Our Message Lived Out
We frequently talk about what has happened in our churches in the recent past. We get to remember successes and occasionally what might have gone better. I want our focus to shift to the future.
Careful, this is not a question for leaders, it is a question for doers.
Remember, the function of the church is to reach others. Our needs come after. Here is the primary question: What should we be doing to serve our neighborhood? Followed closely by “How will we do it?” and “Who will do it?” Here comes the thorn on the rose. All members of the church should be involved at some level, so I am forming a very purposeful plan to achieve this goal.
I ask you to become involved in a small group. A small group may form around any topic or interest, provided that it promotes personal faith development, accountability and service. Such groups might be a study group, a Sunday School class, a sewing circle or anything of similar type. If your interests are not currently served by an existing small group, we will create it. A group of this type is not restricted to the Sunday School hour, to Sundays or to the church building.
In the early formation of the Methodism, small groups were the single reason for the booming success of the movement. The social interaction and personal accountability ethic promoted by the small groups deeply engaged people who previously only participated in worship. When we laid aside the small group, we began our decline. As proof of my point, a number of successful churches today, United Methodist and otherwise, utilize small groups as their primary engagement tools.
Just as the church asks for your annual financial pledge, I am asking for a pledge of your time. A simple way to remember your pledge is to use what we will call the “Rule of 3’s and 8’s.”
Plan to give a minimum of 3 hours per week to your personal faith development, consisting of 1 hour of worship, 1 hour of small group and 1 hour of personal devotion and prayer. This is the easy part, as many of you are doing this right now to some extent.
For the 8’s, I ask you to give 8 hours per month to serve others, either through the church or other avenue. If the church is hosting or participating in a service project or mission, please include this time as part of your 8. As in the description of small groups, if you do not see a ministry you would be involved in, we will create it with you. I also encourage mixing and matching between Faith and Geyer Springs congregations to promote opportunities for service.
Where do your interests lie? What gifts and graces do you bring to the table? If you are unsure, I have a plan for that as well. First UMC Cabot has been revitalized and shown growth in almost everything they touch. Their pastor, Rev. Steven Dickinson, uses a 6-week study called “Serving from the Heart” (Cartmill, Carol and Gentile, Yvonne; Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 2011) to help identify gifts and graces for service in the church. I would like to introduce this study in both churches. Who knows, you might discover something new about yourself!
I ask this of you to show our faith through our work. Our ability to make disciples depends on the credibility and relevance of our message. Many people will only pay attention when they see us living out our message. As Wesley said, “Light yourself on fire for Christ and others will come from miles around to watch you burn.” I believe this with all my heart and passion.
I hope you don’t view this message as making too many demands on you. I do this because I believe in the God who brought us together, the work we do as the church in God’s name and the possibilities that exist in our churches and you.