I received various responses regarding my previous post. After digesting that info, I have come to the conclusion that changes will be necessary if we are to alter the direction in which our church has been headed over the past 10-20 years.
Not only to survive, but more importantly, to grow and be the church God wants us to be and expects us to be.
So what are some things we can do? Let's consider a few questions and then maybe look at some possible solutions.
It's not just about getting people to come, it's about getting them to stay. If we make them feel like they are a part of our church family, the hope is that they too will become an active and participating member, serving others like those that served them when they first arrived.
I have been going to Girard First since 1986 and my first memory of the people was how friendly and welcoming they were. It was almost mind boggling, especially since I came from a much larger church where I didn't experience that. I think we are still great at welcoming others; however, we have become much better at following up, which is just as important.
Let your light so shine before all, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matt 5:16
By allowing our inner light to shine brightly, I believe that there is no way we can't be a reflection of Jesus. The humble selfless servant, that allows others to see their good works, not for their own benefit or recognition, but to glorify God, will always be a beacon of light to all. And when we serve selflessly, as Jesus did, then there is no way that we won't be a reflection of Him.
Are we accepting of all, with ALL being the key word? I recently heard something at Monday night bible study regarding acceptance. It came from a lesbian women who never felt accepted by Christians. Then one day she became friends with a minister who disagreed with most of her thoughts and beliefs, but still was able to convey love towards her. It was a beautiful story and much too long to tell; however, I want to provide the condensed version of what she said. It went something like this, "there's a difference between acceptance and approval". Meaning, the minister may not have approved of her lifestyle, or some of her ideals, but he was still accepting of her. It's easy to share our faith with others like us, those we know and love, who look, sound and talk like us, but what about those not like us? Those are the people we must attract to our church as well. Just as Jesus came not to judge, but to serve all, so should we.
God sent His Son into this world not to
judge the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:17
For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others. Mark 10:45
Do we as a church read the word, live the word and spread the word? Now that's a challenging trifecta, isn't it? There was no caveat or disclaimer when Jesus said to go make disciples!! We must continue as individuals and as a congregation to be in the word. Not just reading it, but listening to it, understanding it and applying it to our lives. And in doing so, our lives will be changed. And then it is our responsibility to extend the word to others, spreading that good news to all. God's word is truly a gift and once you or I have received it, we must share it. I am excited about the newly ignited focus on the bible at GUMC. In just a few short months, we have seen two new bible based groups form, a bible for beginners class, the Monday night group digging even deeper and the Asbury class continuing to grow stronger in the word. As a church and as individuals, we must always continue to stay focused on God's word, which is truly a living, breathing, life guiding instrument.
What do you think we need to do to attract the younger generation to GUMC and then keep them coming back? The answer to this question, and many others you may have, will be addressed at a congregation wide meeting on Monday, April 6 at 7:00 PM in the sanctuary. If you want to have your say on where we are headed and be a part of the exciting and positive direction I believe our church is moving towards, then please come to this meeting. It is your chance to see what is tentatively planned, make any suggestions and voice your concerns.
Finally, why are we here? I have asked that question of myself and I'm sure many of you have as well. Usually that question is applied to life in general; however, for the moment, I want to apply it solely to our church. So let me rephrase the question.
Why are we here at GUMC? A few months ago I attended a workshop and the leader was talking about faltering churches. He said someone made this comment to him regarding the life of his church, "I need it to be around long enough to marry me and bury me." How sad is that and how self-serving. Could you imagine if all those wonderful people before us and the current elders of our church thought like that?
So I ask again, why are we here at GUMC? I believe the most pressing reason we are here at GUMC is to continue to allow it to do God's work, as well as honor those that came before us and leave a legacy behind that will enable our children and grandchildren to enjoy all the same benefits that the church provided to us. However, if our church is to be a true instrument of God, serving Him in all the ways He instructs, then we must eventually go even further.
I believe we will never be the church He truly wants us to be if we don't extend our reach outside of our church walls and outside of our own circle of GUMC friends and families. We must make a concerted effort to reach out to our community, to the non-religious and nominally religious. To those that don't look like us, talk like us or sound like us and to those that have strayed from the church for one reason or another. When we can do all of this, then I believe our church will be that beacon of light, brightly shining on all. It will be that place where people know they are welcome, with no requirements and with no judgment. And it will truly be a reflection of Jesus.
I'd like to finish with what might be my favorite discipleship passages.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim Him? And how are they to proclaim Him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:13-15
Let's be the church that brings the good news to all!!
Dave is the Discipleship Czar at Girard 1st. His unofficial title was given because of his love for Christ, and his consistent encouragement for people in their spiritual walk.