Associate Pastor’s Letter to Congregation SHARE
(originally published to church 10/16/2017)
LGBC Church Family,
Let me here express where I sense God may be leading us as a body of believers.
A church is a garden of continual growth. We are called to plow, sow, water, and reap in a cycle that does not end until Christ returns. There is no “we have arrived” or even “we are comfortable.” The moment a congregation or even an individual believer feels this way, rot and decay has set in. If anything in the cycle mentioned above is missing, the whole garden suffers and so do those who work it. The moment a plant stops growing is the moment it starts to die. Churches can die…and they do every day. Over the next few months of transition, I think we need to closely examine ourselves and ask “are we still growing and how?” Growth happens in so many ways and is not always measured in statistics. Do we know Christ better than we did 5 years ago? Are we still keeping the lamp lit as we wait for the bridegroom? Are we still passionate about our faith and wanting to share it with a dying world?
Jesus tells us that a kingdom divided will fail. A church is supposed to be the earthly representation of God’s Kingdom. The moment we begin to divide is the moment we begin to fail and the moment we cease to be a part of God’s Kingdom. What divisions are there in the church? Are they over things that truly matter? How can we resolve these things? Yes, a church body will always be made up of individuals who all have a different opinion and preference…but we are called to unity. Unity happens when we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit who plants in our hearts the same passions, desires, directions, and we begin to affirm one another. Examine your hearts as I will examine mine. May we then seek the unified will of God for this local body.
We can be both an outward and an inward focused church and can do this in a unified way. Essentially we have been doing this up to this point. But this time of transition could bring any fractures to the surface and it is imperative that we be fully engaged and preventatively seek to address it. Below is a table that I believe illustrates some of the extremes at play in our church and community and are in tension with one another. But please note, I do not see this tension in a negative light…the tension can be good as long as we are keeping things in balance according to how God wants us to minister as a church and to each other. When we want to “plant a flag” in one corner and not budge is where we begin to run into problems and where the fractures turn into divisions.
|Un-reached, young, broken families, many impoverished and or ethnically diverse.||Retired generation, appreciates tradition, supportive in prayer and resources.|
|Summer lake visitors from city areas looking for relaxed blended environment to worship||Solid core of young families and middle-age / early retirement, appreciates contemporary worship styles.|
You may see yourself in multiple corners of the above table, and that is ok! Again, we are all individuals with unique desires, passions, callings, and giftings. But we are called to encourage one another and beyond that, commanded to love one another.
I personally understand the biblical function of a church in three parts: worship, witness, and work.
- Worship: we focus our everything on God and live out the purpose for which he created us as individuals and called us together as a church. We express this worship in communal services which then encourage and equips us for…
- Witness: where we go forth from the church building as light bearers. In word and deed we call people to salvation in Christ. As they are drawn in we…
- Work: by discipling believers, helping them grow in knowledge and faith. We work by serving one another, further exemplifying Christ. This leads us back to worship as we give God the honor and praise for what is taking place in our lives and the world around us.
Notice that in this cycle of worship, witness, and work there is both inward and outward focus, but it starts with God-focus.
So will you join me?
- Join me in praying specifically that God’s Spirit would be poured out fresh and in a mighty way upon this congregation.
- Pray that those forces that would hinder us be bound by the blood of the Lamb and that we would move unhindered into the places God is leading us.
- Pray that divisive voices will be silenced and that unity through, by, and in the Holy Spirit would be our heart’s desire.
- Pray that our every God-given resource as a church would be used for expanding the kingdom and not for our own comfort or pleasure.
- Pray that we would truly understand what Jesus is calling us to do when he says to take up our crosses and follow Him.
- Pray that the past of both the church and our individual lives be simply a catalyst and motivation for moving into the future rather than an idolized ideal for which to return.
- Pray that our fellowship would not be divided and fractured by age, stylistic preferences, social class, or even race.
- Pray that the hurting, lonely, sick, dying, starving, and fatherless who live within mere miles of our church building would be reached and comforted and saved by us being the hands and feet of Christ.
As you pray, I hope you also consider how to be practically involved in the ministry of the church. There will always be a place for you to serve. It could be in Sunday School as a teacher or helper. It could be in the nursery changing dirty diapers and singing about God’s love. It could be on the Worship Team planning services or in the choir seeking to lead the congregation each Sunday in focusing on God and in preparation for hearing God’s word proclaimed. It could be stepping out of your comfort zone and into the local community to share God’s love. It could be in greeting, or ushering, or working in the sound booth, leading game time in AWANA, or serving on a food prep committee, or helping with facility upkeep. It could be a multitude of these things and more. God has created, equipped, and called you for a specific purpose no matter your age or position in life. Often it is just in being yourself and authentically loving others in word and deed wherever you see a need. So often we come to church expecting our needs to be met and fulfilled, and essentially we are there to consume a product. And that is where we miss the whole point of what church is supposed to be about. Christ laid himself down for us, our only acceptable response is to lay ourselves down for Him. We will only be fulfilled when we are empty of ourselves and pouring out to others. Let us continue to grow; continue to plow, sow, water, and reap; continue to produce fruit for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Let us continue to be the church God has called us to be.
As a co-laborer in the Kingdom field, under the authority and lordship of Christ, and as a fellow member of the priesthood of believers redeemed and sanctified by the blood of the Lamb;
Rev. Josiah Antill
Associate Pastor for Family Ministries