A little over a year ago, Abbi, Noah, and I came to visit with the people of Claylick UMC for the first time. It was our scheduled covenant meeting – the meeting where the Pastor Parish Relations team meets with the new pastor – and we were excited about the work that awaited us.
In the time since, we have seen a lot of great things happen here. Many of you have told me of the stories of where you have seen God at work. I want to say thank you for how you have shared with me the things where you have experienced God’s work and the excitement many of you are feeling. To God be the glory for all of those moments.
Since I arrived, one of the common themes I have tried to express – besides the value of West Virginia football – is this: God is not done with us and God has something for us to do. God is not finished with the people called Claylick UMC and, even more, God has something he wants us to do to share the Good News of the Resurrection in our area.
It is not just “preacher talk,” but something I truly believe and I hope you do as well. It is a belief centered on something that is important for us to claim. That God is still working through congregations in communities such as ours – even today – to share with the whole world the depths of Jesus’ love. The church is still the living manifestation of God’s love and word and is still the way God uses to share the Good News through communities.
God has given us this part of the larger church – known to us as Claylick UMC – to be about God’s work in our neighborhoods. We are called to be the church, an active, living, breathing body of committed Christians who desire to love God, grow in faith, and serve the Lord through our words, actions, and deeds. It is how we live out the hope of the resurrection.
In the last few weeks, we’ve looked how God calls us to love and grow in our faith in response to the resurrection. Today, we want to look at the one place that we can struggle with. As a response to the resurrection and the good news that the tomb is empty, God calls us to go out into our community to be servants and workers for the Lord. We are called to serve our community.
This is the message we see as we take a look at Matthew 9:35-38. At the surface level, the passage serves as a transition from one segment of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry into another. It tells us about the early work of Jesus’ ministry and sets the stage for the commissioning of the disciples for the work that will come in a few verses. We also see something about the work Jesus calls us to do and the challenges we have to overcome.
Matthew says Jesus’ initial work focused on going through all the towns and communities with a ministry that centered on preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus went throughout Galilee proclaiming the news that the kingdom has come, teaching what this means for all, and healing people of the various ailments they face. There is no way Jesus could do these things without a knowledge of the communities, the issues they faced, or even the struggles that were present. He knew the communities and, as a result, could share the message in ways they could understand.
We must have a similar knowledge of our communities. We need a deep knowledge and understanding of the people, issues, and struggles that impact our people. Now, many of us may immediately say, “Well, we’ve lived here all our life and know what is going on.” Yet, it is easy to live in a place and not really know the issues and struggles that impact people or what is going on beneath the surface.
Our May Newsletter has what I have called a “Did You Know” about our community. I hope you will take some time to look at the statements that are found there. They come from statistical figures that look at a 10-mile radius around the church.
Here are some of the things about our area that these statistics tells us:
- Did you know that by 2024 there will be more than 42,000 people living within 10 miles of Claylick, with the largest population growth expected among people between the ages of 30-34?
- Did you know that almost 12 percent of our population live in some form of poverty and about 21 percent of households live on less than $25,000 per year?
- Did you know that many people in our community are struggling with burdensome debt?
- Did you know that 18 percent of our people claim no faith?
- Did you know that 10 years ago 52 percent of our area attended church regularly, while today almost 55 percent of the community does not?
This is our community. This is the place we are called to serve. God did not give us any other community or any other place to relate to. He gave us this one. We must know our community, so that we may know how to share the Gospel with our neighbors.
More than that, though, we have to have a compassion for our community. We have to love our people. When Jesus went out into the region around Galilee, he was moved by a compassion for the people that he preached to, taught, and healed. He loved them and was broken hearted for them. He felt their pain. He felt their hurts. He walked with them and he loved them.
We must have that some compassion for the people in our community. We have to love our people and share with them the same unconditional love of Jesus. It is not a love that looks at people and says, “Why don’t you have your life together,” or “Why don’t you come to church more.” It is a love that says, “How may I walk with you?,” “How may I help you today,” “How may I tell you the great news that God loves you and so do we?”
Our hearts must be full of compassion for the people of Northern Mercer County and Southern Anderson County and be broken hearted for the people who are held in bondage to the various struggles of life. The only way we can share the Good News with the people of our community through our acts of love is when we have a love and compassion for the people. When we do, we can go out into our community – our harvest field – and do the work Jesus has called us to do.
Jesus calls us to go into the community and be his hands and feet through the gifts and talents we each have. All of us are called to be missionaries of our local community who go into our mission field, our harvest field, our community, and share the love of Christ through our words, actions, and deeds.
There is a role for everyone in our harvest field. Our community needs people who will preach the Gospel with love, grace, and truth. Our community needs people who are willing to teach what it means to truly follow God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our community needs people who are willing to work with their hands to help someone in need. Our community needs people who are willing to provide food for those who struggle to have enough money to make ends meet. Our community needs people who will be their biggest champion and supporter. Our community needs people who will just love them.
There is a lot that can be and needs to be done in our community, but note what Jesus says. He says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” The harvest is ripe for the church to be about the work of the kingdom, because God has already prepared the field for us. His grace and presence has already placed a seed of hope into people’s life. He is the one who is already at work in the community, but God needs the church to be the church and to care for the fields and to be harvest what is there.
But the workers are few. What often ends up happening, sadly, is that the work of the church gets placed upon the grace and care of a few people. A few dedicated servants who do all they can to make sure the church can be the church. I am so thankful for those who give of their time, but the fact of the matter is that God did not call a few. He has called all of us, in various ways, to be about the work of the church in our community and to take the message out of the walls of the church and into the neighborhoods.
When the work is left to a few, the work of the church often gets neglected. Things get dropped and forgotten. When things get dropped and forgotten in the church, people in our community who need to know that the church loves them and that God loves them get dropped and forgotten.
The mission of God’s kingdom calls all of us to join together as one body to be about the work of sharing God’s love. That is part of the work of our Visioning Team is doing. We believe God has uniquely gifted us as a church, has placed a burning desire upon our heart, and has placed us here for a reason. We are not here to simply exist. We are here to love God, grow in faith, and serve the Lord.
To do this, it will take all of us working together towards the goal of doing the work God desires of us. God has something for each of us as part of the greater mission of our church. Some of us are called to lead. Some of us are called to teach. Some of us are called to build. Some of us are called to coach. Some of us are called to heal. Some of us are called to pray. Some of us are called to write. Some of us are called to love. Some of us are called to advocate. No matter what you are called to do, here, the fact of the matter is that all of us have a role to play.
We stand a pivotal moment in the history of Claylick United Methodist. I believe we are at a crossroad moment in time where the decisions we make today and in the months to come will impact how we will be the church in the coming years and generations. For Claylick to live into the next generation of this great church, we must roll up our sleeves and answer the call that Jesus has given us to be at work in the harvest field of Northern Mercer County and Southern Anderson County.
There is something for each of you here. We need all of us to be about this work. Claylick needs all of us to be about this work. Salvisa needs all of us. Northern Mercer County needs all of us. Southern Anderson County needs all of us. God needs all of us.
So, let’s get to work.