A Community of Christ-followers committed to being the continuing presence of Jesus in our community and world.
St. Mark's United Methodist Church
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Come Follow Christ
State of the Church Report 2019
I have been thinking a lot about this “Road Trip” we have been on as a church over the past several years and all the places we have been and the sites we have seen… and I was trying to figure out where we are heading next when my mind was drawn back to our family road trips when I was a child. While I look back now at some of the fun times we had, I can also remember the challenges we had…I am the youngest of five children – so having 7 people, a dog, and two bunnies going on our journeys sometimes lead to bickering, cramped and smelly spaces, differences of opinion and food choices, finding ways to occupy ourselves for hours on end and oh yeah, the occasional questions of bathroom breaks and if we were almost there. Not to mention, at times it also led to spilled food or drinks, messy seats and trash in the vehicle… sounds a little bit like what happens in churches sometimes too, including our own.
Of course, our parents would step in and quiet the bickering and cease the fighting, and when we stopped for gas or bathroom breaks, we would also be directed to empty out the trash and clean up the messes in the vehicle with the older kids helping the younger kids. Hmmm…. That sounds a little bit like churches as well.
One other thought came to mind when I was thinking about this road trip, it was from a message at a Promise Keeper’s event I attended many years ago. I remember the Pastor talking about how our journey and our ministries should be like driving a car. He said when you are driving, it was important to notice that there are two pieces of glass that you can choose to look at: the first is a big clear one, and the other is a tiny little reflective one. Obviously, he was talking about the windshield and the rear-view mirror. I won’t go through his whole message here, but his point was, in ministry we need to keep our primary focus in looking forward at what God has planned and where He is guiding us, whereas the rear-view mirror is good to look back at and reflect on where we have been and what God has brought us through – but only as occasional and brief glances. As much as it wouldn’t be safe to try driving forward while continually looking backwards in the rear-view mirror, it wouldn’t be wise to go forward in ministry while constantly focusing on the past.
Looking in the rear-view mirror, I continue to be impressed with the amount of ministry that our relatively small congregation accomplishes each year. You can read through various reports to see the full list of ministries, but a few of the ministries include our Community Dinners, Great Give-Away, VBS, Children’s Church, Fox Trail Assisted Living Ministry, Fall Festival, Support to Yorkshire ES, Care Team, and participation in the Heifer Project and Samaritan’s Purse ministries.
Looking through the front windshield, I believe, God is calling our church, especially the leaders of our church to M.O.R.E. – this doesn’t necessarily imply more ministries or even different ministries – but discerning where we may need to do ministry different or with a different heart attitude, so that with all that we do in word, thought, and deed – we Make Our Redeemer Evident.
I am excited that our Charge Conference theme is “Moving Forward in God’s Mission” and is based on the Great Commission message in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
I know in his report, Pastor Kurt is going to share about revised Vision and Mission statements for our church
and about building relationships, so I won’t go into that here, but I believe this is also a part of looking through
that front windshield to see where God is directing us.
I think all these pieces, the thoughts, the Charge Conference Theme, the Mission/Vision Statements, the concept of M.O.R.E - all work together to help guide us as we Move Forward in God’s Mission. The key being it is
focused on God’s will and mission, not our own. This key is reinforced and encouraged in the lyrics of a song
from Casting Crowns that I recently shared at an Administrative Council Meeting:
Why You ever chose me
Has always been a mystery
All my life, I've been told I belong
At the end of a line
With all the other Not-Quites
With all the Never-Get-It-Rights
But it turns out they are the ones You were looking for
All this time
Chorus: 'Cause I'm just a nobody trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me, You gave my heart a song to sing
I'm living for the world to see nobody but Jesus
I'm living for the world to see nobody but Jesus
Moses had stage fright
And David brought a rock to a sword fight
You picked twelve outsiders nobody would've chosen
And You changed the world
Well, the moral of the story is
Everybody's got a purpose
So when I hear that devil start talking to me, saying
"Who do you think you are?" I say Chorus …
The song is called “Nobody” – and was part of the reason I issued a challenge to the leaders of the church to be
committed to M.O.R.E.. Another reason relates back to the concept of the road trips… as a young child on the
trips, I only had an idea of where our destination was, but I didn’t know how to get there or what to expect
along the way. I was dependent on and trusting of my parents… the same responsibility I believe is on the
leaders of the church as we go forward in ministry – to be knowledgeable and trustworthy and faithful. This is
especially important as we reach out to those who do not yet know the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, or of the
destination we hope to lead them to.
I am excited of the possibilities that lay ahead for St. Mark’s as we look ahead through that windshield to where
God leads. To see how He transforms hearts and lives within our congregation as we strive to be more like
Christ: more Loving and Forgiving, more encouraging and compassionate, more kind and gentle, more bold and
courageous, more humble and contrite, more patient and merciful, and more joyful and peace-filled; and I am
also excited to see how He uses this group of Nobodies to reach out into our communities to not just share
about His love, but to make His love evident to everyone we meet and to change the world around us.
In Ministry Together to Make Our Redeemer Evident,
B. J. Bookwalter