Maximizing Ministry on Patriotic Holidayswith Pastor Tim Kutz
Maximizing Ministry on Patriotic Holidays
An Interview with Pastor Tim Kutz of Victory Church, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
Last year on Memorial Day we had one particular individual that I thought I’d never see in church, and he and another individual got saved. I believe it was a result of the Lord and the Word that was preached that day. It was a different kind of word. As ministers we will preach a Mother’s Day sermon and a Father’s Day sermon. I remember Pastor Hagin talking about being in the pulpit on special days, and I really learned from Pastor Hagin the importance of special days. But Memorial Day was always hard for me. I’m sure different preachers have done it, but I don’t ever remember hearing anybody preach what I would call a Memorial Day sermon.
The only thought I had of Memorial Day was that it was a time when a lot of people left town. The people that did attend (usually a smaller group) were typically the really dedicated ones, so they wanted to hear a good word. I would always endeavor to give them a really good word. And that’s all that Memorial Day was in my thinking.
I had been really meditating for the last six or eight months before Memorial Day, and the focus of much of my preaching was on developing character in people’s lives. I was endeavoring to address what I saw as an over-emphasis on the teaching of prosperity and how it could affect people. I observed some people becoming so introspective and self-centered that they really couldn’t function as servants, or even have a heart to give themselves to other people. I had been seeing people getting so discouraged because the prosperity message wasn’t working the way they expected it to, and yet we are so blessed in this country!
I’ve made many missionary trips to Nepal, and if you travel all over the world you will see how bad people have it in many countries. I believe the reason we have it so good here is because God is at the center of much of what we do in this country, and He is involved in many people’s lives and He’s blessed this nation. He’s blessed us! The poorest people (or the people of the least means) in my church are so much better off than ninety percent of the people in the world. So, in reality, prosperity really is working and is active in their lives.
I was somewhat motivated by what I was hearing from so many different TV ministers. I’m not picking on any person because I believe that there are people who are called to address prosperity. Brother Hagin taught a well-balanced prosperity message, and he taught that we needed to be qualified and be faithful. Isaiah said if we were willing and obedient that we’d eat the good of the land, and you can’t discount that. But at what point do you say, “Okay, this is working, I’m prospering, I’m blessed,” and then move on to the next level and ask, “Now what can I do to be a blessing to others?” So much of what I was seeing was based on materialism and money, and people having to always have the newest item, and having to have the best of everything. Everything has to be new or for some reason or another (in their mind) the Gospel wasn’t working. I saw people getting discouraged because they were trying to live in their perception of prosperity (by worldly, materialistic standards), but many of them were just getting into debt.
We need to be careful that we aren’t just turning into selfish people, asking, “Why isn’t this working for me?” and never developing a heart for other people. I began first of all to take a look at myself and to realize that I really am content. I’m very satisfied with what I have, very thankful for what I have, but I had to get in touch with how thankful I was for everything I had. I had to take time to remember all that the Lord has done for me from great things to small things, and then I had to articulate that to the Lord. We take so much for granted, and I began to see that the issue with people is that they weren’t thankful. That was what had been working on the inside of me… people wanting more and more and more, but not stopping to be thankful for what they had.
All this is leading up to Memorial Day. So I began to get up early in the morning, which wasn’t my habit. I would get up early and just spend extra time with the Lord, thanking him for healthy children, for the house we live in (which is not an extremely expensive house, but it’s nice, and we like it). Thanking God for health in my body. Thanking God that I didn’t die in car accidents. Thanking God that when I was selling drugs and got sent to prison, that He didn’t give up on me. He didn’t tell me, “You’re a lost cause now.”
He’s always been faithful in situations, and I began to bring situations to my own remembrance and thank God for different things… just developing thanksgiving in my life for what I have. This became my platform for ministering to other people concerning being thankful for what they have. I really think that a pre-requisite for us walking in more and receiving more is to be thankful for what we have, and to take care of and be good stewards over what we have.
I had already prepared my message for that weekend (Memorial Day), and it was going to be a good word for the faithful people who would be there. But from meditating on thankfulness and the importance of remembering, I realized I needed to go a different direction. Having spent time remembering all that God had done, it just kind of clicked in me: Memorial Day is about remembering! I realized: I had never heard anybody preach “a remembering sermon” on Memorial Day. I had never heard anybody memorialize on Memorial Day.
What did we end up doing on Memorial Day? We remembered the people who died in battle, those who had given their life, who had paid the supreme sacrifice for us. Many in America today don’t take time to remember and be thankful – they don’t care. There are real people who died so we could live the way we live today. I believe if anybody is godly, that has to touch their heart. And that’s what Jesus did for us!
I began to think, “If this is Memorial Day and we’re supposed to remember these people, then we need to remember them. So I began to do a search on the Internet to find people who gave their lives, and I found a site that tells about those who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor (www.army.milcmh-pgmoh1.htm). At that site you will find a list of Congressional Medal of Honor winners from the time the awards were first issued.
I especially looked for people who reacted in such a way that they didn’t have time necessarily to think about it. In other words, I looked for people who I thought had already made the decision: “This is what I’m going to do if certain things happen.” During the Vietnam War (I was in the military at that time, but I was not in Vietnam) I remember hearing about people who would throw themselves on hand grenades when there were eight or ten people around, and of course, they would be killed instantly. But everybody around them (because their body absorbed the blast) would be saved.
Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
To me, that’s the type of person we really want and need to remember. So I looked specifically for people who jumped on hand grenades, and I found several. I found a person from World War I, World War II, one from Korea, one from Vietnam, and one from the first war in Iraq. I also picked a black American from World War II, because no black Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for that war until 1993. Then I read about them, read where they were from, what their names were, where they were born, and how old they were when they died. This web-site gives a little personal information about them, and then describes the circumstances around what they did and how they gave their lives… the things that led to them receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I talked about these individuals in my sermon, and there were people crying in the sanctuary. I stated, “This is Memorial Day and we’re supposed to remember. But how many of you have ever heard of these people?” Nobody had ever heard of these people, and my question was, “Why haven’t we heard of them?” The answer is that we simply haven’t talked about these heroes the way we should have. We haven’t been remembering!
We’re supposed to remember these people, but we’ve just kind of generically said, “Okay, people have died for us. That’s good.” But it needs to become personal to us. Acknowledging specific individuals really brought a different atmosphere into our service for Memorial Day than I had ever seen. Just studying for it touched my heart, but everyone in the church was also touched by it.
In my message, I then went into remembering Jesus and the circumstances of how He gave His life for us. That just made it so much more powerful. We went from the natural realm to the spiritual realm. And it just made so much sense to people, because freedom in both realms is based on the fact that people selflessly and sacrificially gave their lives for us.
I referred earlier to the individual that I never thought I’d see in church, and I was watching him because I’d met him several years before. He was married to the daughter of a lady in my church. I had performed the wedding, but it wasn’t in the church because he didn’t want to be in the church. So we did the ceremony in our Community College gymnasium. The first time I met him he called himself Little Lucifer, and he had his hair styled so they looked like little horns in his hair. I’m not exaggerating when I say that he had probably 25 piercings on his face. He was a different looking sort of fellow.
There he was that morning, Little Lucifer, and this really made sense to him, and he got saved. I was so excited. I’m excited about everyone that gets saved, but when a person like that gets saved, you realize that God can reach anybody.
Afterwards I began to think about this coming Memorial Day, and there is a step that I may be adding this year. I will be looking at Fox’s Book of Martyrs, and perhaps adding somebody from that book as we move from the natural to the spiritual, but we will still end up remembering Jesus. At the end of last year’s service, we had Communion. Of course, Communion is all about remembering – it is a memorial in and of itself. As often as we do this, we do it in remembrance of Him (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).
I also found something from World Magazine’s web-site (www.worldmag.com). They have a link that refers to issues from previous weeks. The issue of May 24, 2003, has an article in there called “Sons and Daughters.” I began to read that article and it really touched me. These were the real life stories of people who went to Iraq, and gave their lives serving our country. I began to think how important it was, and how we could remember and honor these people, because they are due honor.
I found out that from our state, Oklahoma, there are people who went to Iraq and gave their lives in very recent times. There’s one from Waggoner, which is about 65 miles from where I pastor. I have yet to contact the family, but I’m going to contact them. I’m going to see if they would be willing to come to our church and allow us to honor their son. We might have them talk about him, and perhaps there would be an entrance into their lives for the Gospel. If they got saved as a result of this, it wouldn’t necessarily build our church, but it would build the Kingdom. Not only that, it would help make Memorial Day real to us all. It would give people an opportunity to put faces to what this holiday is really all about. I believe that it would serve to help further build an attitude of thanksgiving in people’s lives.
We have two parents from our church whose sons are Marines and they are going to Iraq now in this deployment in the next couple of months. And that’s something that we’ll keep before the Body, and we’ll be praying for them as well as all the troops. I think this next Memorial Day service is something that we can promote in the community and draw people who have a natural, or a patriotic interest.
We’re after souls. We’re after people who need to get saved, and after seeing the service and how it turned out last year, I believe God can really use that type of service again to do the same thing. So I’m going to endeavor to get the mind of the Lord on how to promote it so we can be a blessing to people, and so we can reach people who need to get saved.
This past Memorial Day, I had an idea that what we were doing would work, but I really didn’t know the impact until I got in the service and ministered. I was touched too. I had to stop speaking in order to gather my composure.
There have been times when we’ve received Communion and some very real things have happened in my life. There have been times that I have been so thankful that I was moved to tears, and so forth. But I was moved to tears this time in a different way because it became so much more real to me. It helped things become more real to me by starting at the level of sacrifice in natural wars, and then “graduating” to the spiritual realm. Jesus, when He was here, was in the form of man. He suffered and died for us. He made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
And the way He died… I just can’t fathom how He did that. And so how can you not be moved by that? I think that on your web site (www.tonycooke.org) is a medical description of the crucifixion of Jesus and I may use that, too.
The families that sent their sons to war, those whose sons died for our nation, need to know that we’re thankful. After the Vietnam War was over and the soldiers came back, we experienced something we’ve never experienced in this country before. Those people were mocked, were spit on, and they were treated as second class citizens. That just cannot be the way things are left.
People who give one of their family members so we can be free…we think they are worthy of our respect and our honor, our recognition. And they need to know that we don’t just take what was done for granted… that we are thankful, that there are people in this country that are very thankful for what their sons and daughters did… that it means something to us. This is something the church should not be oblivious to, and we must not miss the opportunity that days like Memorial Day provide.