I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately in relation to THE CHURCH and, of course, our church.
First of all, Ashleigh, Kay and I were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our church family for the recent wedding shower. The living room at the parsonage looks like a warehouse (temporarily) as we scramble to store all the gifts she and Luke received. We are so grateful to the Church Life folks and others for all the work and effort that went into hosting this grand event, and we are so grateful for your prayers and well wishes as we look to Ashleigh’s wedding day on June 16. Truly, you are our family.
Second, because you are family, we were delighted when the word came that we are appointed for another year at this great church. I knew early on that it was to happen, but still Methodist pastors know that it isn’t a done deal until it’s announced. So, we are more than pleased.
Third, part of the reason for my reflection lately is that as Annual Conference approaches later this month,
it will mark 33 years serving as a pastor under appoint- ment. Where has the time gone? I have served six churches during that time (counting the two churches right out of seminary), and we have been hugely blessed by each congregation. Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been rough spots along the way.
You see, every church today faces challenges, some more than others; and two of the churches I served seemed to have a ton of challenges that took a while to work through with God’s help.
Now, as I look back, one thing is very clear to me: doing ministry has gotten a whole lot harder in recent years. There are lots of reasons for this, but probably the main reason has to do with the evolution of our culture. Things are very different from when I became a pastor in 1985—the world, our nation, and even the Church are all different. Some is good, some not so bad (from my perspective), and a lot that is still “shaking out.” That’s because nothing ever stays the same; change is constant.
We see this in our own church. We have been blessed in so many ways—more young families and children, steady attendance for worship and Sunday School, while others decline; a solid base of committed and generous givers, a visible and growing presence in our community as we “move out to serve,” and, yes, a very bright future.
At the same time, we have our challenges.
For one thing, we cannot ever just “sit still.”
Not in these times. No, we must always be looking to discern and follow God’s vision for our church, including drawing new people in even as we work to send out others. And we must always remember that we are the “Body of Jesus Christ” of which each of us is a member, even as we strive to make disciples of all ages within our church. That in itself is a challenge because our church for the first time ever finds herself trying to minister to six different generations, each with their own needs and perspectives.
But, you know, it is a good thing to have challenges. It forces us to step up and do
our part while at the same time knowing we can’t do it all on our own. We have to let Christ lead the way, showing us what we can be—both as the church and as Christ’s people drawn to- gether in love. And it is good to remember, too, that we really are family here—the “household of God!”
All of this is to say, thank you for being who you are…and for allowing me the honor and joy of being your senior pastor.
In the love of Christ,