Psalm 37: 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will do this.
Our congregation is about to embark on a new adventure. We are trying to raise $1 million in order to renovate our church in such a way that the next generation of church members will not face mounting bills which will limit their mission. We’ve come a long way to get here and sometimes people don’t truly understand how much effort it takes to keep a church growing.
During the last fourteen years, we’ve seen a steady increase at Erin. In contrast, our denomination (PCUSA) and Presbytery have been diminishing. Previous pastors had followed the denominational path and subsequently the church stopped growing. Erin took a great risk in 1995 when I was invited to be the pastor because my thinking would usually be outside of the denominational box.
I know that throughout the years some people have left because I don’t toe the denominational line, but my response to them is this: would you have rather had a mediocre church that was dying, or would you prefer a church that has constantly grown and has a dynamic future?
I’ve mentioned before that our wee church is at a major crossroads. We stand at the threshold of a new and vibrant future, but in order to progress forward we need to get over the past. If I’m expected to totally give of myself to this campaign and this church, then I cannot keep looking back. I’m committing my way to the LORD and focusing on the future of this congregation. I firmly believe that if everyone else gets on board, then God will truly do great things here.
Finally, I had lunch with the local Presbytery Executive last week and he sees how important our work is at Erin. He asked me to consider being a part of the New Development Strategy for Presbyterian churches in our area. Toeing the denominational line has not helped to grow our local churches. He wants someone involved who can “think outside the box.” I see that as an affirmation of what I have tried to accomplish here with the people of Erin and by the Spirit of God. It’s nice to have a PCUSA representative officially recognize what’s happening here. Maybe we can help other churches to do the same.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the One who permits churches to grow and Your Holy Spirit’s presence is essential for those congregations who would grow in the future. Without You, we are just another religious club trying to keep afloat. Help us to think outside of the box and go outside of our church in order to find where Your Spirit is working in the midst of our community. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.