This month we have focused on One Great Hour of Sharing as well as Alliance Mission Encounter. Let me give you some history to One Great Hour of Sharing:
Fifty years ago, during World War II and immediately following, Protestant churches made appeals for relief and reconstruction. In 1946, Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill, newly-elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, set a goal of one million dollars per year for the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief. On nationwide radio, he challenged members to raise “one million dollars in one hour.” His impassioned challenge worked. During the first three years, Episcopalians raised $3.8 million.
In 1949, church leaders from several denominations formed an ad hoc committee to organize an appeal aimed at supporting the separate campaigns of American churches. While the post-war language seems a bit stilted, their joint statement in support of this effort is still remarkably contemporary:
This nationwide united effort by America’s Christians has an importance far beyond the practical goal of fund raising. For this great joint program will not only strengthen the vitally important relief and rehabilitation work of the churches overseas, but will also prove to all the world how great is the power generated when Christians unite in a common cause.
A cast was recruited from among the foremost dramatic and musical talent in the United States, including Gregory Peck and Ida Lupino, and a script was written under the direction of playwright Robert Sherwood. President Truman brought greetings. Major networks and many independent stations carried the program on Saturday, March 26 at 10 p.m., eastern time. The broadcast, called “One Great Hour,” closed with a request that listeners attend their local church the following morning and make a sacrificial contribution. No exact measure of income was possible, but it was estimated that more than 75,000 churches participated.
In 1950, the title “One Great Hour of Sharing” was used for the first time. A logo depicting a church steeple clock with hands fixed at eleven was also adopted. A series of six fifteen-minute radio programs was produced to promote the effort, but problems with radio stations brought disappointing results.
The next year, the name of the offering was changed to “One Great Time of Sharing.” In 1952, the name was changed back to One Great Hour of Sharing, and has remained so ever since. By 1954, the announced goal for all giving to One Great Hour of Sharing reached eight million dollars.
From the beginning this has been an ecumenical effort. As denominations changed and merged, One Great Hour of Sharing has varied from eight to twenty-nine participating communions. Currently, the One Great Hour of Sharing committee officially comprises nine Christian denominations: American Baptist Churches USA, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Church of the Brethren, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, and Church World Service. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) calls the offering Week of Compassion. In various ways, all work in cooperation with Church World Service, the relief, development and refugee assistance arm of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
At times, One Great Hour of Sharing has been coordinated with the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Fund Appeal for Overseas Aid and the Jewish Passover Appeal. Efforts were made to combine forces to attain the endorsement of the Advertising Council. Joint approaches were made to editors and program directors of radio and television. Free time and space were donated. Today, changes in FCC guidelines have all but eliminated this promotional opportunity. Yet, the offering survives, even thrives, in local congregations.
The purpose of One Great Hour of Sharing has remained the same: to collect special gifts to assist those in need. Today, projects are underway in more than 100 countries, including the United States and Canada. In the 1990s, receipts have exceeded $20 million annually. While specific allocations differ in each denomination, all use their One Great Hour of Sharing funds to make possible disaster relief, refugee assistance, and development aid.
Contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing make a difference in the lives of people. Church World Service, a division of the National Council of Churches, with overseas partner churches and church councils are often the first on the scene following a disaster of natural or human origin. Local church leaders identify the needs of their people. Priorities are set to bring long-term solutions that will improve the quality of life for individuals and communities around the world. One Great Hour of Sharing, nearly 50 years old, continues to respond to needs equally critical as when it was first created.
So, how does this fit with the text?
In this text, prophets come and the church helps with a famine.
Let’s read the passage from Acts 11:27-30 and I want you to see that the church at Antioch agrees to help the church in Judea.
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
- As we look at this passage notice that God sends prophets telling of a need. This is in verse 27.
- Notice that God had already prepared the foundation for the prophets. So, in the previous few verses God had opened up the Gospel to the Gentiles and here in this passage Antioch, this major city had become this operation center for many to receive Christ. Now Barnabas had come and encouraged people to stay true to the Lord. That was verse 23. Barnabas is an encourager.
- Then we come to verses 25 and 26 and Barnabas had gone to get Paul and they teach the people for a whole year and they are first called Christians in Antioch.
- Why does that matter? Why do I belabor that? Why do I go back to the context? To be Christians means that they identified with Christ.
- Now, we come to verse 27 and the Bible says, “About that time…” or in the N.I.V. it says, “During this time…” It was while God was laying the foundation of their discipleship that God sends a prophet.
- I have a strong application that just hit me square in the jaw. Am I ready to hear from God today? Are you ready to hear from God today? Suppose a prophet came here like this, what would I do? How would I react? What would I say? How would I respond?
- They responded positively because they were being taught the Word of God.
- They responded positively because they were being disciple.
- They responded positively because they were following Christ.
- They responded positively because Barnabas was encouraging them to stay true to the Lord.
- They responded positively because they were Christ-ians—they identified with Christ.
- Do I identify with Christ?
- Do you identify with Christ?
- Are you ready to hear from a prophet?
- They were ready and then the prophets came during this time.
- So, one of them was Agabus and verse 28 said that he stood up and spoke.
- Know that the Bible says that he spoke “Through the Spirit.” He did not just speak in any way, but through the Spirit. He has the gift of prophesy from the Holy Spirit.
- He told of a severe famine. This famine was to spread over the entire Roman world.
- This is likely hyperbole. But also notice that there is a parenthesis. Luke tells us that this happened under Claudius’ reign. We know that there were several famines under him.
- In verses 29-30 the church responds.
- We see that the church responds.
- They give.
- I notice here that Paul and Barnabas are willing to serve. They could have said, “No, no, no, choose someone else, I am not going on a mission trip to Jerusalem.” But they did not.
- I notice here that Paul and Barnabas are also trustworthy.
- I pray that I am trustworthy as well.
- I pray that I am willing to serve.
So, this month we have served as a church with Alliance Mission Encounter. We have also had opportunity to donate through One Great Hour of Sharing. I shared about that at the beginning of the sermon. We always must help those in need:
According to People magazine, two customers walked into a Lincoln, Neb., Cracker Barrel and asked to be seated with the “grumpiest” server they had. The restaurant host replied that there were no grumpy servers in that restaurant, but they did have a “happiest” server: 18-year-old Abigail Sailors.
After seating, the two patrons listened to Sailors’ life story, which included a mother incapacitated by a car crash, a father incarcerated for abuse, and a horrible foster care experience for herself and her four siblings. She finally found a forever home with John and Susi Sailors about five years ago. Sailors currently attends North Dakota’s Trinity Bible College where she majors in psychology and youth ministry and participates in basketball. But she admitted to her guests that she wasn’t sure how she would afford the next semester, since she was paying her own way.
“I’m just thankful,” she told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “Everything we went through, my attitude is: God blessed me with a lot of things. I’m doing good. That’s all that matters to me.”
One of the customers—a Trinity alumni, as it turns out—then proceeded to write a check to Sailors for $5,000 for tuition and another $1,000 for books and supplies, then left her a $100 tip. Sailors told the local media she couldn’t believe it and tried to thank them, but they both replied, “Thank God.”
Maybe you cannot serve in that way, but how can you serve.
First do you know Jesus?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)