Jesus said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
I am grateful for a church that takes initiative.
As we pause this week of Homecoming to consider our church’s history and heritage, I can’t help but to be amazed at the way our church members have put their faith into action.
It may surprise some to learn that our church is set up to bless the work of the Spirit that moves within our church members. For most of our church’s history, we have had a great sense of trust for one another and for our processes of discernment. This has enabled our congregation to be a ‘permission-giving’ church.
No, the pastor and our staff do not have the monopoly on good ideas. To the point, we have arranged the infrastructure of the church so that it can bless the ideas and initiatives of our church members and attendees. Our church is built in such a way that each individual’s sense of call to serve and to make a difference is honored and blessed by God. I think if you look closely you’ll see that the most effective ministries our church has offered have come from the individual church members, Sunday School classes, Circles and pews rather than from our staff members.
Consider the mission trip team that is preparing to leave for Texas to do disaster relief. The idea for this mission endeavor did not come from the diaconate, a committee or the pastor. No, the idea to serve and to help others in need came from our church members’ willingness to help those in need. Additionally, without the galvanizing leadership of Harold Messer, these good intentions may never have been actualized.
Or consider the work of our church’s girls who will be seeking to raise money this Saturday to purchase food for the hungry in our community. The idea to raise funds to help feed the hungry by rocking in chairs was not generated in a staff meeting. No, this mission event had its origins in the heart and mind of one of the leaders of our Mission Friends. Once this idea was offered up, the church rushed to bless it and to help get the word out about it.
But why stop there? A specialized Sunday School experience for individuals with special needs was developed because someone was moved to the point of action to help a family attend church. Individuals within our ladies Circle groups have sought to provide a birthday party for local teenagers who are homeless. And let’s not forget that our church’s partnerships in the community have all been born out of one person’s leadership in the midst of a recognized need.
We are not a ‘top-down’ church. Our best ideas do not originate from our pastor, but rather find their genesis in the Spirit’s stirrings within the hearts of our church members. This, brothers and sisters, is our greatest strength.
But this giftedness comes with responsibility. In truth, we are the ones who are responsible for the work of the church. And this is as it should be. For if we trust that God is moving and working in each of our lives, then we must also recognize that God is calling each of us to be leaders in God’s work in specific ways.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Church, then, becomes the place where the soil is nourished by the Spirit and where God’s good seed can germinate and bear fruit. The soil—or soul of our congregation—is enriched when we hear God’s Word together in worship. This soil is worked over when our lives become connected in Bible Study and in service to others. The soil becomes fertile and pregnant with new possibilities when we pray for God to direct our paths and reveal His will. It is only then that we will bear fruit.
Our church does not exist to perpetuate the good ideas of days gone by. Instead, our church is constructed to be sensitive to the needs of our community and to the groanings of our world. At its best, our church should be an incubator for God’s work in the world. What does that mean, exactly? First, it means that we’ve got to be aware of the great harvest with which God wants us to attend. Put simply: we’ve got to be honest about the hurts, needs and concerns of our community and our world. Second, we’ve got to hear how God wants us to be moved to the point of action to do something about it. And finally, we’ve got to be aware that God has gifted us, uniquely and dynamically, as church members to respond to these needs.
Some of our best ideas, ministries and initiatives run their course and come to an end. The world we live in today is different than the one we lived in 5 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. This is okay. God harvests different crops because our seasons vary greatly from one year to another. Some of our ideas will be shared by many others in our congregation and the scope of our implementation as a church will be great. At other times, our ideas will be more limited in scope because our sense of call is unique and may not be shared by everyone. This, too, is okay.
By always looking forward to God’s new harvest, we position ourselves to focus on what can be next rather than fixating on what once was.
First Baptist Church, I am moved by your generosity and willingness to share. God is doing great things for others because of you. Our impact in our community and our world is limitless, not because of our facility, our heritage, our resources, or our staff, but because of God’s good work in you.