As we turn the calendar to May, we anticipate three celebrations that cause us to look back in thanksgiving and to look forward with anticipation! On May 13, we celebrate Mother’s Day, giving thanks for those who have mothered and cared for us. On Memorial Day weekend (May 26-28) we mark the start of summer and look forward to a new season with great joy!
On May 20, we celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the first followers of Jesus Christ (as told in Acts 2:1-31), which we believe represents the birth of the Christian Church. To mark the day, we look back and re-tell the story of the first Pentecost, and also look forward anticipating how the Holy Spirit continues to breathe new life into the church. In worship on May 20, we will welcome new members into our church family, celebrating how the church continues to grow and thrive!
Even with new members, we are aware that our church—like many churches—is not as full as it used to be. The culture has changed and people are not attending church as regularly as they used to. You may have noticed more empty pews in our church. I certainly have. I want you to know that I am asking the Elders of the Session to consider this issue carefully and prayerfully—and strategically. The Elders and I are reading and discussing the book Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof. It begins with these words:
I love the local church. I mean love it. Nothing has the potential to change the world like the
mission of the local church fully realized.
And yet, sometimes I wonder why Jesus chose the local church to accomplish his mission. I
mean, I know how fickle and frail I am as a human being, and I’ve lived long enough to see how flawed the church can be. Couldn’t Jesus come up with a better strategy? Like leading the church directly, without human intervention? Some days I think that would have been a much better approach.
But that’s not what Jesus chose. He picked you. He picked me. He decided he was going
to take all of his power, authority, strength, and love and pour them into people who, when banded together in the name of Jesus, form the church. That’s pretty amazing, and doubles is a sign of God’s grace and deep love for humanity. If you’re a church leader (staff or volunteer—there’s really no distinction), you are one of millions of human beings whose normal lives have been disrupted by a call into the noblest and most fearsome of tasks: to share the hope of Jesus Christ with the world he so desperately loves.
As beautifully true as all of this is, it’s also clear that the church in the Western world is at a
crossroads. What was our reality just a few decades ago is no longer; we are swiftly moving into a post-Christian culture along with the tumble and confusion that accompany that shift. The challenges the church is facing today require our best leadership and our most faithful hearts. It’s as incredibly exciting as it is daunting…In the future, the churches that grow will be those whose leaders courageously hold the most honest conversations and then take action.
This Pentecost marks a new season in the life of Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon: a season of having honest conversations about how we can be a healthy, vibrant church. I hope that you will be part of the conversation. I look forward to talking with you and together finding a way to continue the good work God calls us to do: “bringing Christ to our community and bringing our community to Christ.”
Looking back, I give thanks for how God has blessed our ministry thus far, and, with great love for our church, I look forward with great anticipation to see how God will continue to bless us and lead us on with strength for today and hope for tomorrow.