Today, I spoke at the Mackville Community Center for the last time as the pastor of Mackville UMC and Antioch UMC. Each month I offer a devotion to the weekly gathering of senior citizens in our community. These have been great opportunities to lead the entire community.
For my last devotion, I offered some general thoughts on the church and its mission. The thoughts were based on Matthew 28:18-20. They are not specific to Mackville or Antioch. In a way, these are things that I have come to feel and believe about the church over my last two years here.
1. There is no such thing as a small church. We can easily get caught up in the numbers game. For churches with small members, the focus on numbers can diminish the work for Christ that is taking place within the community. This happens when smaller membership churches see themselves as inadequate when compared to larger churches. The thing for all churches to remember is that every church – big and small – plays a role in the mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The mission of the church is not small. Every church must work together and see that they are an expression of what God is doing in our communities. There is no small church, because the mission calls for all of us to work together as one body.
2. The mission field is here. This is a word especially for our rural communities that are now starting to see the cultural changes that larger communities have already seen. North America, and especially the United States, is not the Christian nation we have been raised to believe. We are the mission field and we must see our communities as mission areas for Christ. This requires a change in perspective. We cannot see our communities as safe harbors from the world, but as places where we are equipped to go out into our towns and share the name of Christ through acts of love.
3. Everyone has a purpose in the Kingdom of God. God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents. These are passions that make our hearts sing and inspire us in how we live in the world. God has given us these talents, whatever they may be, to sing the Lord’s praises and tell every one of God’s great name. Everyone of us has a purpose in God’s kingdom. What would it look like if the entire church recognized this? Imagine how strong our witness would be if we shared God’s love out of our gifts and talents, working together, to transform the world?
4. We must equip younger generations to be the church. This is not to ignore the contributions of other generations. The church must be multicultural and multi-generaitonal. At the same time, every church has a responsibility in reaching out to our young adults, youth, and children in ways that make them feel welcomed. We must equip younger generations to be leaders in the church and to be strong disciples of Christ. It is a work that will take all of us, but we cannot ignore our youth. We must engage them in ways that our holy and worshipful.
5. Have fun! Too often we see the church as a boring place that we go to once a week. If we see the church as boring then we cannot be upset when no one wants to visit our churches. We should be filled with joy, because of what Christ has done for us. That joy should inspire us in how we live and, also, how we celebrate together as the church. The church should be an exciting and loving gathering of disciples seeking together what it means to be followers of Christ today.