith. Now, I’m not talking about you taking over a conversation or pushing your faith on someone, but sometimes God gives us an opportunity. And it’s like sowing seed into a person’s life, especially if they don’t go to church, and that seed grows and draws them to church. This is what loyal looks like, and it’s what you folks do.

I’m always a little embarrassed all the way through Pastor Appreciation Month. I already feel very appreciated. (And I also feel that a pastor cannot receive too much chocolate. Just want to put that out there.) But the reality is this. If you were to ask me, Dave, what would cause you to feel appreciated more than anything else? I would tell you very simply, it’s this, when I stand up here on Sunday morning, I get to see you. When I look across the room at the SALT Potluck, I get to see you, because you people are the reward for being the pastor of this church. So whenever I get to see you, it’s a gift.

In addition to that, one of the most beautiful gifts that I receive all throughout the year is when I get to see you and someone is sitting next to you who you’ve invited to this church. It happens, and it always makes me happy.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, one of the reasons that we’re loyal is we’ve come to appreciate what we have. We’ve come to appreciate where we are. We’ve come to appreciate the benefits of believing the way that we do. And we become comfortable knowing that we are focused on you and focused on your will and focused on what you want, because we have found our place where we feel at home. Lord, we have found our church.
Help us, Lord, as we serve you in each of these five ways: by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and also, Lord, our words. Help us, Lord, as we serve you in these five ways to be loyal. Because we are a part of the vine and connected to each other and connected to You, help us, Lord, to bear fruit and remain loyal to the church to which you’ve called us. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

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