A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Sunday, July 17, 2022.
For the “Live in Church” audio of this message, click here.
Many of you may already be familiar with the television term “Sweeps” and how important this time is for television viewership. This used to be commonly referred to as “Sweeps Week,” but it has sense morphed into periods that can stretch over a month four times a year, or quarterly. The newest name to refer to these periods are called Neilsen “Survey Dates.”1 I prefer using the term “sweeps”.
“Sweeps” have existed since the very beginning of TV viewer preference measurement. The measurement periods are called “sweeps” because Nielsen Media Research mails out diaries to certain households around the country, then collects and processes the diaries in a specific order. The diaries from the Northeast regions are processed first and then “swept up” in a geographical progression throughout the U.S., from the South to the Midwest and then finally to the West. The standard sweep months are November, February, May and July of each year.2 This was, and still is, the old school approach that sets the tone for determining viewership during a designated time period. I actually was one of the Neilsen households many years ago. Sweeps are used to beef up commercial advertising dollars for TV stations surrounding their programming, and that creates a vital increase in revenue.
Media research is worth billions of dollars. Advertisers pay to air their commercials on TV programs using rates that are based on Nielsen’s data. Programmers also use Nielsen’s data to decide which shows to keep and the ones to cancel.3
A lot rides on television programming today because of the growing options for how viewers determine what to watch and when they choose to watch. You can only watch one thing at a time, and television dollars are significantly impacted by those who stream or even decide to “cut the cord” from cable. The competition, and the dollars at stake, is fierce.
In the same way, the competition for the attention of people within the church is fierce. To be clear, I’m not speaking about those who are unchurched (although that is an important issue, for sure). I’m speaking about members and attendees WITHIN the church.
One of the greatest challenges in today’s church is the reality that there are a number of things that compete for the attention of our church members. The list is as long as you could readily imagine. Your daily routine can be enough to derail your daily Bible reading, and even the regular practice of going to church does not assure that a believer will get into God’s Word, where they should be, and stay in it.
Let’s discuss, shall we?
First of all, I can’t stress enough how important it is for each one of us, personal company included, to stay immersed in the Word in the same way that we take a relaxing shower or bath. And why not use that comparison? Jesus said that He had the living water.
John 7:37-39 NLT
37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
The Spirit is the believer’s daily companion that prompts you to stay in the Word. Staying in the Word is how we care for ourselves and for each other.
But we still have to listen to what the Spirit is saying to us. And we have to act on it, too.
This may be a touchy subject, but for many of us in church, it is natural to want to have fellowship with each other, especially after a tough couple of years when we were quarantined. Please consider that our scheduled Bible classroom time needs to be spent in the Word and to be in discussion with others present. It is how we learn about what Jesus is teaching us as we deal with life and whatever is thrown at us. To be clear, our time in a group Bible study is not just about the fellowship. A scheduled Bible study works best when all of its participants prepare by reading and studying the lesson plan before you get together. Your input in these studies is good for you but it also helps and encourages others. That is where the fellowship, with active participation, promotes meaningful sharing as we learn and grow in Jesus Christ.
This may be even touchier. Are you using your time as a believer in church for fellowship with Jesus, or just for the group fellowship? It’s good to have the fellowship and meet with others, but I sense that there is a lot of room for improvement for all of us to get into the Bible more and more. If you want to be able to endure whatever the world throws at you, then let’s get into the Word. How do you fight the world’s never-ending distractions, or even Satan Himself? You are to put on the armor of God.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Putting on God’s armor requires effort, but always note that Jesus tells us to come to Him with our focus.
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We must take our church time seriously. We spend about 90 minutes in church on Sunday, and it should be an opportunity to recharge our hearts and minds. I love the words of Jesus about His gentleness and humility. He makes it easy for us when we seek after Him. Let’s make the most of our time as we fellowship together in worship and praise of Jesus Christ.
We make the most of our time by being practical in our faith and practicing self-care. What is self-care? In its simplest terms, self-care is anything that you do to take care of yourself so you can stay physically, mentally and emotionally well. It has nothing to do with self-indulgence or selfishness, especially if we are looking at the importance of humility and avoiding gluttonous behavior. Self-care is taking care of yourself in order to be healthy and to be at your best in caring for others every day.4
Self-care, of course, is more than just a physical or mental approach. I’m taking the liberty to emphasize the importance of self-care in the power of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Let’s look at some practical ways for us to mature in our faith in Jesus Christ and look at how we can make the most of our self-care in Jesus as we live in a Christlike manner. Let’s use the word “CARE” as an acronym and learn how we can build upon what we already know while putting aside those things that distract us from our focus on Jesus.
C – Capture
What are we capturing? Our valuable time and our thought life. Spending time with Jesus is of the utmost importance, but also consider your attitude as you do it.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NIV
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, 6 and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
If we don’t make the choice to capture our thought life to earnestly seek Jesus, it is like going into battle without God’s armor. You need to decide to make the time for Jesus while focusing on your obedience to Jesus. That covers a lot of ground, but if you are earnestly seeking Him, He will show you how to get it done.
It’s not enough to find time to read. It needs to be done as you “take captive” of your thought life, by not going through the motions, and living with humility and an open mind to the truth from the Spirit.
A – Absorb
Absorption is to soak up the Word and listen to the living water of the Spirit as you go. This is your daily process of reading and studying the Word as the Investigator. You are to not just read God’s Word but be an investigator.
Do you remember what I said about having an open mind to the truth? Look at this:
Acts 17:11 NLT
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.
When it comes to your study of Scripture, take it all in and let it flow through you.
Colossians 3:16 NLT
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
R – Request
Studying God’s Word helps you to develop your prayer life and take it to new levels as you go. Why? It’s because the Spirit helps to provide the words for your prayers and petitions. You gain experience in prayer as you go, so keep it up with your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 6:18 NLT
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Even when you’re not sure how to pray, go to the Lord anyway. The Spirit knows what you want.
Romans 8:26 ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Either way, you have nothing to lose. If you don’t pray, you won’t know how God can answer you. Make your requests to God and see what He does in your life.
E – Energize
The everyday wear-and-tear of life can be a distraction for each of us making the effort to live in a Christlike manner. It is in those moments that we are to pray for the Spirit to lift us up and pray for energy and the desire to grow more and more in Jesus.
Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Colossians 1:11, 29 ESV
11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.
29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Philippians 4:13 ESV
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
When is the last time that you prayed for God’s energy and strength? For some of us old-timers, it may be the FIRST thing that you have prayed for, but in any situation, God is ready to give you the energy that you need to serve Jesus to the best of your ability.
Keep praying and never stop. These are the things that you must do to care for yourself and overcome distractions in order to live effectively for Jesus Christ. The people of the church—the people of our church—must continue to grow in Jesus and stay the course. Always practice self-care in Christ to be your best in Christ.
Capture your time and your thought life.
Absorb God’s Word as your life water.
Request what you need from Him.
Energize through the Spirit in prayer.
Self-care in Jesus is the best way to live in obedience to Him. You can do all things in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:33 ESV
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Copyright © 2022 Melvin Gaines
1 What are sweeps in TV? Tipsfolder.com. TipsFolder.com. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://tipsfolder.com/are-sweeps-tv-d4fff5ca41eaf1b6712fc27f33891f90/
2 Is it currently ratings month (same as US sweeps month)? Digital Spy. (2020, February 4). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://forums.digitalspy.com/discussion/112442/is-it-currently-ratings-month-same-as-us-sweeps-month
3 Jeffcoat, Y. (2000, July 28). How do television ratings work? HowStuffWorks. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/question433.htm
4 Lawler, M., Byrne, C., Jesner, L., Carstensen, M., Zapata, K., Haupt, A., Lucey, K., Phillips, Q., & Revelant, J. (2021, May 19). What is self-care and why is it critical for your health? EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved July 12, 2022, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/