This morning I will leave early to be guest pastor for the North Amelia Charge where Mell and I served for five years in the early 90’s. Now those churches are served by June Carpenter from our own Lynchburg District. Two of the three churches on the charge almost closed years ago but would instead grow stronger. Several people from one of those churches that almost closed recently formed the nucleus for a new church in Amelia. The first new United Methodist church in the Farmville District in nearly 50 years.
In the midst of preparing a message for North Amelia, I had an opportunity to pause, reflect and pray.
Over the last few years you’ve heard me mention three questions repeatedly and as I look back, I realize that all three are connected in so many ways for us as individuals, as leaders and as churches.
1. How strong is your foundation? How are you taking care of yourself and your relationship with God? How are you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually? How is your prayer life? Do you still read the Bible? Are you sharing your faith? Do you still volunteer to work in a ministry or mission? How much are you giving back to God?
2. How big is your dream? Where do you believe God is leading you and your church? Are you challenging yourself to be involved in something big enough that only God can make it happen? Are you regularly sharing your dream with others? Do you have a plan? What are you doing each day to realize your dream?
3. How good is your team? Little dreams require virtually no help. Growing Christians and churches are constantly challenged by God so they are continually looking for help from God, from each other and from newcomers. What are you doing to build your leadership team? Are you regularly encouraging and inspiring others to do more? Do you personally mentor anyone? Have you listened to the dreams of others and then worked to help them fulfill their dream?
Paul was likely in a prison in Rome when he passed on this encouragement and advice to one of his pastors: “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
“Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”
Our news this week seems to paint a picture of a world in turmoil. The leadership changes in Libya. Our troops finally leaving Iraq. The continuing war in Afghanistan. The growing anti-Wall Street movement and the continuing financial crisis certainly illustrate problems at home.
Yet in the midst of all this, Paul gives the best advice of all: “Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”
How strong is your foundation? Our challenge is not to solve the problems of the world or even our community. Our challenge is to continue to find ways to be the church in the midst of the challenges that face our world and community.
“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.”
How big is your dream? Paul teaches the miracle of the risen Christ who literally turned his world upside down. Our challenge in the midst of the problems surrounding us is to remember the miracle of Jesus Christ and the continuing presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
“Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
How good is your team? Paul is reminding Timothy to continually teach these truths to others who will also pass them on. This is our response to the challenges that face us. We continue to be the church and offer God’s continuing and reassuring presence in the midst of worldwide crisis.
Remember, Paul wrote these words while he was in prison… facing execution. Crisis don’t come much bigger than that. Yet, he could still write with confidence.
1. Be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.
2. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.
3. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
For me, looking back on nearly sixty years of living and thirty years of ministry.
1. Strong foundation.
2. Big Dreams.
3. Good team.
Simple but true. It’s easy to get caught up in world events and lose hope. Three small churches in North Amelia can certainly testify to that statement. Yet, in the midst of their struggles, they became stronger. Today, Mell and I will visit them for a celebration of their success and the continuing miracle of God’s amazing grace and the miraculous witness of the church.